The first thing you need to do is make sure you can demonstrate that whoever you’re pitching your idea to—venture capital firm, bank or investment group—believes that he or she will eventually get something out of the deal. You need to research your audience, cater to their needs and make a connection between what your business does and why the firm should care.
“An audience you want funding from wants to understand the viability of your business—the potential market for what you’re offering, why your value proposition exceeds that of the competition and your success thus far,” says Bill Rosenthal, CEO of Communispond, which provides employee training on how to communicate effectively. “Line up your numbers—but don't present them like an accountant would, with only a cold, hard recitation of the figures. You have to show your passion for the business.”
Rosenthal shares some tips with us on making a successful presentation to investors. Whether you're a small startup or running a larger business, these tips can help you develop your best game plan.
1. Know your environment. Arrive at important meetings early so you can examine the atmosphere, and also so you can know what kind of room you’ll be presenting in. For example, you need to know if the room will accommodate an AV presentation or whether you need to bring equipment. If you're going to use visuals, Rosenthal said you should keep them simple, using “no more than four lines of copy per slide and no more than four words per line.”
2. Know how much time you have. Rosenthal told us you should plan a presentation that lasts 10 minutes, less than the time you’re allotted, so you can use the extra time for questions and answers. “You should also prepare a presentation that's half as long—because it's common at venture capital firms in particular for the investment committee to be behind schedule and for the entrepreneur seeking funding to be asked to make the presentation shorter than planned."
Furthermore, you should anticipate questions that you think your audience will ask. “Prepare concise, persuasive answers to them,” he said. “Rehearse the answers to questions, too. Use the answer to your last question to tie everything together.”
3. Be confident in your idea. This is obvious, but is also essential. If you’re trying to get someone to financially support your idea, they should be able to see that you really believe in it.
“Demonstrate your passion by being energetic. Walk in strong, move confidently to where you'll present, stand tall, balanced on both feet with hips wide, smile, survey the room and begin speaking with conviction,” Rosenthal says. “Don't sit. Stand. Don’t lean on the table. Underscore your main points with authoritative hand and arm gestures, head turns and changing facial expressions. Rehearse your presentation—and keep rehearsing it — so you can present it without a script. You can’t project passion if you're speaking from a script."
4. Connect with your audience. Even though this is clearly a business meeting, you should make as much of a connection as you can. No one is going to hand you money unless they believe in you or feel like they can trust you. “Use changes in the volume or tone of your voice—and dramatic pauses—when you get to something important,” Rosenthal told us. “Use mostly short sentences, dynamic words, onomatopoeia (“bang!,” “boohoo!”) and active verbs.”
You should also look each person in the audience in the eyes at some point. Whatever you do, don’t look at the floor or the opposite wall.
5. Don’t forget that it’s still a business meeting. On the other hand, even though you’re trying to connect with your audience, you should still remember that they hold the finances you need. Therefore, pay close attention to the language you use. Rosenthal advised that you be familiar with the business language and stay away from buzzwords.
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