So you’ve successfully launched your small business—congratulations! It’s been a long, hard road but you have written your business plan, worked out your financial statements and generally have all your ducks in a row. But once you find a little bit of success, you are very likely to find that you need more money to grow the success of your small business. That means that when you are seeking more money for your startup, you will need to pitch your ideas and execution to new investors. Here are some tips for nailing your pitch presentation to venture capitalists (VCs) or other investors.
1. Get your idea across in the first three minutes of the presentation.
Venture capitalists are busy people and their time is valuable. So you should be able to deliver a razor-sharp picture of your startup’s concept and ability to execute within the opening minutes of your pitch. Articulating your message clearly, both verbally and visually is key to a successful pitch in order to help you navigate the rest of the presentation with ease.
2. Keep it simple.
VCs advise entrepreneurs all the time to keep a succinct elevator pitch in your back pocket. This technique is also a great opener during your pitch presentation. Use short sentences and common-sense vocabulary to deliver your message. You’ll also want to avoid buzzwords and clever phrases—“disruption” is a particularly hot concept in Silicon Valley right now, as in “Uber intends to disrupt the transportation industry.” It sounds dumb and is an unnecessary trick when an analogy, metaphor or personal story can be just as effective. There is no “Internet of things” to be mined for wisdom or money. Keep it simple.
3. Bring along your team and encourage them to speak up.
VCs like seeing a unified and balanced team when they are being pitched. Bring all of your cofounders, but limit the non-founding executives to just a few people. These people aren’t just props, either, so encourage them to speak up for themselves. Introducing your team (rather than letting them introduce themselves) is a wasted opportunity. Allowing your team members to introduce themselves and participate in the pitch demonstrates their expertise and shows investors that you have what it takes to lead a team of talented employees.
5. Be prepared to answer questions.
When they ask questions, VCs are expecting answers. You don’t need to prepare for every eventuality by building slides your deck doesn’t need, but you should always try to provide a brief answer on the spot, even if your presentation tackles the issue in more detail later. Keep in mind that the way you respond to spontaneous questions may be more important than the answer itself, because it demonstrates how you deal with situations that involve uncertainty or pressure.
6. Stick the landing.
After you’ve covered the standard elements of an investor presentation, make sure you stick the landing by offering a strong summary of your key messages and reinforce the reasons that venture capitalists should sink money into your idea.
7. Don’t be discouraged by the feedback.
Part of a venture capitalist’s job is to offer honest feedback on how to proceed. If some of the feedback is negative, remember that every venture capitalist has different tastes, interests and objectives, so don’t take the feedback personally. A “no” can change into a “yes” very quickly in the coming rounds so listen to the feedback, learn from it, and use the lessons that you learn to improve your odds of getting funded.
8. If you don’t understand the feedback, ask for clarification.This is another lesson from Silicon Valley, where there is sometimes a herd mentality when it comes to buzzwords and new ideas. But if you don’t understand the feedback that an investor is offering, ask for clarification. It may not only improve your chances of success with other investors, but it may also point out to you that the venture capitalist you’re pitching doesn’t really understand your industry or entrepreneurial idea in order to judge it fairly.