This post is an abbreviated version of the original article published on forEntrepreneurs: Five Ways to Nail your Pitch and Win Over Investors.
There are many opinions on creating a pitch deck and presenting to potential investors but there is still a big gap between what entrepreneurs perceive to be important and what investors really value during a pitch presentation.
There are two aspects of your presentation that matter the most:
Here are my top five pieces of advice to deliver a winning presentation:
More important than the specific slides you present is how you weave them together to convince and inspire your audience that you are going to build a successful company. You want your audience to feel like they’ve heard the vision and evidence, and have come to their own conclusion that this is a winning idea and team. I wouldn’t underestimate the need to inspire — it’s your way of “hacking” the VC pitch.
Your narrative will vary based on your stage, and primarily whether you are pre- or post- product-market fit. Your milestones in these stages are different and thus your pitch will be different. If you are pre-product-market fit, your story will center on the opportunity ahead, and the potential of your business to achieve it. If post-product-market fit, the story tends to focus on the results: “look at our traction, traction, traction. Here’s how we’re getting that and what we’re doing next.” Your pitch should also be tailored to your strengths as a business — whether that’s your team, your unique insights on a problem, your wow product, or something else.
You need to capture attention right away — no long preambles or you will lose your audience. Aaref Hilaly of Sequoia wrote an excellent post on presenting to investors and suggested entrepreneurs start with:
Starting with these three slides are one way to get to the point quickly. But, whether you use these three slides or in this order, will depend on the overall narrative you are telling (see #1). Think about what is most compelling about your business and team, and build your hook there.
The best pitch is a conversation rather than a sales pitch. And, the best presenters have the ability to listen while they’re talking, watch the audience for clues that what they are saying is resonating, and then adjusting if needed. If you are seeing raised eyebrows and questioning looks, take note and clarify what you’re saying. You may need to push or pull back on the points you’re making.
Sometimes VCs won’t ask their questions — they know you’re trying to cover a lot in a short amount of time — but there will still be visual clues. You need to recognize these and address unvoiced questions or concerns because it is something they will bring up with their partners during the discussion after you leave the room.
The best way to convince your audience is to frame the problem or solution in a way that relates to the issues they experience directly. This isn’t always possible, but for most consumer or B2B products, it is.
A great example is Sketchdeck, who pitched (and got funded) by Matrix. They offer outsourcing services for presentation design. Their pitchdeck is strong with a compelling intro and narrative, but possibly a more convincing way to frame the value they provide would be to build a story around a VC getting their own presentations completed: How long does it take you to build a presentation? Do you struggle with the design aspects? What if you could draft the story, provide bullet points, and have someone else (at a lower rate than your time is worth) come back with a beautiful presentation?
You obviously want to present a very positive story and appear highly confident about your business. But, over confidence can be a big red flag. Investors are not just evaluating your business, but also what kind of person you are going to be to work with and whether you can recognize potential problem areas and be open to getting help when you don’t have all the answers. If you are facing some tough issues, don’t avoid these, bring them up in the discussion. And, when asked tough questions, don’t hand wave or try to deflect. This is your chance, perhaps your only chance to address these questions.
For a deeper dive into making a great investor pitch and the beginning of a pitch presentation broken down slide-by-slide, check out the full post on forEntrepreneurs: Five Ways to Nail your Pitch and Win Over Investors.