Forbes I Bill Rader
The Reality of a Pitch
In this brave new world of TV pitch shows like ABC’s Shark Tank and CNBC’s The West Texas Investors Club, entrepreneurs from all walks of life are led to believe that the pitch is like a television reality show.
News flash! It’s not. Maybe it should be – it would be more fun for both pitcher and pitchee – but again, it is not even close, at least not in my experience of pitching to hundreds of individuals over the last few years.
In my life as a startup CEO I do a lot of presenting. I pitch for everything: investment, partnership, prize money, you name it. Each presentation is as unique as are the individuals being pitched. However, the basic elements that go into the pitch are pretty standard: PowerPoint deck, big font, few words, quick to the point.
During a pitch, investors are trying to understand your offering, gather some information about what the deal might look like, and then make a decision as to whether or not to take a deeper dive into what your offering. If they get a good feeling about you and your product, and like the deal you are presenting, they may ask for a more in-depth look at your company. Usually, a short 10-15 minute pitch is the rule on the angel side, a longer and more detailed presentation for the venture capital community.
The investors are expecting you to provide value for their time. You must respect the time and effort the investor is providing by being factual and direct. They look at hundreds of deals a year, so you want them to have a positive recollection of your presentation.
I always put myself in their position – how would I react, watching some guy asking me to open my checkbook? Respect their time, and even if you get a no on your first try, you can and may be invited back for another go, if your company is still around at a later date.
Over the last half decade or so I have watched a wholesale shift in early investment: Friends and family are the new angel investors. The angel investor acts more like the venture capitalist (VC) of the past – tolerant of little risk and wanting a quick return at a high multiplier. I have also noted that the VC today now tends to operate much more like an institutional investor.
Preparing For a Yes
In the weeks prior to a pitch, I gather a small team to review past presentations. We talk about the good and bad of the last few presentations and then rip everything apart and start over. Doing a postmortem of the last pitch is a must. You know the old adage “those who forget the past…. ”
We then look at our next audience, get to understand the group or person and reformulate our pitch to our understanding of their expectations. So our process always looks like this:
- Construct the pitch
- Reformulate the pitch – because it is not as good as it sounded when you put it on paper the first time, then
When I walk in the door to pitch I want to be able to talk clearly about my business, offering it in terms and details that will win an investment, or at least a second look. You could be manufacturing pure gold for pennies on the dollar, and the investors will give you a hundred reasons why your gold is worthless and no one would ever want it. You want them to understand what you inherently understand: your business or product is going to be the best.
After years of preparing, practicing and pitching I found a very good source of the “how” of the pitch.
If you are planning to present to investors, I recommend that you buy and read Guy Kawasaki’s “The Art of the Start 2.0” and the use it as a guide. It is a comprehensive tool to construct and deliver a good pitch. Guy lays out the hows and whys in his book, but it is in your own research that you will learn what will be key in your pitch. Just as important – you still have to pitch in your own voice.
Just as Guy recommends, I try to keep my pitch simple. I also work to pitch in terms of three. No more than three ideas on a slide, and get to the end with three major takeaways, that’s it.
In my life experience, most people can digest and remember no more than three things reasonably well, in a single serving – so keep it simple.
Hope Is Not a Plan
In my preparations I don’t hope for a yes, I plan for it. If you don’t believe that you can get a yes, you will project that in a subconscious way. If you believe in yourself first, your product second, and your company third, you can and will get a yes – maybe not today, but you will get it.
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