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5 Key Ways to Grab Investors' Attention...and Not Put Them to Sleep!

What should be in an investor pitch?

Years ago, Marshall McLuhan, a renowned philosopher of communication, coined the phrase "the medium is the message."

Nowhere is that more relevant than in an investor presentation.

Over time, I've probably been a part of thousands of pitches on both sides of the table from the various perspectives of investor, investment banker, advisor, prospective customer and entrepreneur. And a few of them were "knock you into the cheap seats" exciting, some were very interesting, most were just dull and boring...and nearly sleep-inducing.  Now, notice I'm not referring to the business concept that underpinned these presentations (although some of those were so laughable that they could have been comedy club material).  No, I'm talking about the pitch itself. A bad presentation can kill a great product. And, since it's usually so difficult to get in front of the right players who would even consider investing in your enterprise, you can't afford to "waste a time at bat" when you do.

Yet, so many entrepreneurs do just that.  They blow a potential investment opportunity without ever giving themselves a chance.  They use their medium to poorly deliver their message. And, in many cases, "the baby gets thrown out with the bath water," where a great business concept is negated by a crappy presentation.

Whether it's in front of a major VC, some angels, a group of private investors or maybe just some friends and family, how do you ensure that the meeting that you worked your butt off to get scheduled doesn't turn off the very investors you're trying to impress, or worse, puts them to sleep?  Here are five key ways to give yourself and your business an even chance to grab an investor's attention:

1.    Pitch to Your Audience.
This is the first place most startup entrepreneurs fail.  Most often, their presentation is geared to their market and their potential customers.  Unfortunately, that will completely miss the mark in an investor pitch.  More likely, an investor has little or no knowledge about your prospective market, let along the problem you are solving or the need you are addressing with your business concept.  You need to assume no knowledge and bring them up to speed, quickly and concisely about each of those critical elements.

2.    Make Your Slides Support Your Business Presentation, Not Take the Place of It.
Your slides should never be the star of your presentation.  Your business should be, and your slides should support it.  The slides should use graphics and pictures that make them more interesting, with lots of white space.  The slides should address the critical elements of your business plan -  at a minimum, the problem you're solving or the need you're addressing; how your solution addresses the problem or need better than what exists today; your key strategies for selling and delivering your solution; how you will make money (then the investor knows how he/she will); how much money you will need for this round and what you will do with it. Basically, your slide presentation should answer key investor questions about your business.

3. Know Your Material...Cold!
Not everybody is a great presenter or public speaker.  No matter, that's no excuse for not preparing and learning your presentation as if it were second nature.  When in doubt, rehearse some more! There's nothing worse than a bad presenter who also doesn't know his/her material.  If nothing else you have to come across as somebody credible in your market. Use advisors and friends to act as audience and critics for your presentation.  Listen to their advice and keep working it until you and they are comfortable. And, touching on the previous point, whether you have 5 slides or 15, whatever you do, DON'T EVER just read your slides.  If you're going to do that, you might as well just email your pitch, it'll save making your audience comatose.

4.    Demonstrate, Wherever Possible.
It is said that a picture is worth a 1,000 words.  Then a demonstration is worth 10,000.  If you can demonstrate your product for an investor, it moves your concept beyond idea to practicality.  Even if it is a prototype, you can show that you've gotten it far along enough that you can show how it, works, if even on a fundamental level.  But a word of caution!  If you can't do a demo in less than ten minutes, including setup, forget it.  You will lose your audience.  So, keep it simple and direct and be sure that it demonstrates the key features (and, potentially, the benefits) of your product or service.

5.    Have a Follow-up Plan.
Do not leave the meeting without a series of "to-do's." Ask what concerns they have that would need to be addressed for them to invest. Ask the investor group what additional information you might provide and establish a specific schedule as to when and how you might provide it, hopefully with another face-to-face meeting (the more face time, the better).  If possible, schedule the investor speak to one of your customers. No matter what, try to give the investor group as much confidence in you and your team as possible, trying to create a relationship, however you can.  The more comfortable they are, the better the chances they consider your business as an investment opportunity.

No matter how good your business concept, a bad presentation can kill any chances of getting it funded. You've got to be able to grab and hold their attention and then deliver your message the most effective way possible.

"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things.  He's been there.  May success be with you!

Have you missed some of these critical points in delivering an investor pitch? Please share your thoughts in your comments.  It can help another entrepreneur.

If you like this post, by all means, share it with your networks and colleagues.


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2014-04-22 20:08:50 by Lydie

Hi and thank you for your advice.
You wrote:"No matter how good your business concept, a bad presentation can kill all chances of getting it funded"
My question is : how is it possible for a good investor not to be able to identify a good concept? Basically, the new Entrepreneur is looking for an investor with experience in business...The Right investor for me , will be able to help me fix my bad presentation! Don't you think?
Sleepy investors, for me is just lack of respect!

2014-04-24 06:48:45 by Jon

@ Lydia, it is all relative, don't you think? If you have the killer idea but lack presentational skills, sure many seed investors will fall asleep and the keen ones will seize the moment and create history with you - It happens, look at FaceBook – but it is the odd fairytale. The investor will and should help design and support you venture and presentation skills to be top notch. But at the initial and extremely crucial moment of fishing, the responsibility is all on you... and the 5 rules above will certainly help. As I said, it is all relative and, ceteris paribus, the well prepared are the well received. And that is where you gotta be...


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