by Maurice De Castro, founder of Mindful Presenter
Businesses owners and entrepreneurs have a story to tell and must think strategically in order to tell it. Yes, pitching your business idea to a prospective investor can be nerve-wracking, but there are ways to make it easier – for yourself and for the person listening.
The audience – the investor – is the centre of your universe for those few precious moments in which you have their undivided attention. So you need to use your time well.
For them to listen and take action, you need to PLAN effectively, PRESENT in order to engage, SELL yourself, and KNOW your business to its very core.
Here are our best tried and tested tips to help you stand out from the crowd when pitching to a potential investor:
Plan, prepare, and practise.
Think business from the very beginning. No one else is going to think it for you. Focus your mind, plan what you’re going to say, know how your business works, and practise your pitch on your nearest and dearest.
‘You can’t come in here and say you don’t know how your business works!’ – Deborah Meaden, Dragons’ Den
Planning is the key to success and without it, you are setting yourself up to fail. You must know what your company does, what is needed to achieve your goals, and how you’re going to do it.
Know your business inside out, brief your team to ensure you present a unified message, and make sure the stats and finances are sewn up – investors will pick holes in incomplete or vague budgets and forecasts.
On your marks, get set, pitch!
If you are there with company cofounders or your business team, always get them to introduce themselves and their roles. A unified team is all part of the pitch and brand. The investor will be impressed that you have backing and commitment. Colleagues must have their turn to contribute to the pitch. They must know their stuff too, and demonstrate this knowledge and expertise to the investor.
Put yourself in the investor’s shoes: What do they want to hear? What will make them tick? Make them sit up and take note from the very beginning.
Brim with confidence (even if you’re not feeling it) and speak clearly and succinctly. Start with a neat, informative, enthusiastic overview of your business. If you feel passion, it will show and investors will respond to what you are saying.
Don’t be afraid to shout about your vision and demonstrate your ambition. Starting confidently will set the pace and tone for the rest of the pitch.
Keep it short, sweet, and simple.
Don’t swerve from that excellent beginning. If you feel yourself rushing, losing focus, or going on and on (and on!), take a second to breathe, refocus, and have a sip of water. You’re human and so is the investor.
Centre back in on the matter at hand, remember why you’re there, grab the attention of the investor, and continue with the pitch.
‘If you can’t explain it simply, then you don’t understand it well enough.’ – Albert Einstein
Keep everything simple – don’t go into minute detail or discuss the nitty gritty. Get to the heart of the matter and use everyday language. It’s best not to use jargon as the investor may not be familiar with your industry’s terms.
Tell a story.
Not all pitches need to play by the rules – emotion, gentle (uncontroversial) humour, and personal experiences can all play a part in a pitch. The investor will be impressed by your willingness to think outside the box. Your pitch will be memorable, stand out from the crowd, and have a personal angle – all attention-grabbing stuff.
You should be prepared to invite and answer questions throughout the pitch as well as at the end. Do not be daunted by this – the investor is simply trying to make up his or her mind about your business proposition.
Don’t know the answer to a question? Don’t panic! Trying to invent an answer or giving the wrong answer will only end in tears. If you can give a very brief response, fine. If not, say that you can find out (and make sure you do).
However, sometimes how you respond to a question is just as important as what the answer is. If you get flummoxed, confused, or unsettled, the investor may think that you can’t work well under pressure, or you’re unable to think on your feet. Prove them wrong. Remain calm and answer the question as best as you can, or promise to get back to them. Simple.
Finish by giving an authoritative and effective summary of your business and the key messages you wish to convey. Wow the investor with the juiciest bits from your pitch and remind them of why they should invest in your business.
Do not be disheartened or discouraged if the feedback is negative or not-so-promising. You’ve started a conversation and an initial ‘no’ may even turn into a ‘yes’ further down the line.
Remember that investors have their own interests and intentions, and it may be that your pitch is just not up their street. Take it as another step on your learning curve – a useful experience that will stand you in good stead for the future.
You only get one chance to make an excellent initial impression. Do your business a favour and make a first impression that really counts.
Maurice De Castro is the founder of Mindful Presenter. Maurice is a former corporate executive of some of the UK’s most successful brands. Maurice believes that the route to success in any organisation lies squarely in its ability to really connect with people. That’s why he left the boardroom to create a business helping leaders to do exactly that.