Knock ‘em Dead
A fundamental skill every businessperson needs, especially in a tough economy is knowing how to speak to others about your business.
Business owners should be prepared to deliver their elevator pitch—that 30-second explanation of your business model directed at anyone who might want to provide funding for your startup—at any moment. Yet, despite countless numbers of articles written about perfecting your pitch to investors, many entrepreneurs still end up getting it wrong.
As an early stage investor and entrepreneur for over 20 years, Brad Feld has seen his share of mistakes. “Having too many people as part of the presentation is a mistake I often see,” Feld said. “One or two people is optimal, but having three to four is difficult and can get tedious. Misreading the audience is another thing. Most of the time you’ll have an audience that will interrupt and you should answer any questions they ask at the time they ask them. Your audience is going to lose interest if you say I’ll get back to that in 7 slides. In addition, people try to pack everything into the presentation, especially the first one, versus recognizing what the goal of the presentation is.”
Before you even make your pitch, you need to understand what is keeping your prospects up at night and what solutions you can offer them, according to Nancy Michaels, CEO and president of GrowYourBusinessNetwork, Inc. “There’s no better way to get your foot in the door than through a client that you already have,” Michaels said. “You already have your ideal and best client in a moment where they’ve said something nice about you. Ask them if they would mind sending a letter to your prospects. I think the easier you make it for them to say yes, the more likely it is that they will say yes.”
There are certain questions that every good pitch must answer.
“It should answer what it is you’re doing, why anybody should care, how you’re going to do it, and who’s going to do it,” Feld said. “I wouldn’t have four slides with those titles on there, but if you tell a story around those questions, you’ve got a pretty good frame of reference for it. Recognize that it’s very hard for someone on the receiving end to read and listen at the same time. So, you need to make sure you’re making your point when there’s not a whole bunch of words on the slide that they will be trying to read, because they’ll miss everything that you say.”
Michaels added the single most important thing you can say in one sentence is the name of your business, what it is you do and the results you can bring. “You can’t get into every accomplishment you’ve had, but companies right now are very interested in return on investment. People are focused on results and what you can do for them.”
Even good ideas get rejected sometimes; it’s not the end of the world. There are ways to effectively deal with rejection.
“Be gracious about it and leave the door open,” Feld said. “Most investors are not looking for you to come back at them and say let me tell you why you should change your mind. Give them one open-ended question that can be posed as feedback. That’s probably the most useful thing you’d get out of it. I always find it very odd that people ask for referrals. The whole notion of asking someone that’s not interested for a referral doesn’t really make any sense.”
All in all preparation is the key when presenting to potential investors. Feld recommends checking out these websites before pitching your idea: guykawasaki.com, feld.com/wp, and presentationzen.com. —Lynn Celmer
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