Unless you have a world-altering or utterly unique service or product, any entrepreneur will tell you that acquiring funds is no easy task. Not only must you create a compelling argument for why someone should invest in your idea, you also need to attract the right investor’s attention and deliver your pitch in a succinct and appealing manner.
For this reason, even if you don’t actually end up presenting to the venture capitalist of your dreams, having public speaking experience and the ability to nail the perfect elevator pitch is essential if you really want your company to take off.
#1 Pitching Etiquette
While your first instinct may be to immediately jump into your pitch as soon as you arrive, there are a few golden rules to follow if you want to maintain your investor’s attention.
Regardless of how many people there are in the room and what their role is, it is crucial to make eye contact with everyone to make sure they have your attention and feel included. Begin by thanking them for their time and the opportunity they have given you. The more you can relate to your audience, the better the chance you will have of making a successful pitch.
Be sure that you’re also pitching to the right people! Whether you’re speaking with venture capital investors or angel investors, how you approach them with your pitch will vary. Venture capital investors are investing with other people’s money and are typically limited by more regulations when it comes to choosing the right company or idea. On the other hand, angel investors are those who invest their own money and are more inclined to invest in specific projects or companies that appeal to their expertise, experience and personal taste. So make sure you conduct thorough research on your audience and prepare accordingly.
#2 Keep it Short & Sweet
Because your audience will probably want to know how your product or service can help them or others directly, your lead-in should clearly describe the issue or problem your company is trying to solve or tackle. Why is your solution better than what is already out there? Is there a gap in the market? How can you improve customer experience? Draw your audience in with an eye-catching problem, statistic or survey before you explain why your product or service is so unique. Co-owner and CMO of Chic CEO, Jody Coughlin, feels that ‘Asking a question can act as an attention grabber and an attention gauge.’ So why not start with a question and go on to explain how you can offer a strategic solution.
It is also vitally important to remember to keep your explanation brief and give yourself time limits for each section of your presentation. Consider what your investors need to know, cut out irrelevant details and try not to gloss over important areas such as your exit strategy, target market and competition analysis.
#3 Be Realistic
When all is said and done, it’s the numbers that truly matter in the end. While you can go on and on to explain to your potential investors about the growth you expect to see in the next few years for your company, it’s only your current figures that will matter to them for now. For example, if you currently have less than five percent of your domestic market, chances are that you won’t be able to count on expanding overseas, at least any time soon.
Be prepared to answer a multitude of financial-related questions, have a firm grip on your numbers and be realistic about predictions.
#4 Show Proof of Demand
Both angel investors and venture capital investors hear thousands of pitches each year, some better or worse than others, but the one thing they hate hearing is a good idea gone bad.
Instead of spending your existing funding or even your personal funds to create the perfect prototype for your pitch, take the time to conduct thorough market research and identify a suitable market. Test your products or services on the public in order to determine whether there may be a demand for it in your area or not. Forbes columnist, Rebecca O. Bagley, has always believed that ‘successful entrepreneurs listen first and pitch second’ so take time out to understand your market and where your product or service will fit.
If you are able to walk into a pitch meeting and confidently announce to your investors that there is a real demand for your idea, this will immediately boost your chances of getting committed investors.
#5 Get Personal
Some of the best start-up stories can be traced back to a personal connection with the founder. Don’t be afraid to get a little personal during your pitch, especially if you have an interesting Eureka moment or if your idea was developed to solve a problem for your community.
Jamie Hughes is an Account Manager at Speakers Corner, the UK's leading inspirational speakers agency. Over the years, Jamie has worked with a number of successful entrepreneurs across a range of industries and has been responsible for organizing business advice workshops, conferences and round table discussions for a range of small businesses.