The advice from all sources is pouring in. Some are even opposite to each other. What do you do?
As a startup mentor and a pitch day participant, I have seen many startups break sweat just thinking about the pitch day. Sometimes the anxiety ends up in either of two destructive behaviors: very high strung nervousness or unnecessary arrogance.
What should you do? First, breathe. Deeply. Exhale. Repeat if necessary.
Pitch day is more about the idea and the team behind the idea rather than presentation skills only. Yes, how well you communicate the idea is important, but theatrics alone will not get you the right funding. What is required?
Here are some tips to get your best ‘A’ game on the Pitch day
#1 Get your facts clear
You and your team need to know the facts which you have put on the deck or the slide. If there is a sales number, then how many prospect visits will you do, what would be the conversion rate, will the speed increase or decrease over time, what is behind the assumptions? Each number has a story and assumptions behind it. Know it by heart. Revathi Roy, who pioneered Asia’s 1st women cab service and is a serial entrepreneur and investor says “Once the foundation is set for first 1000 days besides money, how factors like innovation, customer satisfaction are growing is key.”
#2 Answer the key questions
These will always be the idea, what logical and emotional problem it solves, what and how big is the opportunity, why are you uniquely placed to grab this opportunity, your business plan and the various scenarios at the very least. One of the key questions for Investors is Exit Plan. Neil Patel says “Investors want big outcomes and are looking for the next blockbuster. Having a clear answer: IPO or acquisition helps to build the story”
#3 Understand the sophistication of the investors
Understand your investor profile. It is different when you pitch to established venture funds vs. retail investor with startup investing experience. VCs will have spent a lot of time and money doing their research in advance of the meeting. They will throw a lot of curve balls. Retail investors will leverage their experience but mainly rely on your presentation to ask questions.
#4 Handle objections in advance
Find out what could be the objections which investors would have. The common ones will be why this idea will work? What gives you the confidence it will work? How fast can your idea be copied? There are already other players in the market, why will your approach work? The plan is too slow, how can we scale it up faster? Your time to market is too slow/too fast. Do find the ones specific to your idea and plan. This will help in being prepared.
#5 Leverage your incubators and lead investors
If you have progressed through an incubator or an accelerator program, leverage their experience and implement their guidelines. They will have a dry run for your pitch day. However, probe them further on what works and what does not. Ask for the best and worst pitches and learn from them.
Ask for your mentors, and lead investors help. Both of them have enough skin in the game and will gladly help you out. Your lead investor will be present on the pitch day. But having them involved in the presentation and charting out the roles will help in looking like one solid team
#6 Be clear about the roles in the team
You and your team are obviously very enthusiastic about your idea. But different people will be able to communicate the enthusiasm better. Be clear in advance who is going to handle the tech vs. finance vs. sales questions. Ideally, the tech and sales should be seamless. Get your lead investor also as part of your presentation, and they can share their experience with you guys
#7 Bring your passion out
Finally, investors invest in the team. However, fantastic the idea is, you and your team are uniquely poised to deliver the business. Bring your passion out, share your stories, talk how about how it is making a difference to you and your customer and or how it will be. Barbara Corcoran of Shark Tank says "My whole focus is on trying to size up the entrepreneur. I am looking at how much wild enthusiasm do they genuinely have for their product. You can't fake passion."
The pitch day is an important milestone in your journey of entrepreneurship. Prepare, Practice, Present. And get Investors chasing you out of the door.