Whether you’re pitching to investors at a business plan competition, angel group meeting or one-on-one, your goal is to interest them enough so they want to know more about you and about your company.

“You need to present a compelling business case that makes them believe not only that your company will generate significant returns on their investment, but also that you have the capability to execute that vision,” according to Amy Millman, president of Springboard Enterprises, an accelerator for women-led businesses in technology, media and life sciences. Millman should know, because for more than 15 years, the organization she heads has been helping women raise financing from venture capitalists (VCs) and angels.

Here are some tips that should provide insight into both the art and science of presenting to investors.

1. Be Compelling

A compelling presentation is only as compelling as what you put into it. When you’re putting yours together, remember to:

  • Be bold. Grab attention with your vision of a better future.
  • Tell a story. Data won’t capture the imagination of investors. Tell the story of how you discovered the problem. Here are eight classic storytelling techniques for engaging presentations.
  • Be concrete. Provide real-life examples of the problem and your solution.
  • Be brief. You need to communicate with stunning efficiency. Typical presentations are 12 to 15 slides. Your prepared comments should take no more than 15 to 20 minutes to deliver. In some cases, you may have as few as five minutes to present. Leave the details to the Q&A. When someone asks a question of you, they want more details.

2. Arouse Interest Immediately

Because investors make their decisions in the first thirty seconds of your presentation, start your pitch by telling them everything you are going to tell them. Make sure you cover your offering’s market potential; the need for your product or service; the ways in which your business will transform that need into a business opportunity; and your competitive edge.

Sam Horn, presentation coach, pitch consultant, intrigue expert and author of Got Your Attention? How to Create Intrigue and Connect with Anyone, recommends opening with three “did you know?” questions. She helped one of her Springboard Enterprises clients, Kathleen Callender of Pharma Jet, win funding and the Nokia Health Award. Here’s how Callender nailed it:

  • “Did you know there are more than 1.8 billion vaccinations given every year?”
  • “Did you know up to half of those are given with re-used needles?”
  • “Did you know we are spreading and perpetuating the very diseases we are trying to prevent?”
  • “Imagine if there were a painless, one-use needle available for a fraction of the current cost.”
  • “You don’t have to imagine it; we’ve created it.”

3. Provide Substance

Being creative and compelling are important, but marketing will only get you so far. You’ll need to know all about your offering from front and back. So when you’re asked about it, be ready to discuss specifics, which should include addressing the following things.

  • Describe in vivid detail what the must-have need is. While a video alone is not an investor presentation, Miki Agrawal paints a vivid picture of the need for innovating a common product: panties.
  • Define and size the market.
  • Analyze your competition and state your advantage.
  • Describe the strategies you’ll use to reach the target market.
  • Know what drives your business model. For example, investors want to know how much you’ll spend to drive X amount of traffic to your site, what percent of visitors will purchase and what percent will purchase again.

4. Project Solid Management Expertise

The strength of your management team is absolutely critical to your success and to your ability to raise venture and angel financing. VCs and angels invest in people, not just ideas on paper. They want to be sure that your team can deliver. Highlight your management’s experience, industry knowledge and functional skills. Educational background is rarely important. Quickly mention your corporate and advisory boards.

5. Make Your Presentation Tangible

Throughout your pitch, talk in specifics, not abstractions. Keeping it tangible means using plain English that the person on the street can understand. Avoid industry buzzwords and MBA- and tech-speak. These are useful as shorthand, but they’re also a way of excluding people who don’t happen to know the terms.

6. Conclude with a Call to Action

Always end your pitch with a call to action: the amount of money you want. You build to this conclusion by telling investors how you plan on spending the money, how much money you’re going to make and when you will be profitable. Be sure to include the investor’s exit strategy.

Make your close count. “This may sound obvious, but remind people of your name and the company,” says Horn. “Provide three action options that move up in importance.” For example, you could end with an offer…

  • …for a sample or product demonstration.
  • …for a copy of your financials.
  • …to schedule a one-on-one call.

7. Make Your Slides Readable

When making your pitch deck, here are a few things you can do to make it accessible. Use bullet point lists and make your points concise. The type size should be large enough to be read by your audience at its intended distance. If you plan on using all uppercase letters for emphasis, do so sparingly. For the most part, use upper and lowercase letters for easier readability, especially on the body text of your slides.

Use a type color that stands out from the background color to further increase readability. Lighter typeface colors contrasting with dark backgrounds, such as lemon yellow (not bright true yellow) on a dark background like midnight blue, works well. Dark typeface on a light background can also look good. Graphics can help make your slides more interesting, but don’t overload the slide. A great resource is Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte.

8. Prepare and Practice

Develop a list of questions you might be asked and answer them in advance. Base your list on prior investor presentations and other meetings and conversations you have had about your business. If you’re presenting as a team, agree beforehand on who will cover which topics and who is responsible for answering what types of questions. If you’re presenting alone but your management team is in the audience, then let them answer detailed questions in their areas of expertise. Practice! Practice! Practice!

9. Show Your Passion

A good presentation excites and energizes the audience. Of course the financials, the competitive advantage, the market potential and the idea are all important, but you also must show the fire in your belly. You must have a passion to succeed at something that’s never been done before. That passion must come across. If you can’t get the audience charged up about your plan, it’s over. Also remember that you have to look like you enjoy and can handle the challenge. So mask your nerves by looking like you’re having fun during the presentation.

For more information, check out the essential documents you need to pitch and onboard investors.

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