What if your mind goes blank?
Will your voice even make a sound?
What if the audience leaves the room in disgust?
These are the typical concerns of entrepreneurs crafting their pitches, but they don’t need to be yours. Whether you are presenting to a room full of investors or just to your family and friends, here are some simple tips to help you prepare to succeed:
Expect the Unexpected
Perhaps you were promised 15 minutes and are now only allotted five? Regardless, you should be able to roll with the punches without losing your cool. Like the main quality of a gas, your pitch should expand or contract to fill the available space. Practice being able to give your pitch in five, 10 or 15 minutes, or even one minute, depending on the time you are given. Expand on examples, shorten stories. Always practice the CliffsNotes version — just in case.
Ask a Friend to be a Devil’s Advocate
This doesn’t mean asking them to be a jerk; but rather, ask them to help you through the process by thinking of tough questions and opposing viewpoints you may face. Investors are not out to stump you, but they are going to be protective of their money and will not usually give it to someone who hasn’t prepared. Remember: Investors may not have seen it all, but they have seen a lot.
Be Nice to Everyone
The administrative professional at the front desk, the intern who fetches water and the lower level analyst taking notes — they might tip the scales in your favor, and you need all the help you can get. You never know who is going to say what about your behavior.
You’ll come across as foolish if your response to a question you’re not sure of proves incorrect. Try saying instead: “Great question. I’m not sure, but our team does. I can get back to you with an answer after the meeting.” This proves you have assembled a competent team on which you have confidence.
Recognize Expertise Beyond Yours
You are carving a niche within a market, so you are expected to know a lot about something, and something about a lot. Don’t act like an expert on every single element of the industry, because you’re probably not. But you can cite actual experts to show you have thoroughly researched the opportunity and crafted a good case.
Presentation is Everything
Do you know what’s even more impressive than a breathtaking PowerPoint deck? Being able to captivate the audience if the projector fails. While you should work on nice, polished slides and carry a backup on a USB drive, you must be prepared to paint a mental picture. Remember: Columbus did not have PowerPoint when convincing the Queen of Spain to finance his voyage; he used the imagination of untold wealth as his fuel.
The bottom line is that meeting with investors can be both daunting and exciting. While it can confirm your hard work is recognized, it can also lead to self-doubt and uneasiness. Those are understandable feelings, so don’t add to them by failing to prepare. Otherwise, you’re just preparing to fail.
Public speaking routinely tops the list of common phobias. Butterflies in the stomach, sweaty palms, anxiety are all typical manifestations of the discomfort, which is often much less noticeable to the audience than to the one doing the speaking. However, unlike being trapped in a dark room with snakes, glossophobia (fear of public speaking) affects the ability to do something much more common.
Congratulations, you nailed that presentation! Much like a baseball player who reaches first base seeks to advance to second, you should seek to advance further and raise your stock, close your sale or secure that plum assignment. These five simple suggestions can significantly amplify the impact of your success.