Whether it’s for a major prospect to close a big sale or meeting with an investor group to raise capital for your business, nothing inspires greater enthusiasm and anxiety than the presentation pitch meeting. Despite the many hours executives spend preparing for the big presentation, regardless of all the well-intentioned seminars, executive coaches and training materials on the subject, it’s amazing to see so many of these big moments squandered by so many awful presentations. I’ve been on both sides of the pitch meeting desk, have known moments of great glory as well as presentation disaster, and with well over 100 of these sessions under my belt find there are a handful of factors that consistently determine whether a presentation succeeds or not.
Define your objectives
Surprisingly, far too many executives spend more time obsessing on PowerPoint slides and other production values rather than focusing on the meeting’s objective and how to achieve it. Every thought, activity, plan and pitch word must be organized around achieving a clearly defined objective. Clearly defined objectives are specific, tangible, measurable and actionable. Getting an equity partner is not a clearly defined objective. However, “partnering with XYZ Capital for a $25 million raise to close by January 1, 2014” is. This level of definition allows the presenter to not only pursue a specific goal, it allows for evaluation, negotiation and creating the basis for true alignment that establishes sound working partnerships. At best, executives failing to establish a clearly defined objective don’t close a deal; even worse they jump at the first offer and wind up with the wrong investor.
Know your audience
With a clearly defined objective, the presenting executive can then create a pitch designed to meet the goal by focusing on what’s most important — inspiring the audience to take the action you want. I have yet to meet any senior business leader whose eyes didn’t gloss over when forced to sit through a PowerPoint presentation where the leader reads every word on every page. Yet these same executives will turn around and do the very same thing when they’re giving a pitch! The diabolical root cause is the presenter gets consumed by himself (“What will I say? What shall I wear? Where should I stand, or should I sit?”),despite the fact that successful presentations always connect with the audience on what’s important to them. Accordingly, spend time researching and getting to know the group you are presenting to, know what’s important to them and build your pitch around their interests.
Emphasize the investment value
Investors certainly want to work with profitable companies, but creating value is their overarching concern. Pitches that demonstrate how an investment in your business will create and sustain substantial value for all stakeholders, notably investors, become the highly interactive dialogue everyone seeks that ultimately creates excellent business partnerships. Unless product descriptions and company features can be translated into value statements, avoid bringing this level of detail up in any pitch meeting. Investor committees may be influenced by short-term (quarterly profit) considerations but they will make decisions on longer-term (economic value) being created by investing in your company.
Lastly, punctuate all presentations by measuring and validating where you stand with investment committee members. Too many presenting executives sail through their big moments and are thrilled when it ends with friendly handshakes and smiles only to be shattered a few days later when they are told the committee will pass on their deals. By contrast, those who actively solicit feedback and dig deep to “know the no” at each stage are then able to either reset the conversation and overcome issues (ideal) or at least get professional feedback that can be successfully used for the next pitch.
If you believe in your company is at the point where you are ready to take on a financial partner, then following these simple rules will help you successfully find the right one:
1. Set a clearly defined objective and focus all presentation resources on achieving the stated goal.
2. Focus on your audience and not on yourself.
3. Translate every spoken word, PowerPoint and collateral on how your company can create value for a prospective investor.
4. Know the no.
5. Unless you are presenting to preschoolers, do not read slides to your audience. It’s insulting and boring.