Pitching to Investors: Those Four Minutes

May 8, 2015 at startups

Last month, I worked on a ‘Pitching to investors’ project for a client. Although I am not aware of the latest status on funding, I want to share that awesome pitch deck preparing learning experience.

In addition to working on technical content work that is punctuated with DITA, href, and TOC, I love storytelling. Since I was working on a pitch for the first time, I did some research and found a video by Tyler Crowley who had shared some amazing insights on pitching to investors.

The Audience Attention

While pitching, your audience are generally interested in multiple pitches in a day. So, their attention span decreases with time, say after first couple of presentations. If you are scheduled to present a little later in the day, it adds to your challenge to hold their attention in first few seconds, and also to keep them interested.

Remember that the audience have few other things in mind, checking emails or twitter or facebook, or talking to the person next to them.

To make them listen to you beyond the first twenty or thirty seconds is the first challenge.

Wondering how you can do that!

The Start

Because of the audience attention challenges, how you start your pitch is absolutely crucial.

Start with a story. You cannot afford to start with your introduction, or of your product and its features. They are NOT interested if you say “I am Vinish, from Chandigarh, and we have this beautiful app that shares daily updates on new content published online, for ‘content’ community.”

They are least interested in who you are, certainly not before they absorb your story with contextual reference to your product and its benefits.

Keep in mind why the investors are listening to you. The answer is ‘Why they should be interested in your product, and possibly in an alliance?’.

Start with a story.

But how to make them listen to you? See ‘Hook and Absorb’, next.

Personas. You Hook. They Absorb.

A well crafted story keeps them listening to you, and then they will begin absorbing your story.

When the audience have informal conversations later such as during lunch, or at coffee, or at networking dinner in the evening, they will remember you by the story, and not by your name or your company name. Help them remember you the way you really want to be remembered, such as ‘easiest way to …’, ‘fastest route to…’, or ‘Uber for …’, for your product or service.

Use personas.

Start in the language of personas, a potential customer or a user of your product.

“Lacy is a technical writer and she checks her emails and a couple of content curation tools to see any new posts of her interest. She invariably misses a few good posts in the mailbox because something else often catches her eye in mailbox or in online tool as well. Tim is a content strategist. He finds ContentHug and immediately refers it to Lacy because now they can see all the relevant updates daily, without a chance to miss a post.”

Do not speak in the language of You, We, or I. The audience is not your customers. Use personas.

Visuals. Food for Conversation.

After you watch a movie, just think what moments you recall better from the movie. You loved and enjoyed a few moments because of the way these were presented, for the characters, for the visuals, and the dialogues.

Using visuals.

Likewise for the pitch deck. Show visuals that the audience will remember and setup the right context when you are talking. Use right words. Visuals stay in the ‘iconic memory’ and last longer than the words.

In addition, follow the standard deck preparing and public speaking practices such as no or very little descriptive text, more visuals, smaller sentences, pause, and plain language.

Remember that audiences also likes your energy, the way you make eye-contact, move around, and synchronize your body language with what you are saying. Practice for this harmony.

Sometimes, it is acceptable to use the following, depending on your story, the audience, your product, and your composure while speaking.

  • Metaphor (some real life metaphor to help audience relate to your story helps, better)
  • Humor (light, neutral)
  • Engage people in audience as a user persona (do you feel overwhelmed by too many unread emails in your mailbox?)

Pitching for Context. Connecting The Dots.

Once you engage the audience with the story, for a specific problem, using personas, talk about the solution with a reference to your product. Keep it generic and not feature specific. UX is for whiteboards, or for a later stage.

Close with how the problem is solved. “Now Lacy does not miss a post.”

Caution: If you think that you are struggling to connect the story dots to close it properly, go back to your product growth strategy.

A good closing is extremely important since the audience often refers to your story by the way you conclude it. Like a movie climax. Give them some takeaways that they remember.

A Few Sub Plots

You can use a few sub-plots to complete the story. There are people in the audience with different experiences, backgrounds, and interests. For example a few may be more interested to know about traction, or competition, or market size. Be prepared with relevant details and be prepared for their questions too. These sub plots can be:

  • Team (add pictures of team members, their twitter or other social presence and blog links if available)
  • Market size
  • Traction
  • Influencers (if you have some early users on board for testing, talk about their positive experiences by using their real names)
  • Growth strategy

Do not over-focus on these sub-plots. Remember that you have very limited time for each detail that you want to talk about, and the audience will be interested in these only if they are interested in your story.

Those Four Minutes

The few minutes that you get to pitch to investors can be the most important minutes for your business. Failure to secure funding is not the end of the world, certainly not. However, preparing well for pitching and giving your best shot is in your hands. Prepare well.