How to Deliver a Pitch to Investors: Tips for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
One of the most crucial skills for any aspiring entrepreneur to learn is how to pitch to investors. Regardless of industry, acquiring funding and being able to convince investors to put money into the company is the lifeblood of a new venture.
How to deliver a pitch to investors as an aspiring entrepreneur
As an entrepreneur and founder of Cress Health, a company that creates digital technologies such as Callie to help individuals enhance their mental wellness, I’ve had to pitch to countless investors and funding organizations over the years. Here are some of the things that I’ve learned about how to deliver a successful pitch to investors.
Practice your pitch by running through your investor pitch deck
We’ve all heard the cliché “practice makes perfect,” but in this case it’s true. Especially for first time presenters, pitching to a panel of investors can be a nerve-wracking and anxiety inducing experience. One of the best ways to calm these nerves is to adequately prepare for the presentation by practicing your pitch in advance. Although you shouldn’t come across as rehearsed, practice also helps you have a clearer delivery, as it often helps cut down the incidence of filler words such as “um” and “like” that can detract from the main message of the presentation. Make sure to run through your investor pitch deck as many times as you need to feel comfortable.
Seek feedback from business-minded mentors
After you’ve practiced your pitch on your own and feel confident with your delivery, it’s helpful to practice in front of trusted mentors and get their feedback on your pitch. Feedback from mentors is a great way to gauge if what you’re saying is clear to others. Often, something that makes sense to you as you’re speaking might be difficult for your audience to understand. This can be especially true when you’re describing the product or service that your business offers.
For example, when I described the digital wellness application that I was building during my first pitch, I repeatedly said the phrase “chat-based support.” It was with the feedback from mentors such as Chris Lopinto, entrepreneur in residence at Hofstra’s Center for Entrepreneurship; Liz Malone, assistant director at Brown’s Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship; and Hamzah Ansari, lecturer in Entrepreneurship at Brown, along with my co-founder Justin Kim, that I realized this phrasing was extremely ambiguous. Based on this feedback, I was able to elevate my entire pitch by crafting a more in-depth description that clearly explained what my product did and why it was valuable.
Pay attention to your slide deck
What you say during your pitch is important, but the slide deck you present with is just as important. Like your verbal pitch, the most important aspect of any slide deck is clarity. Although it should be aesthetic and visually pleasing, it shouldn’t be overly distracting. You want your audience to be listening to what you’re saying, not concentrating on what you have written on your slides. Because of this, it’s also wise to avoid full sentences or lengthy blocks of text on your slides. A couple of bullet points along with a few meaningful graphics will suffice.
Know quick facts about your business inside and out
As a founder, you should know every single detail about your business, no matter how big or small. Investors are listening to your pitch so that they can learn more about your business and evaluate it as an investment opportunity. Nothing derails a pitch quicker than a founder who doesn’t have a grasp on essential information about their core business. Whether it be your unit economics, your revenue model, or your distribution strategy, make sure that you can not only recite what you plan to do, but clearly explain the rationale and reasoning behind your strategy.
Use this understanding to bolster your confidence when you pitch. A mentor once told me that there was no reason to be nervous during an investor pitch since you’ll be the most knowledgeable person about your business in the room.
Hold your own—don’t be intimidated by investors
Especially when speaking with well-known investment groups, it’s easy to be intimidated, but try your best not to be. Although it may not seem like it, you’re on the same team as the investors. Because they’ve already made a commitment to you by investing their time to listen to you pitch, it’s in their best interest for you to perform well. They’re looking for top talent and great investment opportunities that could potentially yield multi-fold returns in the future. From speaking with principals and partners at venture capital firms over the years, it’s apparent that they’re evaluating you and your business from a positive lens. They’re trying to find reasons that can justify investing in you, not the other way around.
Demonstrate your personal strengths and what you bring to the table
In addition to demonstrating the strength and validity of your business idea, it’s also important to demonstrate your personal strengths. Even when investors are not completely in love with your business idea, they may still agree to invest if they believe that you’re capable enough to execute upon the idea and make it work, ideally to a point where there is a tangible exit strategy. Often, they’ll base this determination on the you and your teams’ credentials in order to evaluate your past operational experience and how it will be beneficial in helping the company succeed.
An MBA can be the perfect credential to justify your personal ability, especially when the strengths of the business school you attend align with what you’re trying to do as a founder, so definitely take this into consideration when choosing a program, especially if entrepreneurship is something that interests you.
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Michael W. Lai is the CEO & Co-Founder of Cress Health. Learn more about Cress Health and their digital wellness application, Callie, here.