If you’re trying to start a business from scratch, you’ll probably need capital. The best way to get it is from venture capitalists or angel investors, but if you’re going to convince a wealthy, savvy investor to hand over a chunk of his resources (or her company’s money), you’ll need an extraordinary pitch.
Ideally, your business idea will be so promising and foolproof that investors would be crazy not to get involved; just hearing a one-sentence summary would be enough to convince them. But the reality is, even the best business ideas are inherently risky and potentially flawed, so you’ll need to do some significant persuading to land the capital that will get you going.
What You Need to Prepare
Ultimately, your mission is twofold: explain the premise of your operation, and convince investors you’re ready and able to execute it. You can accomplish this by preparing these essential pitch elements:
- An interactive slide deck. Slideshows have been around for decades, but they’re still the most effective accompaniment for a presentation. Slide decks give your audience something to look at while you’re speaking, and can present information in graphic and video form that would be challenging to get across verbally. But make your deck interactive; it should give your audience new information, rather than rehash what you’re speaking. Try to make it entertaining as well as informative, but keep it a complement to your presentation, rather than the meat on its own.
- A verbal and nonverbal presentation. Next, be utterly prepared to give an outstanding presentation. Memorize your talking points, don’t merely rely on notecards, and rehearse your presentation until you know the sequence of topics and major details by heart. On the other hand, you don’t want to rehearse too much; if it sounds like you’re reading from a transcript, your presentation will come across as contrived, even insincere. You might record yourself so you can spot your nonverbal habits, and tweak them to look more professional.
- The numbers. Investors will make their decision based on expected financial return, of course. If you want to convince them that their investment will yield a profit, you need to show them how. Speculating about the merits of your goods and services isn’t going to be sufficient; you’ll need reasonably hard numbers if you want to convince them you’ve got a winner.
- A tangible takeaway. The pitch isn’t over when you finish your presentation. The chances are, your potential investors will desire some time to think about the decision before getting back to you. So you’ll want to leave them with a tangible takeaway that recaps the main points (especially the numbers) in your presentation. You can print up a brochure, design a flyer, or even prepare a binder of information for each prospect. Just make sure you put something in their hands before you walk out the door.
- A plan to address questions and comments. You might be hit with some hard questions after your presentation ends, from seasoned investors who think of facets that might never have occurred to you. Have a plan in place to address questions you think they could raise — especially if you’re aware of weaknesses in your idea. It also pays to have a general backup strategy that gives you an out if they ask a question you aren’t prepared to answer. “I don’t know, but we’re working on it,” is often an acceptable response … so long as you respond intelligently and confidently. Don’t let yourself get taken off guard.
How to Get Started
If you’re intimidated by the amount of work this entails, or doubt you’ll be able to pull the necessary materials together in time, take a deep breath. You can take this process one step at a time.
Start by doing research: look at potential competitors and your target audience, then start talking to other entrepreneurs in your field. The more immersed you become in the startup culture of your city, the more confident you’re going to feel.
From there, focus on preparing the items above, one at a time, until you’re ready to give the pitch of a lifetime.