· 8 min read

How You Show Up is Important

Learn how to avoid common mistakes and successfully pitch your business to investors as a Fractional CFO shares essential tips for impactful presentations.

Learn how to avoid common mistakes and successfully pitch your business to investors as a Fractional CFO shares essential tips for impactful presentations.

As a Fractional CFO, I often hear entrepreneurs’ presentations. These presentations usually are seeking partnerships with investors. Surprisingly, efforts often fall wide of the mark due to a lack of understanding of the basics.

I have written about what makes a business successful, and what qualities a CEO needs to succeed. However, I have apparently missed a more fundamental issue: how to avoid failing right out of the gate at an investor presentation. How you present yourself will make or break your chances with investors. Everything you do sends a message. Be sure it is the right message.

What Success Looks Like

In order for the presentation to be successful — indeed for any sale to be successful — the presenter must convince the audience of three things:

  1. That you are a winner. You understand your business, are committed to it, will not be distracted, and will grow the investor’s money.

  2. That your product is a winner. That it is profitable and will not face insurmountable competition.

  3. That you and your co-workers are experienced and driven and the investor will not be paying for their mistakes.

Accomplishing these goals requires talent, skill, and experience. I will not enumerate what is required here. But we can discuss the basics and avoid the worst-case outcome. Here are some dos and don’ts from investor presentations over the years.

  1. Dress professionally. If you show up in a clown suit, investors will conclude you are a clown. Investors are sitting in the audience asking themselves a very basic question: Is this someone I can trust with my money? You might object that dress is very casual among Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, especially serial entrepreneurs. Yes, but you are not Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page. Unless your reputation precedes you, build credibility with your outward appearance.

  2. Do not show up with your kids. Families are the source of much joy and fulfillment in our lives. However, investors want to know that you will be able to focus on the business and on growing their investment. Showing up with your kids at the podium sends a message that there will be issues dedicating yourself to the consuming task of growing a business.

    This is part of a bigger issue. While it is the case that many singles with no children fail in business due to lack of ability while innumerable single parents of several children succeed due to their incredible talent, you will need to be able to devote significant focused time to the business. At a minimum, you must be able to compartmentalize your family life from your business at times. Start at the presentation by showing investors you can do this for five minutes.

    Starting a business is one of the most demanding things a person can do, and it will require sacrifices. If you have a family or partner, get their support. If you are constantly getting pushback on the home-front, this makes an already difficult task harder.

  3. Do not jump up and down, wave your hands, and say how terrified you are that the company is running out of money. Being aware of your emotions is the first step in emotional intelligence. Being able to filter them and present appropriate emotions for the situation is the second step. Investors are not looking to rescue you. They want to be part of a winning, upward trajectory.

  4. Do not interrupt your partner from the audience. It is always best if the founder gives the presentation. However, if you decide that someone else should present, do not chime in from the peanut gallery. Not only does it cut the legs out from under the speaker, but it also creates a strange dynamic in the room, raising questions of leadership and competence. You will be able to network after the event and answer questions personally.

  5. Do not discuss your faith. Faith is important for many, providing guidance and inspiration. However, it does not have a place in a business presentation unless you are selling bibles. You are trying to convince investors that you are focused on your brilliant business idea. Bringing your faith into it may make them pause and wonder why you are saying this. In the worst case, your audience may have a different faith and feel alienated or offended. We live in a multicultural society. But one thing everyone in the room can agree on is that we are interested in business success. So, stick to that.

  6. Time your presentation. Learn presentation basics. If you are given five minutes for your presentation, make sure you have practiced your presentation at least ten times with a timer. Microsoft PowerPoint has a coaching facility that will give you pointers on whether you are speaking too fast or in a monotone. There are two problems with running out of time: First, you don’t get to present some important points you have prepared. Second, it gives the impression that you are disorganized and can’t plan — not a good thing for someone who is in fact presenting a plan.

  7. Control the audience. Slide decks are a visual aid only. You want the audience looking at you, not trying to decipher your slides. The audience should be able to instantly understand the slide and then look back at you. Using builds focuses attention on what you are saying and prevents the audience from reading ahead. Builds also enhance the impression that you are in control.

    Avoid excessive text and complete sentences. Don’t read the slides to your audience. Tailor every presentation to the audience. Learn what should be in a presentation deck and how to deliver it. Most people have too many slides.

    Structuring investor presentations is a science and an art. A Venture Capitalist I know has even written a book on it.

  8. Tell me why your business is certain to succeed. All successful sales share one thing: They transfer the emotion of certainty from the speaker to the audience. Be 100% certain that your business will succeed. Talk about the successes you have already had with this business and how it is proof of huge growth to come.

  9. Be committed to your business. If your goal in life is to be a bartender, you should not be running a business that is soliciting investment. “The business needs money so I can get back to running my bar.” is not a winning pitch. Investors want to invest in someone who will give 100% to the business.

  10. Have realistic but ambitious projections. No one can predict future sales. However, investors are not looking to invest in a company that will be selling less than $1 million in five years. That would not provide a good return on investment. Think about where you are going to sell your product and what is required to get impressive sales results. If you need to hire salespeople, account for that. No one can grow a $10 million business by themselves. All this needs to be concisely articulated in the presentation.

    If your goal really is $800,000 per year in revenue with $80,000 in profit that you can pay yourself in salary, that’s fine. That’s called a lifestyle business. Don’t give an investor presentation. It isn’t appropriate; investors are looking for more.

  11. Show that you have thought about your proposal. You are there asking for money. Show that you have mapped out how much money is required, what you will spend it on, and what you will achieve with it. Things never work out as in the proposal, and investors understand that. But do your best. If you are planning on raising more money at a higher valuation, say that. It shows you are thinking ahead.

  12. Understand your competitive position. You may be competing with large companies who are able to sell their products at more attractive prices than you will be able to. If you insist that you will be able to crush multinational companies on pricing, you are likely mistaken, and you will lose credibility. One presenter claimed that he could beat a multinational on pricing, and it turned out that he thought the retail price would be his cost of goods. He hadn’t accounted for his own profit margin, that of the distributor, retailer, or required trade spend.

  13. Show off your people skills. Be happy. Investors want to deal with winners. Winners are happy, in control, confident, and certain of their success. They know how to network, are charming, and attract talent.

People do business with people they know, like, and trust. Get your audience to know, like and trust you.

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