Patrick Campbell, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in New York, is an author and president of Perth Advisors, a boutique investment banking firm dedicated to raising private equity and debt capital to help businesses achieve their strategic goals. As a person who's both made and listened to his fair share of pitches, we asked Patrick about pitching best practices that give your company its best chance for funding success. Here's what he shared.
Are you among the lucky few who are eloquent and articulate under stress? Or do you find yourself flummoxed and at a loss for words?
When raising capital for your company, there's a pivotal pitching moment when you need the words to flow like honey. But when palms are sweaty, your throat is dry and stakes are high, sometimes your mind goes blank and it can be hard to express yourself.
After 25 years of listening to and making pitches for capital, I can attest that there's nothing worse than having someone read a presentation to you from across the table. Especially if the pitch is timed just after lunch on a warm afternoon. Heads may nod.
Conversely, there's the opposite situation where the company CEO thinks they don't need to provide any other reason than their magnetic personality to close the deal and inspire a prospect to write the big check.
The sweet spot exists somewhere between the two extremes. Most investors need detailed information and want to back thoughtful, engaging managers. Each of these aspects are important, so your presentation must address both the rational and emotional element of the opportunity you're pitching.
How to address the rational element
The rational element starts with your written presentation. You need a written document to use as a reference point during the meeting itself, and also because you may not have time to cover every point in your meeting. It's a valuable leave-behind for investors.
A written presentation should introduce your company, address the specific opportunity, and explain in detail what investors can expect to gain from their involvement. In essence, it makes the case for investment. And if that was it, you could just send that document to investors, and the deal would get done, right?
It's usually not that simple. As a friend once shared with me: Facts tell, stories sell. And stories are told by people. That's where you come in!
How to address the emotional element
Investors want to meet managers and hear their stories before writing a check. They have questions, and it's your job to provide compelling answers: Who's going to be running this company or project? What's their relevant experience? How do they come across? Is their vision statement just fancy words on a page--or does the team truly live it? What's your "Why"?
It's your golden opportunity to build a human connection with people who want to support your opportunity if given a strong reason to do so. Now is your moment to shine. Don't blow it.
How practice makes natural
I can't overstate the importance of practicing your presentation before you sit down in front of potential investors. Practice often and in earnest: Alone, in front of a peer, your partners, your spouse, your pet. You almost can't overprepare. Current technology makes it easy to take a video of yourself presenting. Do so.
What's the purpose of the video? It's not to make your presentation perfect--there's no such thing.
You don't need an Oscar-winning performance on your practice video. Use it diagnostically to pinpoint weak areas and address them. Here's the sort of thing you're looking for:
- Is your head up, facing the audience?
- Are you speaking too quickly? Too slowly?
- Are your hands fidgeting in a distracting manner?
- Do you look stressed or confident? (You may feel stressed, but you have to look confident.)
- If you're pitching with a colleague, are they engaged as you talk or examining their fingernails?
Your objective is to cover all significant points while being as natural and genuine as possible when you're in front of an investor. To do so, you must have total command of the material you are presenting. That's why you have to practice--a lot.
When you know every page of your written presentation, you won't put your head down to read it. You will confidently look your prospect in the eye and address the information masterfully. You'll speak to what's on the page or video screen and explain why it's relevant. Now you're educating the investor about what's important: your opportunity. By practicing, your confidence will become authentic. And investors respond to confidence and authenticity.
Raising capital may be the most critical accomplishment you make for your company. Take it seriously and practice your pitch until it becomes second nature.
You will have great days and bad days raising capital. The great days will speak for themselves. And if you practice enough, a not-so-great presentation might still get you the money. You'll be less flustered, know the points you have to hit, and power through. Like a professional athlete relying on muscle memory, you'll know what to do in even suboptimal situations because--thanks to plenty of practice--you're a pro.