Venture-capital (or investment) fairs can be the best or worst of experiences. Good fairs are chock-full of prospective investors, but they're also chock-full of owners competing for capital. To win that competition, your company has to stand out, and that takes a great deal of preparation.

Before you walk in the door, cautions Sue Bennett, director of Tulsa's Oklahoma Investment Forum, a group that organizes investment forums, "you've got to be able to put a name on your company's problem. How much money do you need, and why? When you've forced yourself to answer those questions -- and when you've tried to figure out how to make a presentation to investors that lasts just 10 minutes -- you may realize that money isn't your problem at all. But if it is, you've got to figure out how to capture an investor's imagination."

David Blythe founded Tribe Interactive, a Tulsa business that designs Web pages, less than two years ago. Right now he's working on his pitch for one of Bennett's upcoming forums. He's hoping to raise $500,000 to $1 million. "We've been preparing our presentation for nearly a year. The stakes are high," Blythe says. His preparations included hiring an accountant to help develop a comprehensive business plan, producing a four-minute promotional video, and rehearsing the pitch before numerous outsiders.

Bennett's advice: "With so little time to make an impression, you've got to focus on the size of your market, your company's opportunity to grow in that market, and the ways you'll be able to make money for your investors."

Published on: Aug 1, 1996