I have been coaching people on their sales presentation skills for years. I even wrote a book on it. So, when I entered the start-up world a year ago, and learned how important the "pitch" was to a start-up's success with investors, I was grateful that I had a foundation on which to build. I rolled up my sleeves to absorb as much as I could about the best practices associated with an investor pitch--and found that there was no shortage of opinions on the subject. What was interesting to me is that the majority of the advice focused on the content of the pitch.

We all know content is important, but there is something even more important to a pitch's success, and that is how the audience will experience you. Think about it: if the pitch was only about content, all fundraising activities could be done by email and save both entrepreneurs and investors a lot of time, energy and expense. The reason we come together, is so investors can get a "feel" for who you are and your ability to implement. Consciously or unconsciously they are asking questions like "Do I want to work with these people?" "Do they seem trustworthy?" "Can she get the job done?" "Is she believable?" Yet, when most people prepare and practice their presentation, they spend a disproportionate amount of time focused on the content (what they will say) rather than the experience (how they will connect).

When prepping for your next pitch, be sure to spend as much time - if not more--strategizing on how you will connect with the audience and how you want them to experience you. Outlined below are 8 strategies to ensure that your pitch has maximum impact.

1. Practice. A lot. Start by writing out your presentation word for word. Once you get the messaging right, create a bullet point outline. Practice saying it different ways so you are not memorizing a script, but rather internalizing your messaging. Once you have nailed it from the outline, throw away the bullet points and tape yourself. Listen, and re-tape. This will also help to ensure that you are within your time limits.

2. Focus on the little things. How you enter the room, how you introduce yourself, and how you stand all convey your confidence and will have an impact on the way people perceive you. Once you are comfortable with the content, videotape yourself, and review it with the volume off. What is your body language conveying? How might you improve?

3. Make sure your slides are working for you. Assess your slides from the audience's perspective. What does the look and feel say about you and your business? Fewer words will keep the audience's attention on you and what you are saying. It is always better to have more slides with fewer words, than fewer slides with more words. This may seem to be in conflict with many pitch experts who dictate the number of slides in an investor pitch. I believe their point is not to overwhelm the audience with content. The human attention span is shorter than ever so we need to keep their focus by changing visuals frequently while keeping content to a minimum. Use as many slides as necessary to achieve this.

4. If the environment is not working for you, try to change it. You will not always be able to do this, but if you can, stand to the left of the screen (people read from left to right, and you want them to be drawn back to you after looking at the slide). If a podium is provided, stand away from it or move it. A podium acts is a barrier between you and your audience. If you do not need a mic, don't use one. Take as much control of the situation as possible. This is your show.

5. Bring a slide advancer to ensure you will not be tied to a computer or dependent on someone else to change your slides. Both are distracting and will severely impact your connection with the audience. This may seem minor, but I have witnessed people make this mistake on numerous occasions and it takes the life out of a room.

6. Manage your nerves. Several minutes before your presentation, check your breathing. Breathe deeply (focus on your diaphragm expanding) and assume a "power pose" by being as large and open as possible while you are seated or standing (without looking weird). Check out Amy Cuddy's Ted Talk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks-_Mh1QhMc)

7. Focus on the connection. We have all heard aphorisms like "people buy from people that they like", and "investors invest in the jockey not the horse". This means that we need to connect with the people in the room. It helps if you think of them as individuals instead of an audience. Use eye contact to connect with one audience member for one thought or phrase, before moving to another audience member for the next thought or phrase. This technique also helps with your pace (it will slow you down) and your nerves (you have one-on-one conversations everyday so it will feel more natural to you.)

8. Bring your power, passion and enthusiasm to the table. Use power and emotion words ("this is critically important", "I absolutely am convinced", " we have a proven methodology" etc.) These types of words not only add punch and excitement, but they will also help to keep the audience's attention.

Research suggests that on average an audience typically will only remember 10% of the content of a presentation. As your pitch is a mere invitation for further discussion, focus on your connection with the audience at least as much as you focus on your content. As Maya Angelou said "people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." How do you want potential investors to feel about you and your company?

Nadine Keller is Founder and CEO of Nimbus, a cloud-based coaching, learning and communication platform designed to help organizations increase sales. She is also President of Precision Sales Coaching and author of Make It All About Them: Winning Sales Presentations. She is a prolific writer, speaker and coach and is passionate about helping sales people be more successful. She is a recent alumna of Springboard enterprises and can be found on LinkedIn athttps://www.linkedin.com/in/nadinekeller

Published on: Feb 24, 2016
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