When people recognize me from "Shark Tank," they never remember that I made a deal with the renowned Mark Cuban. Instead, they bring up my epically failed pitch.

It was every entrepreneur's nightmare. Once my faulty slideshow disrupted my flow, I went silent for nearly a minute before stammering my way through the rest of my pitch. The Sharks smelled blood; the taunting began, and I ended up making a fool of myself on national television. When you make a bad pitch, there usually isn't any taunting, but that's showbiz, baby.

Despite my awful performance, I somehow managed to secure a deal with Mark Cuban, and in hindsight, I recognized three key things I did wrong:

  1. I tried to parrot a memorized spiel, which isn't my strong suit. I should have winged the pitch from the get-go, but instead, I let nerves force me to over-prepare.
  1. I didn't think out a "likeability" strategy. That doesn't mean that I should have been insincere, but it wouldn't have hurt to interject with something about why I would appreciate them as investors for my business.
  1. I didn't ask for enough. Once there was a deal that I wanted to accept, I should have tried to secure an additional line of credit dependent on the success of my initial startup stages.Viewers often forget that I did make a deal, but I wish that I had taken the opportunity to ask for a line of credit in a way that would have make the Shark look good by verbally agreeing to it.

So I've covered the three things that I did wrong. Now, let's look at several strategies that can make things go right:

  1. Pitch what you know. You know your business inside and out, so prove it. If there's a gap in your knowledge of your business, you're not ready to pitch to investors. And I would never recommend using a professional "pitch person" to pitch for you.
  1. Have a likeability strategy. Investing in something is similar to taking on a partner--they're investing in you as much as the business. If you want to partner up, you'll have to make them like you.
  1. Be yourself. You have to be comfortable to perform at your best. If you're not a suit-and-tie person, dressing to the nines might make you look like a fish out of water.
  1. Understand where you stand in terms of an investor's priorities. Recognize that a single investment can change your life, but investors deal with many entrepreneurs every day. Always keep in mind that an investor has less hinging on the decision than you do.
  1. Remember that when you take someone's money, it's a big weight to carry. Of course, investors know that they're taking a risk, but if you end up losing their money, you're not going to sleep well for a while.
  1. Look through the investor's eyes. As an entrepreneur, you view valuations based on a fairly narrow set of parameters. Investors recognize that a million different things can go wrong. What if you're nothing but a fraud? Or you get struck by lightning? Or an unexpected invention makes your product obsolete overnight? Try to see things from their perspective.

The bottom line is that a successful pitch is all about being prepared. It's not as superficial as being able to "outpitch" someone; it's about having the groundwork laid out and seizing opportunities. And not only does total preparation make you more pitch-capable, but your potential investors will also recognize your effort and planning. And that is the sort of investment they're looking for.

Published on: Oct 10, 2014
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