Pitching without PowerPoint: 8 Tips for a First Meeting
There has been lots of talk about how best to pitch. A Harvard Business School professor recently noted how energy and comfort matter, and Keynote is better than PowerPoint. Sarah Tavel with Bessemer Venture Partners tweeted the message below, implying demos trump powerpoint. Ahuva posted about Death by PowerPoint.
In first meetings, I now try to do 8 things that have nothing to do with Guy Kawasaki's 10-20-30 rule, and this new approach has consistently led to follow up meetings.
1. Create energy. Conference rooms and work can be dull...and at the same time investors are not just investing in this idea of yours, but they're building long term relationship. They dream of having repeat entrepreneurs to back. Show them how you can keep your team motivated when you encounter inevitable difficulties. So show them why it'd be fun for them to be engaged in your project. Go through slides or links quickly. Include funny pictures or jokes. Get the audience anticipating the big thing around the corner. Do whatever it takes to keep the energy level high.
2. Feature the product. If pictures are worth a thousand words, demos are worth a hundred thousand. When I was at IBM, a screenshot of a management dashboard seemed enought to sell millions in software and services. It's great when you can get someone to say "I would use that fox XYZ" or "XYZ person would use that". As comfort with your pitch is very important, this should be the easy part as you'll be most comfortable when talking about the product.
3. Show external validation. Been postivively reviewed? Won an award? Got an active user? Got a distribution partner? Show anything you can that demonstrates it's not just you who likes the product. And don't just show "market research" and big numbers. Make it personal. Exactly what person from what backround experiences the pain and likes your solution.
4. Reveal team rapport. Investors all have stories about teams they backed that fell apart. Sometimes its someone with an important relationship who left. Or its a key technical person who left. You need to demonstrate that your team is in it for the long haul. Talk about the ups and downs you've had, changes you've made, how your relationship has grown. Touch on personal things you know about each other. Mention how the venture fits with everyones dreams.
5. Give some numbers, ideally about customer acquisition cost and customer lifetime value. Interestingly, about the only think I've ever seen investors write down in meetings is numbers. It's like they're trained to do this. If you can, show how you acquire someone for $X and monetize them from for $Y. Ideally you've got some new numbers about users of your alpha. Also, numbers about big markets help too. It can't hurt to say 30 million peopls search for XYZ each month or there was 50% year over year growth in dollars spent on ABC. Charts can be confusing and are a pain to update each week. Have the 5-10 numbers that you'll use memorized and say them slowly. Precision doesn't matter at this stage - just get them generally right.
6. Create scarcity. Talk about a timeline. Talk about different types (but not names) of investors interested in your deal. Talk about why something you're about to do will interest another investor or partner, increasing your valuation. Talk about an angel who is already committed to some of the next round. Do anything you can to imply action needs to happen in the short term.
7. Share what you've learned. Investors and reporters acquire and synthesize knowledge for a living. Teach them something new and they'll consider a meeting worthwhile. It also helps to share how you learned something and changed your actions. This demonstrates to investors you're flexible and willing to pivot quickly. Ideally you can cite metrics that encouraged your pivot. Here is a neat approach to sharing lessons learned.
8. Leave them wanting more. Don't reveal everything in your first meeting. Generally, I now leave them wanting the more standard pitch, more detailed metrics, and the roadmap.
Tactically, I now do the following things:
- To create energy and reveal team rapport, I quickly click through our teams' blogs, LinkedIN bios, and Karts. It shows the teams' experience and personalities.
- To show external validation, I make sure to show KartMe's Apple "Staff Pick", highlights from 1,000 Karts, a partner website, and praise on Twitter to prove external validation.
- To stay organized, I have everything I'll need when pitching organized in Karts. You could use your company blog.
- I don't use powerpoint at all in the first meeting.
What are your pitching tips?
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