Beyond the pitch deck: Building a strong investor presentation

Your pitch deck is one of three key elements of your investor presentation:

  1. Your slides — simple, clean and to the point
  2. Notes that you refer to as you make your presentation — either cue cards or the notes feature in PowerPoint or Keynote
  3. A detailed handout to leave behind

Remember that the pitch deck supplements your presentation to your investors. Try not to stand in front of the audience and read out the slides to them — they can do that themselves.

Tips for building an effective investor presentation

  • Good slides in your deck support you as the speaker/presenter and enhance your overall presentation. Use the pitch deck as a tool during your presentation, not as a crutch to rely on as you list the items (as bullet-by-bullet points) you are trying to get across. Simplicity in slides sets the stage for more effective presentations.
  • Practise your pitch until you can deliver it in a natural and confident way. Some experts recommend running through it 25 times until it is familiar and comfortable.
  • The CEO should be the lead presenter, with either the technical or financial person presenting the slides if necessary.
  • Remember that you are speaking to make a connection with the audience (that is, your investors). You want to get them excited and persuade them that you have a great idea. You want to demonstrate that you are the team to execute the idea and convince them that you are someone they want to partner with and invest in.
  • Test every statement you include in your pitch deck by asking “So what?” In other words, “What’s my point and why does it matter?” Remember to keep your message simple, short and clear.
  • Think about the flow of a natural conversation with an investor and organize your slides to match what questions they might have at each stage of the presentation. For example, once you explain to them what your mission is, the next obvious questions could be, “How will you do it?”, “Why you over someone else?”, “Who’s the team”, and so on.
  • Be professional, responsive and respectful of your audience. Investors, particularly venture capitalists (VCs), are notorious for trying to push buttons to see how the entrepreneur reacts. They are trying to determine if they can partner with you for the next four to seven years.
  • When an investor is actively looking at new deals, keep in mind they may see one or two presentations per day (up to ten per week). Make your opportunity stand out and be memorable.

Bottom line: The pitch deck should reinforce your words instead of just repeating them.

How to develop a presentation

When making your slide deck, remember Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule.  You can also use the “1/7/7 rule” from Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen — have only one main idea per slide, insert a maximum of seven lines of text and use a maximum of seven words per line.

Keep in mind that people remember visuals more than bullet points. Consider using pictures (high quality images) and graphics or charts to effectively get your point across and make a more emotional connection with your potential investors.

Also consider the three elements of your presentation — your slides, notes and handouts. The notes contain the bulk of the message for each slide, and are meant to help you with your presentation; they are not to be given to your audience. Consider providing a detailed handout as a leave-behind, but not a copy of your presentation. This way, you will not feel compelled to say everything as you speak, but you will ensure that the key messages get across.

Examples of effective presentations/presenters:

It’s not just about the business proposition

Investors will be evaluating not only the business proposition, but whether or not they will invest in you. According to David S. Rose (aka The Pitch Coach), you must demonstrate:

  • Integrity
  • Passion
  • Experience — investors prefer to fund serial entrepreneurs or individuals who have deep sector experience
  • Knowledge or domain expertise
  • The right skill set — to get the company started and managed effectively
  • Leadership — to hire and retain the right people
  • Commitment — early-stage companies will face many ups and downs; investors are assessing whether or not you will see it through
  • Vision
  • Realism
  • Coachability — investors want to know that they can work with you and that you will internalize and act on their feedback

Investors will also be evaluating you on the four Cs:

  • Competence — Do you have the skill set to build the business?
  • Continuity — Are you going to see the venture through to the end?
  • Connections — Do you have the networks to build the company?
  • Chemistry — Is there chemistry between the team members and between the investors?

Practical considerations as you prepare your presentation

Garr Reynolds’ book Presentation Zen provides a list of questions to understand about your audience before you make your business presentation:

  • How much time do I have for my first business presentation? Typically, the first meeting with an investor will last 45 minutes to one hour. Arrive 15 minutes early. Prepare a pitch deck that you can present in 20 minutes, leaving time for late starts and questions. Be respectful of the time they’ve allotted. If you are interrupted or time is cut short, try not to let it throw you off. If an investor is not paying attention, continue to be respectful and professional.
  • What is the venue like? You’ll generally present in a boardroom at their location. A site visit to your company is usually the next step in the investment evaluation process.
  • What time of day will you be meeting? Take the meeting whenever the investors want to see you.
  • Who is the audience? Try to find out which members of the investment team will attend the session. You’ll also want to determine if anyone else will be in the room (for example, outside consultants).
  • What is their background? This is key to help tailor your talk. Will you be speaking with technically-savvy investors with deep experience in the targeted space or general investors? Do they have connections to help you get financed or to help you build your company further? Ask around and get as much information as possible about them in advance. Do your homework.
  • What do I want them to do? You’ll want to think about what you want to achieve from your meeting. Do you want to move to the next step in due diligence? Do you want them to provide business or financing leads? Investors have very specific investment mandates. Even though your opportunity may not be a fit for them, most investors will provide advice and contacts if you’ve convinced them that you have a strong business proposition.
  • What visual medium is most appropriate for this particular situation or audience? Once you’ve determined this, consider what equipment you’ll need and check that it will be available.
  • What is the fundamental purpose of my talk? Investors can help you to build your company by providing access to funding or opening their networks. You want to sell them on your concept/company to move to the next step with them. It is unlikely that they will open their cheque book until they complete further due diligence.

Additional resources

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