Stand and deliver!
How to present the perfect pitch deck
We’ve now gone through how to develop, design and create a narrative for your pitch deck.
It’s been emotional, I know.
Once you’ve got your pitch deck nailed, you need to know how to deliver it to a potential investor.
I’ve seen many founders with an incredible pitch deck absolutely bomb when presenting it. Stuttering, crying, throwing up into a bucket… the works.
The good news is even if you clam up when you think about public speaking, with a bit of guidance, you can deliver your pitch deck with professionalism, poise and polish. Even if you wish you’d worn brown trousers that day.
Here are my top tips when it comes to presentation delivery.
Understand the mind of your audience
If you want to appeal to a VC investor, you need to know what they’re after. Typically, VCs:
Are analytical and logical
Like focusing on the financials
Don’t like drama
Are optimistic but sceptical
Want to know the facts
Are social and like networking
You can use this information to create a delivery that appeals directly to them.
Be clear, be honest, utilise facts and figures and most importantly, be natural.
Work on your time management
When you present to someone, you typically have 20 minutes before their attention flags. This means you want to move through your deck before your audience decides to take a nap.
If you have ten slides, that works out at two minutes a slide. Not a lot when you think about it.
A well-designed slide will help you here. Keep your font size large, use images and charts to get your point across and make sure everything you present has value.
Don’t lecture your audience
One of the worst things you can be when pitching is patronising.
Lecturing your audience or talking down to them like a bunch of five-year-olds is one of the easiest ways to tank your presentation.
Assume smarts and that your prospective investors have a reasonably good base knowledge. If they don’t get something, they’ll know when to ask.
When you’re looking to fund a business, you not only want to invest in the idea but the person too.
I always want my prospective business partners to pass the airport test - would I want to be stuck on a plane with this person? If I’m desperate to open the emergency exit, parachute in hand, it’s not a good sign!
While your investor is unlikely to want to be your new BFF, they want to make sure you’re friendly and trustworthy. After all, an unpleasant or angry founder is likely to p!ss off everyone the investor has spent time building relationships with.
This means you need to:
There’s that old stat about interviews where you have thirty seconds to make a good impression. The same logic applies to pitch deck presentations. Smile, make eye contact and thank them for coming to listen to you.
Get to know them
Before the presentation, take the time to learn more about who you’ll be pitching to. Read their blog, check out their social media profiles. Hell, do a Google search on their name if you have to.
People, especially investors, love nothing more than talking about themselves. Use this to your advantage. A good starting point is to ask about work. Talk about their firm, investments and boards they’ve sat on – if you can link it to industry news you’ve read, all the better.
Of course, know when to read the room. If someone starts to look uncomfortable or provides terse answers to your questions, time to move on.
At the risk of sounding like a walking, talking cliché – be your authentic self. I’ve just thrown up in my mouth a little.
Be in the flow
In my last playbook, I talked about rehearsing your elevator speech to the point when you can go through it in your sleep. You need to practice your pitch spiel in the same way.
When you’ve practised your pitch deck presentation, you can run through your deck as smoothly as possible, without letting distractions throw you.
Try recording yourself presenting or practice your pitch in front of an audience. This will provide you with honest feedback you can use to fine-tune your presentation.
Create a STAR moment
It’s essential to start your pitch deck presentation with a bang. Think STAR: Something They’ll Always Remember.
Your STAR can be anything that gets your audience’s attention, from a shocking statistic to a memorable anecdote. Just make sure it’s relatable, enticing and engaging.
Don’t memorise your deck word-for-word
I can always tell when a founder has memorised their pitch deck presentation, down to when to pause for a drink of water. It always feels robotic and formulaic, and they come across as stressed out.
It’s always better to remember the fundamental concepts of your presentation. That way, you can cover the critical points while sounding like your most authentic self.
Similarly, don’t just read off your slides. That’s the audience’s job!
Repeat the phrases that pay
If you’ve ever listened to a speech by an entrepreneur or politician, you’ll notice that they use a lot of repetition. Repetition is great as it can help emphasise your point and draw your audience in.
Repeating words and phrases won’t spoil your message, so don’t be afraid to reuse those strategic soundbites throughout your presentation.
(Did I already say repetition is great?!)
Slow = smooth
Earlier in the article, I mentioned that if you have twenty minutes to pitch and ten slides to run through, that leaves you with two minutes a slide. That may not sound like a lot of time, but it definitely doesn’t mean you have to rattle through your deck.
It’s easy to talk fast when you’re under pressure; trust me, I know. However, when you slow down, you come across as more professional.
If you’re struggling to get through everything, it may be worth taking another look at your pitch deck. Is there any information you can spend less time on, or move to your appendix?
It can also be a valuable technique to buy yourself time to think. That way, you can slow down, assess the situation and get back to the main focus of your deck. One of my top strategies is to ask the audience an open-ended question and give them time to answer.
Remember your Q&A
As well as your presentation, you need to include a Q&A so investors can ask any relevant questions. Remember that questions are inevitable, even if you think your pitch deck is perfect. Your prospective investors are just looking to assess potential risks.
While many investors leave their Q&As until the end, the better strategy is to interact with your audience throughout the pitch.
Not only do you come across as more attentive, but by answering questions as you go, you’re more likely to keep the flow going.
Use the A-B-C outline to answer any questions you may be asked:
Answer – Answer the question, or acknowledge it if you don’t have an answer
Bridge – Move on from the question to a positive message
Communicate – Bring it back to your soundbite or the message you want to deliver
Try and answer questions quickly, simply and honestly – no BS. If you don’t have an answer, say you’ll find out and get back to your audience or explain why you don’t have the answer just yet.
Looking for extra help when it comes to frequently asked questions? Check out my VC fundraising pitch FAQ database. With over 600 real-life questions, you’ll easily find the answers you need.
It’s only natural to be nervous when presenting, especially when millions in investment are on the table. The best thing to do is accept those nerves and work with them rather than fight them.
The hour or so before a presentation is often the worst. Take some deep breaths and do something that focuses you. Many entrepreneurs have a warmup ritual that primes them and gets them ready to go – whether that’s a Spotify playlist, a mantra or a special drink.
If you freeze during the presentation, moving can help release the tension. I always recommend sipping a glass of water; this buys you time without looking like a rabbit in the headlights.
The top tip I give to scaleups I work with is to consider the worst outcome. This could be anything from not being able to answer questions all the way through to hi-fiving the audience rather than shaking their hand. When you write these possibilities down, you’ll realise they’re not really that bad.
Non-verbal comms are important
It’s not just about your words; it’s your body language. While your words may come across as friendly and engaging, your crossed arms, averted gaze and eyes on the door tell a completely different story.
Make eye contact with everyone in the room
Smile as you talk. Don’t smile the whole time though; that’s just weird
Focus on your posture – sit up straight, head up and shoulders back
Face the audience completely – don’t twist away
Be careful what you do with your hands - moving them rapidly makes you look nervous. Holding a coin can help quiet your hands
Watch out for nervous behaviours like rocking, tapping and face-touching. Record yourself or ask a friend to watch you present so you can see if there are any issues
Mirroring is a great tool too. When you replicate the posture of your audience, this helps build rapport.
One final thing, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this… no bare feet or feet on the table. Yep, this has happened in pitch deck presentations before!
In summary: Your drive and passion are everything
Let me leave you with this TEDx talk by comedian Will Stephen. While it’s done as a joke, the point still stands – even if you don’t know what the hell you’re doing, your presentation performance can take you a long way.
One final tip for you… Pause the meeting 15 minutes in and check with your prospective investor to see if they think the pitch has a chance of going anywhere:
“Based on what you’ve heard so far, what do you think? I don’t want to waste anyone’s time if you think this would not be interesting for you.”
Your audience will either say they want to know more or tell you they don’t think you’re a good fit. Either way, you both save time and can move on.
What's next? How to think about the fundraising campaign
In the next set of PlayBooks, I’ll be guiding you through the mysterious world of fundraising management.
How long does it take to get an investment? Who are the best VCs to target? Why do some investors take so long to say no to your business idea, and why do they suck?
Let’s find out in my next PlayBook.