From childhood onward, we all know that asking people – parents, investors, etc. – for money can be a delicate and tricky undertaking. When you’re looking for financial support for your latest venture, whether you’re facing venture capitalists, angle investors, the bank, or even well-heeled family members, it pays to remember the following these key tips when pitching for funding.
Avoid death by PowerPoint
People still respond to visual representations – graphs, charts, infographics – and PowerPoint is still the standard visual representation tool available. But however long PowerPoint has been around, users still fall into the same old traps. First, keep each slide uncluttered; essential information only, images are preferred, with a large readable font when words must be used, and while color is good, giving the audience a migraine is not. Second, no more than 15 slides is ideal. Any more than that and your audience is spending more time looking at the screen than they are listening to you. Finally, remember that you’re the one who’s leading, not the slide deck. Don’t bring up a new slide and then begin your next point after every eye in the room is riveted to it. Instead, begin to talk and then switch slides as you speak, ensuring that the attention is first and foremost on you and not on the deck.
What time is it?
A small point: timing is important. Wherever possible, avoid ‘graveyard’ slots such as the end of the day (or the end of the week) or just either side of the lunch break. You want your audience alert and attentive and not thinking about grabbing a coffee and a sandwich. Fresh is best. That said, you may have to take whatever appointment time you’re offered. Don’t worry about it; some factors are out of your control, instead of being anxious about it focus on what you can control.
Quick wins or slow and steady?
Human nature is programmed to instant gratification. That’s instinct. Overcoming that to appreciate a long-term investment is intelligence. Investors are still human and when pitching, you need to offer some reassurance to the instinct by either offering some early returns or emphasising a lack of risk (realistically, of course). At the same time, you need to appeal to the intellect with solid facts and figures that indicate a significant long-term return. Besides, if you have faith in your business, you expect it to last (and grow) past the first 12 to 24 months, don’t you?
Be prepared to go off-script
You’ve written, honed, polished and rehearsed your presentation until it’s a thing of beauty. Naturally, you’ll be interrupted within the first ten minutes with questions from the people you’re trying to woo. The temptation is to deal with each question as quickly as possible and return to the familiar comfortable territory of your script. Not so fast. Each question represents a concern or an interest that is of importance to the person asking it. This is the same person you’re hoping to enter into a financial relationship with that will (hopefully) last for years. Take your time and answer their question in full. Check they’re happy. Then, and only then, return to your flow.
Know your Facts
One of the quickest ways to lose a potential investor or customer is to not be familiar with your business, its financials or forecasts. Know your figures and statistics inside out and be prepared to justify and explain them. Remember, your pitch is merely an overview of your business proposition and your audience will want to drill down in to it when you are finished. Any deficiencies on your part could result in the loss of an investor, investment for your business and a significant growth opportunity. So, be prepared.