Thanks to programmes such as Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice, we all know what a good pitch presentation should look like, but the challenge is getting it right for your business when it matters.
Where do I start?
Before the presentation in front of investors, you will need to prepare fundraising collateral, which includes the pitch deck, executive summary, business plan and financial forecasts.
This will be sent out before the chance to pitch, so it really is your first impression. This matters, particularly when you consider investors are spending less time than ever skimming through proposals – 24 per cent less time in 2022 than 2021 to be precise, according to Dropbox DocSend.
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Then the presentation…
Most business pitches are in the form of a PowerPoint presentation. While using a slide deck has advantages in terms of making a presentation look professional, it can have the opposite effect if too much information is crammed in.
“Keep information at the absolute minimum level that is sufficient to make an impact,” Alastair Moore, an investment manager at Par Equity says. “Remember, the goal is to secure a further meeting where you can go into more detail on specific areas.”
To avoid overload, analyse all content to ensure relevance and clarity, and trim where required. It is also worth using the 10-20-30 rule developed by Guy Kawasaki, a US venture capitalist who has watched thousands of presentations: less than 10 slides, no more than 20 minutes and a font size of at least 30. Although this may not always be possible, it is a good starting point.
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Pitch structure: What should a presentation consist of?
An outline of key elements in a start-up pitch according to Moore includes:
- Introduction and problem statement (the pain point you’re addressing)
- Solution (showcasing any IP or proprietary technology you’ve developed)
- Market opportunity
- Business model
- Traction and milestones
- Competitive analysis
- Vision and future plans (what milestones will be hit in the next 12-24 months, future fundraise requirements and exit opportunities)
- Closing and call to action
Brevity is crucial, Moore says, and you should aim to deliver your pitch within a limited timeframe, typically 10-15 minutes, leaving ample room for questions and discussion.
It is also worth having equal amount of time allocated for Q&A to pitch time. “This gives the audience enough time to go deeper on questioning key areas and better qualify whether an opportunity is worth following up on,” Moore explains. “Some events also allow some time for those pitching to ask questions the audience/judges which makes the pitch mutually beneficial and allows some feedback in real time.”
Sell the idea with enthusiasm
A pitch is an indicator of how well the company can sell its product, Nick Lyth, founder of Green Angel Syndicate says, so it goes without saying you need to be enthusiastic.
“If the pitch is unconvincing, the audience will find it hard to believe that when the company makes sales presentations to potential customers, it will be any more convincing,” he says. “In other words, a poor pitch is an indicator of a company that is unlikely to succeed in its chosen market. If they can’t sell their product, they can’t succeed.”
“The audience will equally be assessing you and your ability to sell the opportunity to them as well as the opportunity itself,” Moore adds. “In the early days of growing a business founder-based selling is crucial for gaining commercial traction. This is your first shot at demonstrating those skills. Make sure you make your mark.”
To engage the audience, Graham Ablett of Strategic Proposals suggests using thought-provoking statements, anecdotes and rhetorical questions throughout the pitch.
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Should you mention the problem?
There are differing views in the investor world on what makes a good pitch of course, and this tip from Lyth goes against many pitch templates (including the suggested structure from Moore above). He says, you should avoid mentioning the problem your company is solving altogether.
“Many companies have been told to start a pitch by describing the problem their company has set out to solve,” he says. “This means the presentation starts with a description of a problem. The audience starts thinking about the problem. They do not start thinking about the company pitching for their investment.
“The purpose of the pitch is to sell equity in the company, not to describe or explain a problem that does not mention the company,” he adds. “This is time wasted. Even worse than that, in a mature highly competitive market economy like the UK, the US, or any other Western developed country, it is not credible that a small start-up company will have solved a problem which the huge multinational corporate interests dominating every established market have failed to solve. If these large, well-funded companies have not solved it, the overwhelming likelihood is that there is no market interest in a solution to the stated problem.
“All start-up companies need to aim at an established market, an established product category, and to show how their innovation is an improvement on whatever is available. They have invented something even better for which there is an established market.”
The devil is in the detail
Check every detail in your presentation to ensure there are no contradictions or inaccuracies. The last thing you want is an investor picking you up on an error – no matter how small – so check your facts and stats and check again. Numbers are particularly easy to confuse and critical to any investment decision.
If possible, get other people to read over the content before pitching.
More on pitching
How to pitch to a venture capitalist – a Growth Business guide – A Growth Business guide to what VCs are looking for, preparing for a pitch, and how to behave in that crucial first meeting
How to dress to impress for a big pitch – When you are preparing your business pitch to investors, you often overlook how you dress.