By Matthew Toren, special to Overdrive
Investor and one-time entrepreneur Chris Dixon spoke, late last month, to a room full of entrepreneurs at the Founder Showcase, an event focused on startup pitches and networking. During his keynote speech, Dixon, who recently joined mega venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, discussed what he looks for when an entrepreneur is pitching him. Important points include: knowing a problem inside out, having the expertise to solve it, being passionate about your startup (even if it gets shot down) and taking your time during the pitch.
Of course, what may turn Dixon’s head won’t necessarily work with every other investor out there. But the overall point is the same: You need to be all systems go when presenting your startup. To get to that point, consider this step-by-step guide:
Plan, plan, plan.
Unless you’re a professional speaker with a standard presentation, don’t think you can wing it and come off looking good. Do your homework to build a presentation that has value for your audience, be it one investor or a room full of them. Think in terms of an engaging start, a solid middle and an ending that will help them remember you.
Do your research.
Just as Dixon likes entrepreneurs to focus on the three points discussed above, you’d better know your audience. Find out which industries they like to invest in and research the companies in which they’ve already taken an interest. AngelList is a great source to find this information, as it provides investors’ portfolios, how much they invest in per year and what they’re looking to invest in. If you aren’t a match for the investor, don’t waste their time. Also, it can’t hurt to reach out to startups in their portfolio and see if they could share any advice for pitching.
Simplify your presentation.
Platforms like PowerPoint can be a valuable tool in a presentation, but don’t turn it into a crutch. If you’ve been forced to sit through presentations where the slides are filled with words the presenter reads, you know how tortuous it can be. A good PowerPoint will drive your ideas home with images, graphs or other visuals. Keep it simple with no more than six lines per slide, easy to read content and font type 24 point or higher.
Practice your pitch.
Be it in front of the mirror, your family or friends, make sure you have your pitch down pat. Don’t write a script, just notes. Once you have practiced enough, the notes will just be a security blanket for when it is go time. If you rely on notes too heavily during the pitch, you should have practiced more. One big advantage to using PowerPoint is that if you rehearse using your slides, they will prompt you through the speech.
Be early to set-up.
There is nothing more damaging to your credibility than a technical problem. Plan to be there at least an hour before your presentation. If you’re projecting a computer screen, bring your own laptop, test it and ensure the sound system is functioning properly. Also, it’s a good idea to have water readily available to avoid a dry mouth. Lastly, make sure you bring a clock or timer with large numbers so you can keep track of where you are in your speech and avoid going over the time allotted.
Take a few deep breaths.
Once you are in front of the investor(s), there is no turning back. Everyone wants you to succeed, so go ahead and take a few deep breathes. Inhaling and exhaling will help you relax, calm your nerves, and keep you in the moment.