INVESTOR PITCHING DURING COVID-19: SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

INVESTOR PITCHING DURING COVID-19: SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

INVESTOR PITCHING DURING COVID-19: SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

A few months ago, I was asked to write an article for Women Founders Network’s blog because I had successfully coached several entrepreneurs to wins in their fast-pitch competition over the past few years. My article on “Setting Yourself Up for Success with Investors” is provided below, but I have prefaced it with some recommendations for pitching to investors during COVID-19.

With the current economic slowdown, the investor landscape is becoming increasingly competitive, so you need to be even more prepared and polished than before. Supply and demand have shifted because less money is being invested overall by venture capital (VC) firms, private investors, and angel investors. This means that they have a greater advantage and may expect more from startups.

Investors will want more assurances and proof that companies seeking funding are operating leanly, pivoting when necessary or possible, and planning for what could be an uncertain path over the next few years.

PART 1: ADJUSTMENTS TO MAKE TO YOUR INVESTOR DECK AND YOUR PITCH

When marketing anything, including marketing your company to investors, think about the goals, needs, challenges, and fears of the people you are addressing. The more you understand the perspective of investors, the more you can tailor your pitch and deck accordingly. Aim to address the most important questions and objections that are in their minds during your presentation.

Here are some adjustments to consider making to your investor pitch deck and your presentation:

Be ready to talk about how the pandemic has affected your industry and, if you’re currently operating, your business. Also, plan to discuss how you will adapt your business practices to suit consumers’ needs and possible desire for social distancing and more thorough hygiene practices unless you have a no-contact business.

Budget for a long enough runway to carry your company through a slow economic recovery. Life and spending in most industries won’t snap back to pre-pandemic states the moment social distancing mandates are lifted.

Show that you can conserve cash and demonstrate extreme fiscal responsibility. Founders that have built their companies through bootstrapping know what it feels like to spend their own money. They have a personal connection to it. In this current environment, startups would be wise to do the same with investors’ money even in the planning and pitching stages.

Adjust your projections to reflect any anticipated decrease in demand for your product or service unless you’re in a sector that has been unaffected or positively affected by COVID-19. For some businesses, basing your projections on data from respected economic analysts or institutions can provide added credibility.

Be specific when talking about your marketing plans. Many startups are too vague when talking about marketing strategies. In periods of economic uncertainty, investors will want to see that you’re very carefully thinking through how you will attract and retain customers who may be more reluctant to spend money than usual.

Emphasize the strength and resilience of your team. If you, as a team or individually, have a brief story about overcoming tough times or finding a way to turn a bad situation into an opportunity, work it into your pitch. Many investors place great stock in the character of the founder and team when deciding whether or not to invest in a company.

Express flexibility regarding terms and your openness to greater input from investors. Because of the current economic climate, some investors will want to provide more guidance than usual to investee companies to help protect their investments. Investors may expect more frequent communication from you regarding progress and reaching milestones.

PART 2: SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS WITH INVESTOR PITCHING

Preparing to pitch to investors can elicit a mix of excitement, fear, and confusion. Getting clear on what investors want, gaining a deep understanding of the details of your business, and creating some new habits will help you to deliver the best investor pitch you can make.

I’ve been fortunate to work with some amazing entrepreneurs in my business and as a volunteer coach for Women Founders Network’s
WFN Fast Pitch competition.

Over the past three years, the people I have coached for WFN have all ended up in the winner’s circle: Sashee Chandran, Founder and CEO of the innovative tea company, Tea Drops, who won first place in 2017; Sabena Suri, Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of the gifting company, Box Fox, won second place in 2018; and Paris Sabo, MD, Co-founder and COO of the natural oral care company, Dr. Brite, won second place in 2019.

While their companies and offerings differed greatly from one another, there are several things these three women had in common and several things we did in our work together. Here is advice you can use to achieve similar success with your investor pitches.

EMBODY THE 4 Ps – Be Passionate, Problem-solving, Prepared and Perseverant

An entrepreneur who embodies the 4 Ps will not only impress investors but will be more likely to succeed in almost any endeavor. You will need a genuine passion for your business to drive you through the process of preparing your investor deck and preparing yourself to pitch to, and work with, investors. You will also need to be able to passionately describe what you do, which is part of the preparation process I put clients through.

Your ability to solve problems will be tested throughout the process of preparing for investor pitches and in your business, in general. If you’re not naturally a person who sees obstacles as opportunities, this is a time to focus on shifting your mindset. In your investor pitch, you can demonstrate how you solve problems as you talk about certain aspects of your business. Investors like to learn how your mind works.

Preparation is the key to a great investor pitch! In my work with Sashee, Sabena, and Paris, we worked on everything, from their investor decks to word choices and nonverbal communication, to responses to typical and challenging questions investors might ask. Each of these women stuck with it and did the work they needed to do, which leads to the final “P”.

Perseverance is essential in business. You will inevitably face challenges as you prepare to pitch to investors and throughout the fundraising process. Your ability to keep going is necessary for success.

KNOW YOUR NUMBERS INSIDE AND OUT

Investors will expect you to “know your numbers”, such as your cost of goods, profit margins, customer acquisition cost, burn rate, and more. If you have ever watched ABC TV’s Shark Tank or attended Women Founders Network’s Dolphin Tank or Fast Pitch events, you will hear the same questions asked over and over again.

If you take a step back to look at your business the way an investor would, you will feel clearer on how important the numbers of your business are in helping them to make a defensible investment decision.

In working with Sashee, Sabena, and Paris, each of them worked diligently to find the answers to my questions about certain numbers that were important in telling the stories of their respective businesses.

STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF AND YOUR BRAND

As you look around and see what other successful entrepreneurs are doing, it’s easy to think that if you simply copy them you will achieve the same results they have. It is not that simple. It is important to polish your presentation skills. However, if you stray too far from your natural way of communicating, you will probably feel extra nervous and appear stilted or inauthentic. 

Sashee, Sabena, and Paris did exceedingly well at mastering their material so they could deliver it naturally and with heart. I believe this is part of what led to their success in the competition and subsequent endeavors.

DEVELOP AND EDUCATE YOURSELF CONSTANTLY

Continually refine your presentation skills so you will be ready for the next opportunity. After our work together with WFN’s Fast Pitch, Sashee worked with me to prepare her for the Tory Burch Foundation competition where she won first place and $100,000, and appearances on HSN where her product sold out.

One thing I tell all of my clients is to read and watch the news regularly. Then, consider how world events or changes in your industry could affect your business and how you can adapt or even thrive as a result of current events. If you want to become great at pitching to investors, read and listen to podcasts about pitching to investors, business, and your industry. Become an expert in your field, if you’re not already.

All of these actions will leave you better informed, more confident, and more insightful about your business and the world of pitching to investors.


 

Lisa Elia, Founder & Lead Media Trainer & Presentation Trainer at Expert Media Training®This article was written by Lisa Elia, Investor Pitch Coach, Media & Presentation Trainer, and Founder of Expert Media Training. Lisa has coached clients to raise millions of dollars at all stages of investment, including IPOs. She has volunteered as a pitch coach for WFN’s Fast Pitch competition and donates time to other organizations that empower entrepreneurs. She brings to her work experience gained during decades of working as a high-level publicist and a speaker who has spoken to thousands of audiences over the years.

For a complimentary consultation, call 310-479-0217.

Or, email [email protected]

How to Prepare for Investor Pitch Competitions and Win

How to Prepare for Investor Pitch Competitions and Win

Investor pitch competitions can be a great way to be seen by potential investors, build your network and, if everything aligns well, win some prize money for your startup.

Last night the winner of the Women Founders Network 2017 Fast Pitch competition was Sashee Chandran, the founder of Tea Drops. I was ecstatic because I was her pitch coach. As a coach and trainer, there’s nothing more gratifying than when you see the people you work with do what it takes to excel and reap the rewards of their hard work.

Tea Drops makes a great product that hits on many levels – it’s delicious, healthy, organic, fair trade, made in the USA, convenient, and visually appealing. Clearly, Sashee was off to a great start before she began pitching investors.

The other CEOs who pitched their companies last night were also impressive. Quite often, even the people who don’t win pitch competitions, but pitch very well and have a great business concept, receive funding from investors who saw them pitch. If you’re planning to enter a pitch competition, assume the other pitchers will be great and prepare thoroughly so that no matter what you will have no regrets.

Here are some tips to ace investor pitch competitions. There’s more involved in the process, and success comes from how you complete each step, but this will provide a roadmap to get you started. These are the steps I took Sashee through to help prepare her for the competition.

Refine and streamline your pitch deck.

Be sure your deck answers the major questions that will be in the minds of your audience in your presentation. Address the problem, solution, market size, potential, competition, financials, marketing plan, team, and how you use the funding.

Have your pitch deck reviewed by someone outside of your company.

This is always where I begin when people come to me for pitch coaching. When you’re too close to something, it’s hard to see it clearly. Having your pitch deck reviewed by someone who has looked at hundreds or thousands of them with a professional eye will help you to see where the holes are and what needs streamlining.

Refine your deck again.

Although it may be tempting to try to slide by with your current deck, take the time to make the necessary changes that you were advised to make. (This is one of the first things I admired about Sashee when we first began working together. She listened to my feedback and immediately went to work on refining her deck after I reviewed it.)

Rehearse delivering your pitch until it is IN you, and continue elevating your delivery.

Most people underestimate how many times they should rehearse a pitch or presentation. My recommendation is to rehearse it as many times as it takes for you to run through it without wondering what comes next. When you can deliver your pitch as if you are fluidly telling a story that you know inside and out, your mind won’t be focused on trying to remember: you will be more fully present in the moment and able to share your passion.

Get feedback on your delivery.

You might video yourself and watch your video to try to improve your performance, but having a trusted advisor give you feedback on your body language, word usage and other elements of your communication will be even more helpful.

When I prepare clients for investor pitches or pitch competitions, I provide feedback and recommendations on all aspects of their delivery so they show up exuding confidence, authority and warmth (a very winning combination).

Prepare for the Q&A.

In most pitch competitions, after you have delivered your pitch there is a brief question-and-answer session. Prepare responses to every typical question and tough question you might be asked, and rehearse delivering them. Savvy investors will want to know that you’re able to objectively see any potential roadblocks and have plans to work around them.

Take good care of yourself and block out several hours prior to the pitch competition.

Be sure to leave time to clear your head and relax before the pitch competition. Try to avoid dealing with draining tasks that can be dealt with another day. Conserve your energy so you show up centered, joyful and confident.

Take the stage and shine!

From the moment you’re in view, you’re being watched. Walk on stage (or to the front of the room) with confidence and positivity. Take a beat to center yourself and then begin.

If you’ve done the work, the very least you will do is your very best.

 

If you want help preparing for investor pitches, a pitch competition, or other presentations, click here to arrange a complimentary consultation with me.

Lisa Elia, Founder & Lead Media Trainer & Presentation Trainer at Expert Media Training®This post was written by Lisa Elia, a Los Angeles-based media trainer, presentation trainer, pitch coach, communication expert and speaker. She trains clients for media interviews, speeches, internal and external presentations, investor presentations and promotional videos. With more than 20 years of experience, Lisa has prepared clients for interviews with TODAY, GMA, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, ESPN, and hundreds of other outlets. Lisa has shared her expertise with national media outlets that include Inc., Entertainment Tonight, E! and many others.

To discuss your training needs, contact the Expert Media Training office at 310-479-0217.

Passion Is Not Enough – Messaging Tip

Passion Is Not Enough – Messaging Tip

When delivering a speech, presentation, or media interview, speaking from the heart is important, but a message must also make sense logically. There are times when a very passionate speaker can draw people in by affecting the audience emotionally, but if upon further reflection the argument or position presented by the speaker doesn’t hold up intellectually, the message loses its potency and the credibility of the speaker is called into question.

The best messages resonate with the heart and the head.

 

 

Trust and Body Language

Trust and Body Language

“I don’t trust you. I don’t know why, there’s just something about you.” – These are words some entrepreneurs have heard spoken on “Shark Tank” and they’re words that no one wants to hear after a media interview, presentation or pitch. What leads to a lack of trust? Quite often it’s body language. In conversations or when watching you in media interviews or presentations, people generally pay more attention to body language than they are consciously aware of doing. Most people process language and speech in the left hemisphere, and nonverbal or spatial skills in the right hemisphere. While your audience or viewers may hear every word you say, part of their brain is assessing your body language, noticing any disparities between your words and your movements or other “tells” that may indicate the lack of truthfulness, confidence or commitment to your words. The more you know your material well, are committed to your ideas and gain the confidence that comes from mastering your content, the more your body language and movements will be authentic and synchronized with your words. This will help you to establish trust with your audience. Read a more in-depth post about body language.

Lisa Elia, Founder & Lead Media Trainer & Presentation Trainer at Expert Media Training®This post was written by Lisa Elia, a Los Angeles-based media trainer, presentation trainer, pitch coach, communication expert and speaker. She trains clients for media interviews, speeches, internal and external presentations, investor presentations and promotional videos. With more than 20 years of experience, Lisa has prepared clients for interviews with TODAY, GMA, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, ESPN, and hundreds of other outlets. Lisa has shared her expertise with national media outlets that include Inc., Entertainment Tonight, E! and many others.

To discuss your training needs, contact the Expert Media Training office at 310-479-0217.

Memorizing Speeches and Interview Responses Can Cause Detachment

Memorizing Speeches and Interview Responses Can Cause Detachment

Verbatim memorization of a speech or responses to interview questions can detach you from your content and from the very people you’re trying to reach; the audience, the interviewer, investors.

Memorization places your focus on remembering exact words and phrases, instead of where it should be, which is on communicating your ideas or information with emotion and effectiveness.

For the vast majority of people, attempting to deliver word-for-word speeches, pitches or interview responses backfires. Here are a few reasons I don’t recommend verbatim memorization:

1. Memorizing content word-for-word can detach you from the meaning of the words. Saying something the exact same way over and over can dull the emotions attached to your content to a point where it almost becomes meaningless. If you rehearse your presentation or interview responses repeatedly with the same wording, you may even develop “semantic satiation,” in which certain words temporarily stop having meaning to you.

2. Delivering content that you have memorized can detach you from the audience or interviewer because when you focus on retrieving exact words for a long stretch of time, you are not as fully present in the moment. This would emotionally detach you from the very people you’re trying to reach with your message.

3. With a memorized verbatim speech or response, if you become distracted and forget one word or phrase, you can feel completely lost and throw your entire presentation or interview off course.

4. The pressure of knowing you must remember a verbatim speech can heighten nervousness or anxiety you might feel before a presentation or interview. Why put that extra pressure on yourself?

The temptation to memorize presentations, speeches or responses to interview questions lies in the generally erroneous belief that this will offer some guarantee of success. Adding to this, sometimes people become very attached to specific phrases that they believe sound great. As any good editor will tell you, it’s dangerous to fall in love with your words: they might get eliminated.

Instead of memorizing your presentation, speech or media interview responses, do this:

1. Map out the journey you want to take people on with your presentation or interview responses.

2. Master your content. It’s best to know and thoroughly comprehend everything you’re talking about. For CEOs and other company spokespeople who may be asked about a wide array of topics that may or may not fall within their areas of expertise, this can be challenging. For them, some of the content to master would include explanations of who can address the question and why this is so.

3. Practice verbalizing your content multiple different ways and many times. Knowing a lot about a subject is quite different than speaking about it confidently, concisely and compellingly.

“It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech,” Mark Twain said.

4. Get feedback. It’s difficult to assess your own effectiveness in conveying your message, your body language and overall communication style. Feedback from a trusted source can help.

If you want to feel fully prepared and confident for interviews, presentations or pitches my advice is to get professional training. The preparation techniques, feedback, skill development and outside perspective that a good trainer provides can save you years of trying to figure things out on your own and enable you to be the best communicator you can be. You might be thinking that of course I would advise this, given that I’m a media trainer and presentation trainer, but I wouldn’t have become a trainer if I hadn’t seen the great need for thorough and thoughtful training in my many years as a PR counselor and publicist.

If you or someone in your organization seems pulled toward memorizing a presentation, remember this: People want to feel that you’re communicating with them from your heart and your head and that the ideas or information you are conveying are so much a part of you that you don’t need to memorize a speech or response to speak about them. Unless you’re an amazing actor (on par with Academy Award winners), you probably can’t make your memorized words appear to be thoughts that are emerging naturally. If you seem unnatural, you will be perceived as lacking in authenticity or confidence.

Confidence comes from mastery, and mastery comes from proper preparation and practice.

Lisa Elia, Founder & Lead Media Trainer & Presentation Trainer at Expert Media Training®This post was written by Lisa Elia, a Los Angeles-based media trainer, presentation trainer, pitch coach, communication expert and speaker. She trains clients for media interviews, speeches, internal and external presentations, investor presentations and promotional videos. With more than 20 years of experience, Lisa has prepared clients for interviews with TODAY, GMA, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, ESPN, and hundreds of other outlets. Lisa has shared her expertise with national media outlets that include Inc., Entertainment Tonight, E! and many others.

To discuss your training needs, contact the Expert Media Training office at 310-479-0217.

Media Trainer Shares about Preparing for Presentations: Questions and Answers from Shark Tank Teleseminar

Inspired by ABC TV’s Shark Tank, I recently hosted a complimentary teleseminar, with Financial Expert Dean Erickson, to share tools, advice and strategies on helping entrepreneurs calm their nerves, on preparing for presentations and on landing great sponsors and lucrative business deals.

During the Get Ready for Shark Tank Teleseminar, I received many great questions from attendees. In case you’ve missed this on my Facebook page, here are the questions, along with my answers.

If you have any additional questions, feel free to post them on my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/ExpertMediaTraining

Q: What if you are presenting something that is completely new: nobody else is doing or has done it in the past? How do you run projection numbers? Service business.

A: If your concept is brand new, most investors would want to see proof of concept, so you should provide the service and create a track record of measurable results. Projections will be challenging, but if you can show that there is a viable market and that you can make money, and that you can expand the service offering beyond what you can provide as an individual, investors could be interested.

Q: How do you protect your idea during the Shark Tank/pitching process?

A: Consider working with an intellectual property (IP) attorney, who can help you with copyrights, trademarks and patents. Beyond that, if you’re approaching investors (not the Sharks on Shark Tank), you can ask them to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) before you share the details of your idea. If you’re going on Shark Tank, remember that it’s televised, so don’t share anything you wouldn’t want to broadcast to the world.

Q: How much of the development process will they assist you with if the idea is complex?

A: Each Shark (and each investor) is different. The Sharks generally want you to have developed the product beyond the prototype phase so that you can present them with an idea of manufacturing costs, and so you can have had time to sell the product and test the market. There are some investors and venture capital firms and business incubators that help more with product development than others. This is where research comes in.

Q: Will the Sharks consider working with me if the concept of my idea is simple, but the construction is a bit more complicated than my level of expertise?

A: It’s possible. However, the Sharks more often invest in a business that’s going than they do in an idea that needs development from the beginning. Most investors would expect you to do the legwork of finding a designer or engineer to help you develop your idea further, before you approach them.

Q: Which Shark in your opinion would you recommend?

A: Each Shark has his or her specific abilities, personality traits, interests and industry connections. It’s good to think through what you need and how you work best, and then consider which Shark would be the best fit for you. However, as you can see by watching the show, sometimes the Sharks surprise you, and the Shark you’d never imagine would step up and say yes to a deal does, and the Shark who seemed like the obvious fit for the project declines.

Q: I noticed how the contestant will tell the Sharks that they do their own social media and SEO. Is that necessary to do your own labor or delegate it?

A: You don’t have to handle your own social media or SEO. However, as the head of your company, you should be very involved and know your numbers. Social media is used by most companies for marketing and PR purposes, so the management of social media should be taken seriously as a marketing/PR function. SEO is also an aspect of marketing, so you should know your numbers, such as numbers of unique visitors to your site, and, possibly, demographics of your site visitors.

Here are more links you might find useful:

About our Pitch Coaching

Acronyms and Abbreviations in Media Interviews and Speeches

Body Language in Interviews and Meetings – Nonverbal Communication

 

Lisa Elia, Founder & Lead Media Trainer & Presentation Trainer at Expert Media Training®This post was written by Lisa Elia, a Los Angeles-based media trainer, presentation trainer, pitch coach, communication expert and speaker. She trains clients for media interviews, speeches, internal and external presentations, investor presentations and promotional videos. With more than 20 years of experience, Lisa has prepared clients for interviews with TODAY, GMA, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, ESPN, and hundreds of other outlets. Lisa has shared her expertise with national media outlets that include Inc., Entertainment Tonight, E! and many others.

To discuss your training needs, contact the Expert Media Training office at 310-479-0217.

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