The Perfect Pitch Works

“He cared; more than Harvey Ramos” – quote from this blog’s author.

I know what you are thinking – he has run out of quotes so now he is quoting himself. So before you get the wrong impression, let me explain.

As part of instructor training at EY, we were told at cocktails when we arrived that the next day, we would be asked to introduce ourselves with the proviso that our presentation had to end with what we wanted scripted on our tombstone. (BTW I suggest you try this sometime.) Well I tossed and turned that night and after trying what I felt were thousands of iterations, I finally settled on “he cared.”

The next day we are going through our presentations and preceding me is Harvey. He comes to the end and announces that his tombstone will read “he cared.” The instructor thanks Harvey and immediately calls on me. My readers are pretty smart so you know how this concluded. So why the long lead in?

If nothing else, this exercise caused me to reflect deeply on what I really wanted to say about my life in simple terms and owners do the same for their company each time they make a pitch for investment. Lately, I have been through a couple of failed funding attempts and I wanted to better understand why investors said “no.” I reached out to some of the investors that passed and also saw a couple of recent articles on the subject. Always searching for a new angle, I gathered about a dozen or so different reasons but was disappointed to find they really had not changed in the last four decades. Some common culprits:

  • Barriers to entry not highlighted
  • KPI failure – either don’t know them, they are poorly defined or poorly measured
  • Shallow knowledge of competition – and the always fatal “we have no competition”
  • Economics – not clear how investment will be used or no “paying” sales channel presented
  • All OPM – where was founders’ buy-in?

I then looked at our “Perfect Pitch” guidelines (available @ withum.com) and realized all these points would have been addressed had the founders done a deep dive into what they were presenting. To draw the analogy, had they invested the same level of thought into what their pitch “said” as I had in doing the simple tombstone exercise, all of these points would have been addressed.

Your “pitch” is your chance to show your best. I really do not care if you use what has worked for us over the years or another guide, when you are preparing it, invest the time to completely address what is suggested – – there is a reason for it. This is not the same as being at a New Jersey diner and spending the time figuring out what you want from the hundreds of items on the menu. This is not a checklist; it is a starting point for you to shape the future of the economic life of your company.

So please when you put the meat on the bones of your pitch, think about what it says about you and your company; what it stands for and what it represents. Don’t get turned down just because you did not do your homework. Think about how an investor sees it, because properly prepared, the Perfect Pitch does work. Good luck.

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The Perfect Pitch – How to Avoid Those Painful Pitfalls (Part I)

“We made too many wrong mistakes” – quote from Yogi Berra

I have seen hundreds of “decks” and heard as many pitches and have also studied others’ guidelines on how to hone a pitch.  Unfortunately, I have also seen loads of mistakes so I thought I would offer my approach to the pitch process.  In doing so, I have unashamedly borrowed from many others and added my own thoughts to hopefully provide guidance to help you avoid typical missteps.

First, please keep in mind it is the substance of the content that really trumps presentation techniques.  As the old saying goes, putting ‘lipstick on the pig” does not really win the day.  The focus of this blog is the presentation methods and it will be in two parts.  The first part will consist of some general pitch deck guidelines as well as some helpful presentation hints.  The second part will contain “the” 15 slides you need for your perfect pitch.  While some pieces of this have been covered in prior blogs, I thought it best to consolidate some thoughts here.

When it comes to some general pitch deck guidelines, you may want to consider the following:

  1. Keep the goal of a pitch in mind – it is a succinct overview of “the problem” and your solution with the goal of having investors wanting to know more. It is not to close a funding.
  2. Watch your colors – light blue text on dark blue background is hard to read; clear trumps cute
  3. Less is more – bullet points and concise ideas (not sentences) rule and limit to 5 – 6 lines per page
  4. Avoid acronyms – everyone is not as knowledgeable as you are
  5. Slides should be bold and clear and work in a larger room
  6. Any content (facts) should be sourced

Of course, if you are successful in obtaining the “all important” meeting, after confirming all the logistics including the amount of time you have, you may want to consider these helpful presentation hints:

  1. Limit to one presenter – the person who best articulates your vision is my choice
  2. Maintain good energy and passion without coming across as being on something
  3. Relax – you are probably more knowledgeable about your company than others in the room
  4. Stay on point and on time – you want them to see the whole “show.” Practice using a timed presentation tool.
  1. Avoid grandiose statements – especially knocking off Facebook or the multibillion dollar market leader.
  2. Keep it simple – try the pitch on intelligent friends first
  3. Practice – they do not expect a finished Broadway show but will kill a dress rehearsal. Pitch advisors and ask them to cut it apart
  4. Spend some time explaining how you will overcome the toughest challenges
  5. Avoid exit strategy discussions – smart investors can draw their own conclusions
  6. Encourage questions – in the end – it should probably be 60% you talking and 40% you listening

Armed with these presentation ideas, all you need is a framework for your deck to kill it. How do you know you will cover all the relevant points?  For that answer, please see Part II of this blog.

Perfect Pitch – Get Your Mechanics Right!

Moses: The Lord, the Lord Jehovah has given unto you these fifteen…

[drops one of the tablets]

Moses: Oy!  Ten!  Ten commandments for all to obey!  From the movie History of the World

 

It seems popular to use lists to convey ideas and 10, for some reason, is the most common number for list content.  I was looking for a more creative way to introduce my list of 10 items to consider for that “perfect pitch” and could think of no better alternative than this scene from my favorite Mel Brook’s film.  Not original, but I think it works.

I apologize in advance for all the sports analogies, but for those that follow baseball, you often hear an analyst comment on a pitcher’s mechanics.  A knowledgeable observer can pick out improper arm motion and other factors in suggesting why a pitcher is effective or not.  Just like a pitcher, I believe there are rules or mechanics to follow which will improve your pitch (and the related results.)  This blog is not about the components of the pitch (you can refer to Withum.com\startup to learn more about that) but about the presentation process.  Again, no scientific data here – just observations from seeing hundreds of pitches over the last 30+ years.  So, here it goes:

  1. Confirm logistics such as number of people attending, time allotted to you and any other relevant data.  Have a back-up plan for technology required for your presentation. Think of it as grooming the mound before you get started with your delivery.
  2. Do your homework on your audience.  What good pitcher doesn’t study opposing hitters and pitch accordingly?
  3. Limit your presentation to one presenter; the one who has the best understanding and is the clearest communicator.  A multi-presenter show which looks like Run-D.M.C. on steroids is not going to cut it.
  4. Good energy and passion are helpful but don’t come across as if you just had a batch of 5-Hour Energy drinks. Moderation in all things.
  5. Stay on point; keep within time allotted and don’t get distracted.  Good pitchers never allow base runners to make them lose focus on the batter.
  6. Practice until you feel you are as comfortable as that pitcher who never seems to get rattled regardless of the situation. They may not be expecting a major league performance, but, act like you are in Little League and you may not get a second chance.
  7. Spend some time explaining how you will overcome the toughest challenges.  Like a pitcher facing a good batter, you may have to work around the corners of the plate.
  8. Keep in mind, you are not trying to seal the deal with this presentation. Your objective should be to generate some interest; think more like the setup man than Mariano Rivera.
  9. Leave time for questions and try not to be defensive when responding to them.  You should talk 60% of the time and be listening 40%.
  10. Plan for the wrap up – have concluding comments and make sure you cover next steps.

Keep in mind, there is a reason that pitchers report to spring training early and get rest in between starts; it is a tough job.  Stay focused on your mechanics and you will do just fine.  Good luck.