Sometimes really good startups are hidden behind sloppy presentations. Don’t be that person. While there are many things a startup can’t control, your pitch is one that you can. Here are some tips and tricks to help you carefully craft your story and help you put your best foot forward.
Every word should be meaningful. Distillation adds power to a presentation. You know the general guidelines about holding decks to 15 slides or so; if your concept can’t be explained in those confines, chances are you need to rethink what you are attempting to do.
We all know someone who, when asked the time, will tell you how to build a watch. Don’t be that person. Be sensitive to your allotted start time and end time, read the rhythm and body language of your audience, whether one person or one hundred, and adjust accordingly. If you get interrupted with questions, deal with them without losing the direction of your presentation. Brevity is your friend in those situations. If you get sucked too deep into the weeds and never finish your end-to-end message, your moment is lost.
Pay Attention To The Details
Not that every deck or one-pager requires professional graphic design, but consistency in a clearly branded layout goes a long way and should be considered a requirement. Grammar and structure is important.
Never change fonts, color schemes, or formats within a single presentation. And, always pay attention to font sizes so that the back row can read your carefully crafted words.
These admonitions may seem pretty basic, but all too often they are ignored. You may be a powerful personal communicator, but if you back up your presence with careless materials, that will be the impression you leave.
Keep It Updated
Make sure you are showing your most current materials. Stick to the latest numbers and product specs, the current management team, the up-to-the-minute pipeline, and/or the latest design road-map. Yesterday’s news is of little interest to someone trying to form an opinion of you and your business and perhaps to make a buying or investing decision. I saw an investor letter this week that referenced now discontinued business ideas; someone cut and pasted without checking the result and led with the wrong points.
Too many eager founders let multiple acts of carelessness as described above actually undersell what they have to offer. They allow opportunities to slip through their fingers when they fail to paid attention to the details that turn doubt into credibility.
Get Feedback and Practice
One good way to test yourself in this respect is to have someone else review any communication you are packaging for customers, investors, or other key outsiders. You are living inside the company and racing every minute to meet deadlines. You’ll get the answer to that when you try it out on a dispassionate observer who has your interest at heart but doesn’t live inside your boiler room. Don’t be shy about subjecting yourself to such editorial scrutiny.
If you are a startup founder, you have a lot on the line every time you write, speak, or pitch. You will not be able to “un-ring the bell” once you have underwhelmed an audience. Get it right in a practice session (or ten), and carry that to the stage. There’s never an excuse for you to undersell yourself or your business.
Make your best pitch every time.
This post is guest written by Ben Dyer and was first published on his blog here. Ben is an Entrepreneur in Residence at Morris, Manning & Martin, LLP in Atlanta, GA and a Mentor at Atlanta Tech Village. The founder and president of Peachtree Software, Ben Dyer is a serial entrepreneur and leading technology advisor. He continues to partner and consult with innovative companies to deliver a better future.