We have invested a good chunk of real estate herein (here, here and here are a few posts) exploring the virtues of telling stories and delivering clear, concise and meaningful pitches. In short: Most all entrepreneurs are smart. Most all are passionate. Most all are chaperoning good (or great) ideas. But, most all fall down when it's time to communicate.
Our POTW comes from Presentation Zen (the blog; I've skimmed, but have not fully inhaled, the book). Therein Garr Reynolds introduces David Rose, chairman of the New York Angels, aka "The Pitch Coach". David has strong, seasoned, and instructive thoughts about entrepreneurs and presentations:
The primary hallmark of an entrepreneurial fundraising pitch as opposed to other types of presentations is that the most important factor by far is you. Investors are going to spend the entire session attempting to determine if you are the person behind whom they should invest their money, and how you come across personally is often more important than everything else combined, including your business plan, and industry and financial projections. This means that fundraising pitches must be given by the CEO and no one else. The top ten characteristics that investors will be looking to find in you during your presentation are:Well said. Reminds me a little of a previous muse, The jockey, the horse and the track, and a lot of an experience I had raising money many moons ago. Parked in a conference room with a prospective investor -- questing to close a funding round -- I asked the would-be backer for his thoughts about our business plan. Haven't read it, he said. Deflated, I sank like a helium-less balloon. Who's in, how much have you raised, and how much more do you need? I perked up, answered his question. Okay, I'm in. Shocked, I almost popped. I want you to know -- eye-contact galvanized -- I'm betting on you. Gulp.
• IntegrityConcerning the flow of your presentation, the single most important thing in sequencing a presentation is that everything must flow logically from beginning to end, and require no prior knowledge on the part of the audience. You do not want the audience to have to "think" at all, which means you need to answer every potential question at exactly the right place, just before the audience would think to ask it. It sounds easy, but 99% of presentations don't do it.
• Experience (in starting a business)
• Skill (in functional operating areas)
Post-script (14 Feb 08): Guy Kawasaki's a sage when it comes to pitches. Here's a terse summary of The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint:
Ten is the optimal number of slides in a PowerPoint presentation because a normal human being cannot comprehend more than ten concepts in a meeting—and venture capitalists are very normal. (The only difference between you and venture capitalist is that he is getting paid to gamble with someone else’s money). If you must use more than ten slides to explain your business, you probably don’t have a business. The ten topics that a venture capitalist cares about are:
- Your solution
- Business model
- Underlying magic/technology
- Marketing and sales
- Projections and milestones
- Status and timeline
- Summary and call to action