If you want to up your chances of success, take a page out of the Boy Scout manual and follow these five steps to make sure you’re good and ready to give a winning startup pitch…
“Be prepared” is probably the greatest piece of advice ever given. It’s short, sweet, and to the point, and it applies to almost every situation, which is probably why Robert Baden-Powell chose it for the motto of the Boy Scouts way back in 1908—and why scouting organizations across the world still use it today.
When you’re ready to seek funding for your new business venture, you’ll be lucky to stand out in the massive crowd of other applicants—and if you do get chosen to pitch your business to investors, the future of your business may depend on the first impression you make. If you want to up your chances of success, take a page out of the Boy Scout manual and follow these five steps to make sure you’re good and ready to give a winning pitch:
Step 1: Cover the Details
Putting your slide deck together to accompany your pitch is much easier when you have the specific information you’ll need to make sure it runs smoothly, especially if you’re planning on embedding videos, audio, or hyperlinks in your slides. Get in touch with the receptionist at the building or office where you will be giving your pitch and ask the following questions (don’t forget to take notes!):
- Will there be a projector available?
- Is the projector easy to use?
- Does the projector have sound?
- Is there a computer linked to the projector, or will I need to bring a laptop to hook up to it?
- What version of Microsoft Office does the computer have?
- Is wireless Internet available in the room where I will be giving my pitch?
- Is your wireless Internet password-protected? If so, may I have the password?
Step 2: Always Have a Backup
Murphy’s law states “If it can go wrong, it will go wrong.” This is especially true where technology is concerned, so store your presentation on a backup thumb drive in case you lose or damage the original, take an AC adapter and an extension cord with you to make sure your laptop doesn’t run out of battery, and if possible, borrow an extra laptop to have on hand in case the original shuts down unexpectedly and starts eating up precious moments of your presentation time by installing updates.
If wireless internet is not available in the room where you’ll be giving your pitch or if you’re told the wi-fi password is off limits except to employees, use a portable wifi hotspot. You can buy one with a pay-as-you-go plan from a company called Karma, or you can turn your smartphone into one (heads up: this will count as using data).
You should also have a backup plan in the event that all the available technology fails at once: Print enough copies of your slide deck for yourself and for each investor, staple them neatly, and take them along so you can still cover what you need to even if you can’t display the slides on the projector.
Step 3: Check and Double-Check
Before leaving the house to give your presentation, check to make sure the following things are true—and when you’re done, check again:
- Your computer desktop is free of clutter (if you’re showing the presentation from your own laptop).
- Your slide deck file is easy to access (saving it to your desktop is your best bet).
- The file opens correctly and is not corrupted.
- All your embedded links and videos are working as intended.
- Your backup technology (extra laptop and/or extra thumb drive, AC adapter, and/or wireless hotspot) is ready to go and located somewhere you will easily remember to take it with you.
- Your slide deck copies are legible and ready to go.
Step 4: Prepare to Pad or Trim
It’s entirely possible that the investor or investors you’re pitching to will arrive at your meeting very late or even very early. Be prepared for either circumstance by identifying ahead of time which information absolutely has to be communicated and which information can reasonably be cut to shorten your presentation, and have a few interesting stories in mind that you can tell to fill any extra time you may have—just make sure they’re relevant to your industry or message.
Step 5: Practice Makes Perfect
Nearly every expert on public speaking lists “practice” among his or her top tips for improving performance, and at least one study conducted by researchers at Miami University in 2006 corroborates the effectiveness of practicing a speech or presentation before giving it. Don’t just practice in your bedroom; get your friends, your family, your coworkers, or your employees to listen in—the study showed even more improvement in speakers who practiced before an audience.