Practice makes perfect! Here are some ways to best prepare yourself for investor pitches.
I was speaking with an entrepreneur the other day about how to best practice for an investor pitch. There is preparation around how to design the pitch deck. There are important themes around describing team/market/product. There are tricks around knowing your audience and how to match your pitch to your investor. But one area to not overlook is practice. Not Allen Iverson’s views on practice, but really preparing and refining your pitch to get the story, the flow, the words, the timing, and the Q&A right.
Get early feedback from friendlies
Once you have a story and deck, practice as a team to get your wording and transitions down. Next, give the pitch to several friendlies (preferably entrepreneurs with fundraising experience and investors you already know that are supportive). Get feedback on your style, flow, format, see what questions they ask, practice answering questions, etc. I have found that a couple of these early trial runs really help hone in the story and pitch, and prepare you to answer 80%+ of questions that may be asked.
Now that you have prepared, you know your pitch inside and out. However, be careful that as you go into your pitch, you are still listening. I see many entrepreneurs that just jump into “pitch mode” and overlook or miss the small talk. A question is asked and the entrepreneur provides one of their scripted responses instead of answering the question. A good trick I learned is rephrasing the question to make sure you understand what the investor is asking. Sometimes the question is straightforward, but sometimes there is another hidden thing the investor is looking for. I know some investors that intentionally ask difficult or confrontational questions for the purpose of seeing how you react to a little adversity … they actually care less about what you say and more about how you handle and react to it. So don’t forget to keep practicing listening; many times we don’t even get through the formal pitch because we are having such a great discussion with the entrepreneur outside of the pitch deck.
Save your most coveted investors for last
Investors inevitably ask a lot of the same questions. After being asked the same question a few times, you can develop a really strong answer. So save your target investors for the end, and practice with some other investors first. That will help you refine your pitch and answers so that you nail it with your target investors.
It is abundantly clear when an entrepreneur has not practiced. Pitching is difficult even if prepared, so set yourself up for success by practicing until you feel you have it down. Then, instead of being in robot mode to plow through your memorized “pitch,” enter the meetings relaxed, knowing your story, and listening to impress your potential investors!