The Million Dollar Presentation
How should you build a focused, interesting and convincing investor’s presentation? Here are 5 tips that will help you do it right.
An investors presentation always starts and ends with the story. Your story, your team’s story and the idea behind your business. Your business is not just a product, it is the interaction between what you do and your target market. When it all comes together, you have a good story. But up to here this all sounds a bit obvious and perhaps even banal. Presenting in front of investors takes much more than that. You can spend hours memorizing texts but it will take you months to understand what you did wrong. Let’s take it from the top.
- Tell a Story
Do you have kids? Good. Even if you don’t perhaps you remember being a kid. Telling a bedtime story to a child is a similar challenge to presenting in front of investors. The child is impatient, half asleep and erratic, exhausted from listening to just another story, and you need to grab his imagination, excite him and make him feel like he is a part of it. An investor is not very different from that. And what’s a presentation if not a collection of pictures with a bit of text that you go through page by page while reading with the right intonations, gestures, voices and role playing. You have to make the investor interested, grab his attention and make him feel like he is part of the story. Long before you think of the right words, you need to focus on the story’s characters. Take the story of Little Red Riding Hood for example – we have the mother, the grandmother, the wolf, the huntsman, and of course Little Red Riding Hood. Fairy tales don’t have any extras – each character has a role, each character is meaningful and essential. The same goes with the story you tell your investors. You must remember that every element you incorporate into your story is essential, and if it isn’t, don’t include it. Time is short, you have 30 seconds to grab your viewer’s attention, and if you miss it – you’ll get a thank you and a goodbye. So everything you say has to play an essential role in your story. Moreover – when you position your players on the board, namely – the product, market, clients, users and all the rest – you will explain to the viewers which one of the characters is you, and which ones are they. The investor has to be a part of the story, because if he isn’t, why should he invest in you, you have to find a meaningful role for him, he might have the right connection to help you reach a certain market, he might have a certain expertise in a specific product or technology that can aid you, only when he realizes this will the desire and passion to take part in your story and invest in you arise in him. So what is the importance of the presentation itself? To help you tell the story better, because without the book itself, I too have a hard time telling the fairy-tales to my kids. And investments are a world of fairy-tales.
- Be Adaptable
There are two types of presentations – one in front of a live audience, and the other is the one you send to someone and when you are not present. These are two entirely different presentations. When you are around, the presentation is an instrument, not mere decoration – it supports you, reminds you what you should say in times of stress, and helps maintain a clear structure of the conversation. You need it, even the greatest presenters have comment pages or cards, it’s perfectly fine and nothing to be ashamed of. But it needs to be super succinct, a bit of text, a lot of visuals, pictures, diagrams and graphs. Only what you need, only what you can’t orally express. Use the presentation and don’t allow it to take control of the conversation, because as much as you are charismatic, viewers have a tendency to read anything that is 100 inch in size and displayed on a screen, so make sure there is as little written text there as possible. The more interesting case is when you are asked to send a presentation either before or after a meeting. This is a different presentation, it needs to be self-explanatory, to present itself. Make sure there are no incomprehensible things in it – a picture without an explanation is out of the question, everything in the text must be thoroughly explained, and sometimes you should add slides. Assume that even if the investor takes a look at the presentation two days after you have met him, he probably forgot most of what you told him, and furthermore if one investor sends your presentation to his partners who aren’t familiar with you and who have yet to have had the chance of falling in love with you, this presentation has to serve you well and represent you properly and proudly. Prepare two presentations in advance – even if you are asked to send the presentation from the meeting, send the other one.
- Be Clear
In general I am all for clarity, I am in favor of everything being crystal clear because I believe that clear interpersonal communication is far better than vagueness and confusion. So I recommend trying to formulate short and clear messages, so that after a few minutes of your presenting, what you had in your mind will be perfectly conveyed into your investors’ minds. The assumption is that if you believe you have a successful business, and the investors understand this, then they will think just like you. The time investors spend trying to understand what you are saying ends within a few short seconds, so it is best if they don’t need to make much of an effort in order to understand you. It is best if what you say is well thought out so that it can be easy to swallow. Assume they know nothing, but be prepared for the possibility that they already know everything. You have to show complete understanding, therefore wording and formulation are very important, even if things are self-explanatory.
In your slides this should be expressed using organized division of data, structured and coherent narrative, short and neat messages. I furthermore suggest adding a dash of mystery, as the goal is to generate a second meeting, so if everything is crystal clear… what’s the point of setting up another meeting? It’s good if you make you investor feel like you still have some cards you haven’t exposed and that there is still much to be discussed.
- Be Readable
It might be funny to say but everything in the presentation has to be readable, in any situation and condition. Whether you are using an old projector, or the room is very well lit, or in a dark room, there are no excuses regarding this issue. Make sure the text size is reasonable, make sure the color scheme has enough contrasts, make sure the material is organized in a coherent order, not too much text in one slide, not too much information in one slide, and not too many messages in one slide. It’s best to have one message on each slide, and it doesn’t matter how many slides that adds up to. If the slides are “light” you’ll even be able to work with 30 of them, if they are “heavy”, everybody will fall asleep at the second slide. It’s really not funny when that happens, because the investors stop paying attention to the presentation and start subtly hinting that it is just you and them now, and you don’t want to be on your own, because slide 12 has that video that you really have to show them.
- Be Beautiful
We love beautiful things, that’s just the way we are – we always prefer the beautiful over the ugly. This is how we are born and this is how we are programmed. And just like you put on your best clothes when you give a presentation in front of those that are going to invest in you, the same applies to the aesthetics and charm of your presentation. The magic word is design and few individuals will frown upon it. Most beginner entrepreneurs underrate such a simple thing as presentation design, even when the presentation is the only thing they got – you still don’t have a product or revenue so all you really have is a dream and the presentation is a reflection of that dream, the crystal ball with which you try to predict the future to them.
A simple advice is invest in design, the average entrepreneur doesn’t have the skills to do it on his own, not to mention the time. There are many designers out there that will be more than willing to take it upon themselves, the costs are negligible compared to the effect obtained. A well designed presentation makes you look serious, like someone who invested in his idea, and it’s no coincidence that one of the first things entrepreneurs do after someone invests in them is to prepare a renewed and well-designed presentation… and just when it’s so much less important. A serious entrepreneur comes wearing a suit in the form of a well-designed presentation, everything looks much better, and it isn’t a bad thing to get some compliments. Your story is important, your content is important, but allow these to fully express themselves, just be beautiful.