How to prepare for an investor meeting
When meeting with investors, impressions count, and it is vital you present yourself well. You will only have a very short period in front of the investors; the hard work is done ahead of the meeting.
At CCL we hold regular pitch sessions for startups looking for a value add investment. While most of the startups we see are pretty slick and smooth, there are always one or two things that we think could be done better.
Below are our tips to help you deliver an effective, impactful presentation.
Do your homework
Know your audience. Many investors may know a lot about what will make money, but they probably don’t know very much about the environment you work in. Prepare for that audience, using the language and imagery they will understand. On the other hand, if you are pitching to a knowledgeable investor in a niche market, avoid stating the obvious and get to the point ASAP.
Prepare separate presentations for different audiences. Financial experts will need a different presentation to technically knowledgeable investors.
Think about the key value propositions for that particular audience. Ask yourself, what is important to the person you are presenting to, and build the presentation around those points. Put yourself in their shoes, as what you may think is the most exciting or revolutionary element of your product or solution may not be the thing that the person on the other side of the table focuses on.
Send additional materials ahead of time. If permitted, send additional materials to your audience ahead of the meeting. It will save you time on the day, and give you a more informed audience. Many investors want to do their homework and research before your presentation.
Ensure that materials provide the relevant information for your audience. For example, if members of the audience are not technology experts, prepare a “so what?” explanation that tells them what they need to know, in language they can understand. Include a brief executive summary, as well as any financial information that you can share.
Practice is your friend. Rehearse reading the presentation out loud. Make sure the presentation is within the stated time limit (consider finishing a few minutes early in case you are slower in the real meeting). Running over the time limit might mean you don’t deliver your most important information, while meeting the time limit shows you are professional. In addition, be concise, and leave space for your audience to ask for more detail on specific elements of the presentation.
Explain the presentation to someone not involved in the business and ask them to repeat it back. If they can do it, your presentation is on the right track, if you can’t understand each other, find a new way to explain it to them.
You speak in a different way to how you write. If you are stumbling when reading the presentation, rewrite it to be closer to how you speak.
Prepare your presentation. While the language and exact information may differ slightly from presentation to presentation, each presentation needs to contain the same elements including:
What challenge are you aiming to solve?
What is your product or service?
Who is on your team?
Who are your competitors?
What makes your product stand out from the competition?
What is your current traction, and expected pipeline (do you have paying customers or design partners)?
What are your financials?
Before creating the presentation, know how long you have to make your point. If you only have eight minutes to sell your story, don’t waste precious minutes on a long introduction. Focus on how you solve the problem you solve, and present it to investors clearly in a way they can understand.
Don’t cram too much detail into your presentation. Find the balance between explaining the tech, and leaving space for more. It is good if someone can understand your message from looking at the slides, but they are not a white paper, and they can’t cover everything.
Don’t waste time presenting every single member of your team. We have seen many otherwise promising presentations run out of time because they spent too long on the introductions. Focus on explaining what it is you do, and how you do it.
Anticipate questions. Think of the questions you may be asked, and plan how to answer them. Just some questions to anticipate:
So what? What do you add? What problem do you solve, and how do you do it differently/ better than anyone else?
What is the competition landscape?
Where do you see your company evolving to?
What is your exit strategy?
What would happen if Google/ Microsoft/ Oracle announce next month that they are developing a similar solution?
Why do you want us to invest in your company?
What is the market size for this product?
Have some additional materials to hand. Your audience will want to know more about you than you could possibly fit into a short presentation. Share additional information if you can outside the meeting. However, don’t overwhelm the audience with loads of information, some of which they haven’t asked for, and which may not be relevant at this stage.
Materials that could help your cause include:
Slides with notes
An executive summary
A white paper including demo information
Detailed company information, including a business plan and financials
Links to the website, articles about the company, documents where they can learn more about you.
Tell a story. Your message will be most effective and compelling if you can take your audience through a consistent narrative from the problem to the solution, and the value of that solution.
On presentation day
Do whatever you can ahead of time. Load up the presentation to your laptop so that it is ready and waiting. If the meeting is via video chat, log on, load up your presentation, and wait.
Arrive early. Give yourself a few minutes to settle into your surroundings.
Dress to impress. Look the part of a successful founder. Even if you are on a video chat.
Bring a colleague along to help out. Your teammate can answer online questions, hand out materials, load up information, and provide valuable support during the presentation.
Set up a timer where you can see it. Keep an eye on how long you have to ensure you finish the presentation within the allocated time.
Focus on the most important content. Don’t spend too much time on your team – be prepared to get to the point as soon as possible.
After the meeting
Connect with investors on LinkedIn. Create connections so that they can get hold of you if they want to.
Follow the investors’ lead. If they contact you asking for more information, provide them with what they are looking for.
Learn from each meeting. Use the questions you were asked to perfect your answers for next time, build on the criticism, advice, or information they give you in the meeting. Take their advice.
CCL Team with John Salomon, CCL Member and Investor
John is an experienced information security leader and member of the Cybersecurity Advisors Network (CyAN).