We have written before about Raising 101: Tips for Crafting the Perfect Pitch Deck. In that article, we mentioned that amongst Venture Capitalists that you are presenting to, “Some like walking through the deck and some prefer an open conversation, and you should be prepared to pitch in both scenarios.” We received a good number of follow-up questions on this statement, so we wanted to take the time to share our thoughts.
Presentations are about people
The first important thing to understand when presenting your pitch deck is that a presentation is about the people: yourself and the VC you are pitching to. Both of you have your own styles, preferences, and ways of thinking, and it is important to find a good match.
Here at Refinery, we try to be extremely flexible with entrepreneurs and let them choose their preferred presentation style. Some founders prefer to march through their deck slide-by-slide in a carefully rehearsed presentation, pausing for questions only at the end. Other entrepreneurs prefer using the deck as a rough guide but jumping around from slide to slide depending on where the conversation is going and what questions are top of mind for the VC. Other founders prefer to not even use a deck but instead, just talk and let the conversation flow—and there is everything in between.
However, every VC out there has their preference of how they prefer the presentation to go. So we advise all entrepreneurs to be flexible and prepared for anything from a structured presentation with little engagement from the VC to a conversation where you never open the slides. In fact, VCs’ preferences may shift depending on the startup’s industry, with VCs preferring more full presentations on industries they may be less familiar with but preferring informal conversations for industries they know well.
Know your numbers
you are using a deck, of course it is easy to refer to slides and graphs. However, if the conversation becomes more informal and you are not able to recall key business stats such as revenue, projections, customers, etc., then it is not a good sign for the business. This is not advice to “memorize some numbers for your presentation.” Instead, this is strong advice to “know your numbers” as the leader of your company.
As with all things in life, practice is invaluable. Practice your pitch with friends and coworkers and existing investors, but then find friends-of-friends and friendly low-risk investors to pitch to, as practicing with friends is very different than practicing with a stranger. Encourage your practice partner to interrupt you with all sorts of questions, and to challenge you on assumptions and statements, so that you will be well prepared for anything when it comes to the real thing!
Most importantly, be yourself. When pitching an investor, you are pitching a long-term partner in the business. It is important to find a good match both ways. There is no sense in pretending to be something you are not, as both parties will be in for a rude awakening once the “fake pitch phase” ends.
Good luck pitching!