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This week I attended a prescreening meeting for entrepreneurs, who are looking to raise funds for their companies in front of a forum of angel investors called VANTEC (This is a pleasure that I have been privy to for about 6 months now and had seen over 30 presentations thus far. At this point I can say that I have a good sense for what Angel Investors are looking for). In that meeting the panel of judges was really dismayed at the unprofessional level of the presentations. More so, they complained that (at least) some of the companies seemed to be attractive investment opportunities. But their presentations made them look really bad and would turn investors off, they thought. One of the companies, which seemed like a great investment opportunity (on paper), but completely missed the ball in their presentation caused a great deal of distress for the panelist, who did not want to miss the opportunity. So I volunteered to coach them and thought it might be a good idea to share some of the important points to keep in mind when pitching to Angels.

1. Be prepared! nothing turns investors off more than a flaky looking presentation. It sends a message of incompetence: “How do you expect to run a company and make 10 times the money for us if you can’t even prepare a decent presentation”. This means rehearse and make sure you stay within the allotted time.

2. Keep it short and simple (KISS): Investors watch presentations often for hours. During that time they have to remain concentrated and sharp. After all we are talking about a lot of money. They would really appreciate it if you make it easy on them. Avoid getting too creative and always use the simplicity test: if you can make it simpler, do!

3. Have a story line in your presentation. Meaning your pitch should have a logical sequence to it – a beginning, a body and an end. Each slide should naturally lead to the next.

4. You should cover these questions in your presentation: What is the Problem / market pain? Your solution / product / service? Business model (or how you make money with your solution)? Market Potential (how much is the market worth)? What do you need (what is the deal that you are offering the angels)? Who (your team)? Often, it will be a good idea to mention the competition and your competitive advantage (usually a patented technology or ‘secret sauce’). It’s a good idea to have a 5 year sales and income projection table. As well as to mention some major milestones that you overcame and some that you still need to tackle.

5. The most important part of your presentation is your team. Contrary to what most entrepreneurs think, investors invest in people, not in ideas! Your team needs to demonstrate that they are the best people to get the job done.

6. Avoid these pitfalls: Don’t discuss anything that you can’t explain in a couple of sentences. Instead describe the result and tell the investors that you can achieve it (they don’t care about the technical issues). Don’t exaggerate your numbers. You are not likely to make billions of dollars, and they won’t buy it. Don’t be cocky, but don’t be a sissy either – Be yourself and be confident – represent your company! Avoid jumping around from one issue to the next – stay on topic. Avoid doing product demonstrations. If there is more the 2 panelist (actually, unless you are in a coffee shop) , you should stand up – it looks better and commends more confidence. Don’t fire back at criticism, instead write it down and thank them for their feedback.

Finally, remember that your objective in the pitch is not to get money. Rather it is to get a ‘second date’. More specifically, your goal is to give the investors enough information to get them to ask you questions. If they don’t ask any questions in the end of your presentation, chances are that they are not interested.

I hope that helps. feel free to drop a comment below and make more suggestions.

I am helping an early stage internet startup to get first round financing to grow the business and hopefully explode in the world wide web. The first thing I did was to get the founder Ruthy, a smart business women with a contagious personality, to pitch in front of an angel investors forum. I got her a spot in a very short notice and helped her build a good 90 seconds pitch. Then I also coached her on the delivery. Needless to say she worked very hard all weekend long to be ready for Tuesday morning – and she was.

When we got in early in the morning the first thing I did was to look at the list of presenters. That day must have been the longest list I have ever seen in that forum, but her name was nowhere to be found. I realized that something was wrong. After confirming with the organizer that she was not going to present that morning, I was struggling with how to break the news to her and why was she not registered. It turned out that while she registered for the website, she didn’t complete her registration to present in that event. This was a bad situation.

I decided to just tell her the situation as it is and try to make the best of it. She was obviously disappointed especially after all the work she had done in building and rehearsing her pitch. But I reaffirmed her that she will get value from this experience.

Because she was not presenting, she was allowed to seat in on the other presentations, which turned out to be invaluable for two reasons: 1. after seeing “her competition” for the angels’ money, she became a lot more confident in her company (this is not to say that other companies were no good, many of them were really good, but so was her company). 2. she learned what it takes to have a good presentation.

By the end of a morning full of presentations, Ruthy had gained a lot of confidence and wisdom. After the presentations were over I introduced her to a few angels. Talking with the various angels, she essentially used the pitch that we had developed for her and she received positive, even enthusiastic response from them.

This was just the first step in a longer process to get capital from investors, but as they say “a journey of a thousand miles begins but with a single step”, we probably made (more like) 100 steps. The purpose was to prospect for an angel sponsor and we got some pretty good prospects. Success!

The lesson here was pretty clear to me: When things go wrong, it’s possible to make them better than initially anticipated – find the way.