How many new startups do you hear about every day? How many pitches do they have to give in each development phase to receive investments to start, grow, and escalate their operations? All those startups need an exponentially expanding number of presentations to secure funding.
And they represent a rising market for presentation professionals.
Guy Kawasaki confessed in his book The Art of the Start that in the absence of a clinical diagnosis he concluded the constant ringing in his ears “is caused by listening to thousands of lousy pitches.”
Nowadays, other important investors may feel the same pain. A few months ago, a big name in the world of accelerators in Brazil said to me: “I can’t stand it anymore. I only ask four questions and analyze the answers. It’s like eating the same menu every day.”
As presentation professionals, how can we help them?
I went to the WebSummit 2018 in Lisbon, Portugal, to understand what’s currently expected from companies that are seeking investors. The event had ten different and simultaneous stages. Three of them were exclusively dedicated to pitches. More than 100 startups participated. I listened to the rounds of pitches and comments made by the judges. Through these sessions, I uncovered valuable feedback to help startups improve their presentations.
The first big issue pointed out by several judges was too much technical details and few filters. “You gave me a sequence of numbers and assumptions, but I don’t clearly see the data that matters to investors,” commented a judge about an AI startup presentation. In 28 out of 37 pitches, the slides held so much information that we couldn’t discern what was relevant.
Bobby Hearly from CarTrawler was also worried about the overwhelming amount of information being communicated at a pitch session. During the Sell Your Story: Pitching in 2018 panel, he advised: “Reduce the deck down. A perfect slide has very little. It’s hard to do. It’s like a [movie] trailer. You are not showing the whole movie to someone. Keep points that make people say, ‘I want to see more of this.’”
Regarding what works as visual language, Ross Mason from MuleSoft/Dig Ventures, who sat on the same panel, said: “Diagrams really help connect the audience with the software, the flow and the process, but I wouldn’t organize it over beautiful logos and templates.” His message was to keep it simple.
However, maybe the conference attendees weren’t aware of the challenge he was proposing. It’s our daily battle as presentation professionals behind the scenes, isn’t it? Simple is not always obvious or easy to do, unless you ace the data visualization technique.
A pitch guides the decision-making process. Entrepreneurs only have three minutes to impress and convince investors. Julie Evonshire from the Entrepreneurship Institute, King’s College, London, made one last recommendation to speech coaches. Julie stated that what matters most when she evaluates a performance is how passionate and enthusiastic the entrepreneur is about the proposition. She considers that attitude powerful enough to affect the audience in a positive way.
Select meaningful data only, develop clear diagrams, guide the decision-making process, and share positive energy. It seems like a recipe that we know very well. The good news is that we can replicate this process for one million existing startups (and counting) around the world.
About the Author
Guild Member Katia Menezes is an Executive Director for Mediapool in São Paulo, Brazil. She plans and executes communication strategies, emphasizing persuasion as a driving force. Previously, she worked as editor of Bom dia Brasil, Jornal da Globo and Bem Estar at Globo Network.