The Launch Module (formerly HiFinal) team had a great time presenting at the recent Pitch Perfect NYC, sponsored by Adobe and FlowVella and held at WeWork Soho West.
From the FlowVella blog:
At FlowVella, we want to help everyone make better presentations. One of the toughest and most important presentations to make is the investor pitch. We will have two investors, Daniel Dehrey of Collaborative Fund and Jalak Jobanputra of Future Perfect Ventures, and presentation experts, Erik Johnson and Leslie Morales of HiFinal, on hand to share their expertise. We hope to provide you with as much free advice and counseling of your investor pitch as you need during this session.
Along with some current pitch deck slides we shared for discussion with the startup and venture capital audience, here is the FlowVella we presented:
View on FlowVella – Presentation Software for iPad and Mac
FlowVella is a great way to accelerate your startup pitch deck development. Check it out!
When it comes to finding willing investors, nothing matters as much as the presentation, or ‘pitch.’
The business idea, the investment options, the market, and the story behind the company are important. But how the information is presented and what the potential investors walk away from the meeting understanding — this is where the rubber meets the road and real traction is gained. Any startup needs to take careful notes about maximizing their pitch delivery because those who want to win over and persuade top tier investors need to fine tune their presentations to a degree they never thought possible.
The suit makes the (wo)man, and the visuals make the presentation
Presentations that are visually generic and boring are not going to interest decision makers. Whether the presenter is using PowerPoint, Keynote, or InDesign, the pitch deck should be beautifully designed and perfectly complement the person giving the talk. Investing the time and money needed to develop a sleek and professional presentation that will stand out from the crowd is key. A business incubator can offer the tools, but finding investors is about impressing people. Why should anyone else care about the company story if the company itself does not seem to? The presentation is the time to be excited about the company and all that it can do for the investor and for the market, and share that excitement and enthusiasm with the audience. A great presentation can be the perfect business accelerator; companies just need to reach out and seize the opportunity.
Rehearse until the mouth is dry
The spoken part of the presentation should flow seamlessly, be engaging, and leave investors excited about the new company. Presenters should avoid referring to notes or to their own presentation, they should know the entire piece by heart. Before a person walks into a new job interview at their dream position, they are sure to rehearse their answers and look sharp. They make sure their portfolio contains everything they want to share. They practice in front of mirrors and ask friends to give them practice questions. Imagine the presentation is a job interview. The presenter should show the audience that their ideas are so new and so exciting, that the investors would be missing something if they did not join in.
Rehearsal does not apply only to the spoken part of the conference, however. A startup should also be sure to go over all their tech (remotes, pointers, projectors, screens, etc.) and make sure that everything works properly. There should be backup plans and ways to troubleshoot in case something goes wrong on the big day. It is not possible to be too prepared. Keep everything contained within the presentation, and avoid linking from the presentation to the Web. It will minimize the chances for something to go wrong.
Prepare to Win
The presentation is the key to landing investors and building the business. Winning over prospects at this elite level, however, requires time and energy. Startups will never regret making the investment in perfecting the pitch.
Photo credit: Flikr.com, Bill H.
What is easier for you to remember — A list of statistics and facts that tell why a particular business will be a worthwhile investment? Or one or two stories of the company helping people and showing promising signs of growth?
Chances are, it would be the latter. Stories help make information personal. That is why people tend to pay more attention to charity campaigns that tell the story of a single child than full-page advertisements that just give numbers. People like to feel connections, and stories offer them.
Why stories are so effective
Humans are social creatures, and for thousands of years we have connected through storytelling. It is how we teach children the rules of our society, remember major events in the history of the community, and entertain each other. It makes sense that we are wired for storytelling. Yet countless people go to a conference and just talk about sales figures and numbers. People cannot relate to numbers. Stories help them place themselves within the narrative and see how the presenter and his company can help them. Some estimates say that stories are 22 times more likely to be remembered than facts alone.
Incorporating stories into a talk
Delivering the keynote at an important conference can be stressful. Public speaking is considered one of the most fear-inducing activities. It sure would seem easier to make a presentation based around facts — remaining safely detached from impersonal data. But the purpose of a presentation is not just to talk — it is to persuade — and persuasion requires stories.
Look for stories that show strong customer satisfaction or business growth. Give examples of successes. If there is interesting background to a new startup, invite the audience to share in stories of those early days, to help them connect. While the entire presentation cannot be one big story, using the art of storytelling freely throughout the conference will help keep the audience interested and encourage them to remember the good stuff.
Stories can be immensely helpful when communicating with audiences. Weaving a few delicately throughout a presentation can help customers remember facts much better. They certainly require a bit more creativity, but the rewards can be enormous.
Psychologists over the years have theorized that everyone has different strengths when it comes to learning and mastering new material.
Some people might excel when they read something or see images. Other people prefer to listen to content. The VARK method offers four main styles of learning. Other models may say seven or even more. While we can leave it to the psychologists to iron out the details, as presenters we should at least take away that the people attending your presentation are not all going to learn the same way. So what does this mean for presenters?
The importance of reaching the audience in their learning style
When giving presentations, you want the audience to absorb the information you are giving them. You want them to appreciate what your company can do for them. If your presentations focus too much on just one or two different learning styles, there is a serious risk that the rest of the room is not going to learn what you are trying to teach. This is not school, where people will go back and review their notes. You have one pitch to get them to absorb your big idea, and you have to make that count.
Reading the audience
It is not going to be possible to incorporate every learning style into every presentation, so presenters must instead choose a few that make the most sense based upon the audience. For example, those who excel in the sciences and engineering tend to be very logic-minded. Those working in design most likely enjoy more creativity and imagery. Work to incorporate a bit of variety into the overall presentation, such as stories, facts, graphs, images, and maybe a bit of music to make a well rounded pitch to reach as many people as possible.
The same way a teacher must work to create lesson plans that will appeal to the variety of learners they have in their classroom, presenters must also work to appeal to as much of their audience as possible. Understanding the varied learning types making up your audience can go a long way toward reaching everyone in the room.
When startups sit down to create a presentation, it feels as though many of them spend more time debating the application or platform they are going to use for the slideshow than they do preparing the actual material.
This is one of those times when having too many choices can actually be a bad thing. In this case, it is just slowing down the creative process. Imagine a screenplay writer. According to Film Underground, per the Writers Guild of America, the standard font for professional screenplays is Courier 12 point font. Anything else just looks amateur. No pro screenwriter or production company is going to waste time reinventing time-tested script format when they should be focusing their creative energy on the storyline they are developing. The same idea applies to startups crafting a pitch for an investor.
The truth is that PowerPoint is still the industry leader, and in the vast majority of cases, it is all the company needs to create the perfect, winning presentation. There are, however, plenty of other details that startups should focus on to make sure their ideas captivate their investors. Here are some of the key elements that those designing a professional presentation should use to make sure their pitch stands out from the rest.
Use the slides to complement the presentation, not be the presentation
A good presentation will not have the audience spending more time reading off the slides than listening to the speaker. Try to keep words and numbers on the slides to a minimum and instead use visuals that can help reinforce the points made in the presentation. The slides should not be used as an outline of the presentation. In areas where words and numbers are unavoidable, use them as sparingly as possible.
Multimedia and animations should also lend themselves to creating a professional yet enticing appearance. They are fantastic for helping to elicit emotions, bringing attention to the presenter, and they can help accent a particular point, but do not let them overpower the message. The primary focus should always be on the presenter and what the person is saying. Those who design presentations professionally work to strike a balance between entertaining and distracting, and it is a fine line to walk.
Think about the details
Nothing will bore an audience faster than not being able to easily see the PowerPoint content onscreen. It is important to make sure that any words or numbers can be easily seen from all areas of the room. Guy Kawasaki offers some great guidelines here in his classic 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint — not always practical, but worth noting.
Do not forget the value of story time
Develop a presentation that offers clear substance, explains and supports the main messages, and is easy for everyone to remember. Hard numbers and statistics are great for supporting an idea, but it is stories that help to embellish a presentation and make the entire concept easy for people to remember and recall later, so try to include both.
Develop a presentation that speaks to the ‘Big Idea’
Too many presentations leave unanswered questions. Perhaps they clearly explain what the audience should understand, but they do not explain what a person should do with it. Maybe they explain a vision, but they do not articulate why that way would be best. Create a well rounded presentation that clearly explains the thought process, the research, what the person should feel, what should be done, and what the result will be.
Presentations are a critical part of conducting business. From early-stage startups looking to find their first customers or investors to the experienced company making their thousandth sales pitch, everyone needs to know how to develop a top notch presentation. Just like no working screenwriter is going to question their choice of font, companies should focus less on their platform options and more on their content. Sometimes, however, creating visual aids for the presentation can be taxing and difficult. Consulting with a professional to get their opinion on particular aspects or help polishing up the finished product can be the best way to ensure the slides offer all they can. When the future of the company is on the line, making sure everything is the highest quality is always the number one priority.
This week at Launch Module Media, we’ve been hired to develop and upgrade, for an investment group and a hedge fund, short (south of 20 slides) PowerPoint presentations (generally known in banking as ‘Pitch Books,’ or, when I worked for Bear Stearns, ‘coasters’ (you put your drink on them while putting together the deal)).
Most of the time, we work on the shorter, more visually dynamic, presentations that financial companies (especially newer or startup-phase) need to attract institutional or private investors and business in general. These PowerPoint decks tend to have a slightly more sales feel and are not so dry graphically as the big M&A monster books you might see at a major IB.
Thinking over how we can do a better job on finding and serving this very specific market for design product, I did some reading on the Web and found an amazing overview of the structure of banking pitch books. What’s In a Pitch Book? is a 2,622-word post written by Brian DeChesare, founder of Mergers & Inquisitions. A quick, well-documented read — this is the best synopsis/article on the subject I’ve seen. Valuable not just for nascent bankers, but certainly for designers like me as well. I’ll quote the part of the post that refers to the type of presentations we’re working on for our financial Clients this week.
Market Overviews / Bank Introductions
This is the simplest type of pitch book – it’s usually around 10-20 slides that introduce your bank and give an overview of recent market activity to “prove” that your bank knows what it’s talking about.
1. Slides showing your bank’s organization, the different departments, and how “global” you are.
2. Several “tombstone” slides that show recent deals your bank has done in a particular sector. So if you’re presenting to Exxon Mobil, you might show recent energy M&A deals, IPOs, and debt offerings you have advised on.
Along with these, you might create “league table” slides that show how your bank ranks in different areas like tech M&A deals, equity issuances, and so on.
3. “Market overview” slides showing recent trends and deals in the market and data on how similar companies (“comps”) have been performing lately.
These types of pitch books are the least painful for investment banking analysts because you mostly just copy slides from elsewhere and update existing data.
Some banks don’t even use these types of presentations at all – they’re more common at smaller banks where you actually need to introduce yourself.
So, I definitely recommend checking out Mergers & Inquisitions. If you are in banking and need to introduce your fund or group to clients and investors, do feel free to check in with us here at Launch Module, and we’ll help you take your pitches to the next level!