WWWN (Part 2): Presentations & Pitches

Previous post in the WWWN series : Extreme Marketing

(WWWN = Whats working whats not)

Creating Business Presentations and pitching your venture to people is an essential part of a startup founder’s job. The audience can be angel investors, VCs, potential partners, potential employees, potential acquirers, bar-campers, OCC guys etc. I have looked through quite a lot of presentations, have worked on a number of presentation / pitches with start-up founders and of course did more than 30 versions of the business presentation and 80+ pitches for madhouse. Here are some points that are good to know while working on presentations & pitches.

Creating the Business presentation / pitch:

  • Present only 10-15 slides, nothing more than that
  • Consider tailoring the presentation a little bit; keeping the target audience in mind
  • Suggested slides (see example presentation below)
    • Title slide
    • Summary / Highlights (4-6 bullets, high level business summary)
    • Market size / market opportunity
    • Business Overview / Business Metrics (these are not financials)
      • Current Numbers and Projected Numbers 6 or 12 months from now
      • Numbers that represent your business the best and  show the audience that you are running and presenting a real business
      • Example: Visitors, users, registered users, active users, revenues, products released, customer acquisition cost, number of outlets, employees etc
    • Team
    • Problem the venture is solving
    • Service / Product (how it is different than other available alternatives)
    • Sales and marketing strategy
    • Key Challenges
    • Competition
    • Financial Projections (optional for very early stage ventures)
    • Closing slide
  • Exit Strategy
    • Don’t have this as a slide. Just talk about it towards the end while presenting or when asked
    • Don’t promise exits in 2-3 years, any good business takes 5-7 years, that the horizon for angel investors
  • Team slide
    • Have it as 3 or 4th slide, not later than that
  • Financials
    • Dont show projections beyond 1 year in your presentation.
    • For young startups, no one really knows what will happen beyond even 6 months.
    • Claiming you know what will happen beyond one year is not a smart idea
    • Have 3-5 year projections ready if people ask for it but do not claim accuracy of these, say that there are based on our current assumptions. We believe things will change significantly over the next 6-12 months and we will rework these accordingly.
  • Create an appendix section to include additional details of slides
    • Org structure
    • Product screen shots (too many screen shots right now, need to reduce and show clear flow)
    • Details of market size etc, graphs etc
  • Don’t use “colorful” backgrounds. Keep a white background : simple, clean and readable
  • Use uniform font size and color:
    • Arial is one of the most readable fonts
    • Choose a font color for “Slide title”, go for the dominant color from your logo
    • Maintain the same color and size in all slides. Font size between 36-44 is good for slide title
    • Use black color for all the body text in the presentation
    • Use same font size for all body text. Font size between 14-18 is good for body text
  • Once you do an initial version of the presentation, there will surely be too much TEXT in the presentation, now you need to “DETEXT” – that means edit and cut off all unnecessary text, remove all words that don’t add any value
  • Have small and crisp points. Most bullet points should be one line or max 1.5 line long. Don’t have any para type of bullets. Split longer points into smaller bullets
  • Vary the presentation of content : break the monotony , give visual breaks and create interest
    • Use different content layouts – dont have only “bullet lists” in each slide
    • Try one column bullet slide, two column bullet, 1/2/3 tabular formats
    • Be be careful not to over do it, use the most suitable format to present the content and do not use something because you have to use it
  • Don’t use language that is too “Domain specific” . Use language that is simple and can be understood by people who are not “Domain experts”
  • Not everything needs to be written on the slides, many-a-times we tend to pack each slide with all that we want to say and making the slide text heavy. Human attention span is very low and no one reads all of the information-loaded slides. Hi-light the important points and keep the rest for oral / spoken presentation. This will prevent the main/important points from getting lost.
  • Keep the size of presentation less than 1 MB, many mail servers block 1MB and more attachments and anyways they take more time to load/view.
  • Presentations become large due to use of heavy images, use the compress images feature of MS Powerpoint to reduce the presentation size. Choose web/email resolution for images.

Pitching the Startup

  • Be humble. Remember – Humility disarms.
  • Be calm, composed and confident.
  • Always, always be on time. Never miss an appointment. For god’s sake put the appointments on all your calenders, start early, keep a buffer of 30-60 minutes. Keep people informed if you are about to get delayed.  In more than 50% meetings founders show up late or don’t show up at all. This is a serious damage to the reputation of the startup.
  • Show up clean and presentable. I am not advocating a formal look, be causal if you like so, be formal if you like so. But keep your self clean and presentable. Don’t look PUNK.
  • Crack a joke, tell an anecdote, make general conversation, figure out a connection. Before jumping into the presentation, create a comfort level, break the ice.
  • Weave a story. Don’t just show a stand-alone slide, weave a story around the venture, create interest, tell how you came up with the idea, etc. Engage the audience.
  • The passion, commitment, involvement, confidence and energy needs of the team to come thru. So turn it on, talk enough about the team, its all about people.
  • Don’t look cold or unconcerned.
  • Focus on now and may be next 3-12 months. Spend most time on plans / features/ revenues etc of now and of next 12 months at max, dont keep talking about things that will happen beyond that – people are interested in your immediate future – beyond that no one really knows what will happen.
  • Multiple people presenting is always very tricky and can be problematic. Its best if you can choose one person from the team to present. In case you decide on multiple presenters, work very hard on the hand-overs. Try to just have two sections, presenter 1 does section and presented 2 does section 2 – No back and forth.
  • Product demo: jump into the product demo as soon as possible. Show the real stuff and the impact will be 10-20x as compared to “prepared slides”
  • Listen! Listen! Listen! Many times folks who you are presenting to will say stuff. Be very patient in listening to them. Give them respect and let them complete, before you talk. Don’t be overtly defensive, be open to suggestions/feedback. Give your response and answers in a structured manner. Many presenters start answering before the person talking has finished.
  • If you are asked a question whose answer you dont know or are not sure about, its totlaly cool to say “I dont know the answer, but let me try or I will get back to you “.  Dont try any BS, if you dont know the answer.
  • Make note of action items (mostly stuff to get back on ) which come out of the presentation and make sure you do get back 100% on or before the promised due date. Again here more than 70% founders will miss promised deadlines or not get back at all, just by doing this you can get into the top 30%.
  • Have your set of questions as well, which you would like to ask the audiences of investors, partners, bar campers etc.
  • Practice! Practice! Practice! – you can never do it enough. Practice in front of people  – take feedback and improve.

Couple of bonus TIPs from Ankit

If your audience is a potential investor:

  • Be very clear what you need money for. You can skip it from the slides. This is a question, which surely is going to be asked, if investors are showing even a little interest in your startup.
  • This part has to be extremely clear in your mind. You should be ready to tell how do you plan to spend the money.
  • One thing common to most of the VCs is that they are good with numbers, that is their core area.
  • Testimonials can provide good customer validation.

If your audience is barcampers:

  • Try not to pitch your company directly. Start explaining some concept, and then plug in your company as a case study.
  • For example, a few years ago, Rashmi Sinha used to give presentation on Taxonomy, tagging etc and then she used to plug in Slideshare as a case study.

(Thanks to Ankit, Indus and Nandini for reviewing the post and giving valuable inputs)