Making the Best of the Venture Atlanta Conference Part 1 of 2
Now that all the companies presenting at Venture Atlanta have been announced, we’ll be publishing a series of posts to help founders and other entrepreneurs attending the conference make the best of their time there.
This two-part installment is for those looking to meet prospective investors. Part one will focus on giving the best six-minute pitch onstage. Part two will present tips on smarter networking. The following tips are adapted from a post from this writer’s personal blog .
Make Those 6 Minutes Count
A pitch is a narrative with a beginning, middle and end. Since yours is one of 40 pitches the audience will hear that day, you are going to have to rock them from the get go. The pitch is like a movie trailer, it should only include the strong aspects of your company and provide enough of an incentive for interested parties to visit you at your table. There is no formula but here are some techniques that have worked for others.
- Start with a story: If you have a really compelling “creation” story that 90 percent in the room can identify with, tell it in 15 seconds.
- Start with KPIs: More mature companies with solid revenue and/or EBIDTA data can open with something like this:
- We design/develop/offer (insert your product) in the (descriptor for the industry you operate in) that helps (insert target audience) optimize/reduce (insert pain). We have revenues and (insert compelling fact on company traction).
- Open with a question or two: This is a great technique if you know that the majority of the audience will have obvious answers to your questions. This is not such a good idea if you cannot, with confidence, predict audience response.
- Open with video. A video or a screencast can be used but very judiciously. Most six-minute pitches don’t allow enough time for video segments. But if the video GREATLY enhances the entertainment value and brings home your value proposition, it can be considered.
- BUT be cognizant of the length of the segment; 30 seconds is best
- More than 30 seconds? Get creative with the delivery. Consider giving a live narration to your video so that you and the video can function as one.
FINAL WORD: Be prepared to go on without the video or even your slides. Technical glitches can and do happen.
Most presenters focus almost exclusively on getting the slides just right that they forget an even more important aspect: their delivery.Brilliant scripts and gorgeous visuals lose impact if the presenter’s delivery is ill-rehearsed, punctuated with pregnant pauses or verbal ticks.
- Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse: The late Steve Jobs was legendary for the rigorous and extensive nature of his presentation preparation. If you can’t sequester yourself for three days prior to rehearse in front of a mirror and a consultant, commit to getting your slides finalized five days before and spend three to five hours in the last two days rehearsing in front of family, your co-founder, etc. (my personal 3-5-2 rule). If you can video tape yourself, all the better. This will help you iron out transitions and keep you from reading your slides.
- Pace: Count to two between concepts to allow your audience to catch up to you.
- Room Coverage: It can be intimidating to be on a stage with 600 people in the audience. Pick a few friendly faces in 3-4 parts of the room. Be sure they are distributed across the room and give your pitch to them. The red lines in the diagram below trace the path that your eye ought to take throughout the pitch to keep the entire room engaged.
- Verbal ticks: What are they? They are words or phrases that we inadvertently use to punctuate our sentences as our brain is thinking about the next thing to say. Common examples are:
- “Uhm,” “you know,” “I mean,” “so”
If you don’t think you are guilty of this, video tape yourself pitching and watch the playback. Rehearsing and watching yourself on tape are ways to reduce the frequency of these.
Remember to make the ask! Save the last 30 second to make the ask and tell them how their investment will enable your business to grow. Even if you aren’t looking for capital and you are looking for strategic advisers, still tell the audience how the addition of these advisers will help your business.
Finally, give them a call to action: “Visit us at our table at _____. “
Next week: Pre-conference networking tips.