Every week I get one or two companies who come into XSeed and ask if it is okay to pitch “without using a presentation.”
“Let’s just have a conversation,” they usually say.
I always oblige and see how it goes. What I have noticed, however, is that these meetings are very ineffective a high percentage of the time.
It isn’t that I’m a fan of PowerPoint; I agree with the idea that presentation tools can constrain one’s message and creativity if not used properly.
As I listened recently to an entrepreneur’s pitch that was drifting all over the map, I remembered a conversation with my first boss at Intel, Avram Miller. I was about to have my first one-on-one meeting with him, and I asked how he wanted me to communicate. Should I use a memo? Slides? Notes?
I’ll never forget his reply:
“I don’t care if you strip naked, shave your body, and use smoke signals — just be effective in communicating the key points you need to get across.”
I love that advice. For companies pitching a venture capitalist, I can’t give better counsel than that.
If you are presenting to a VC and don’t want to use slides, be sure you quickly communicate the following:
- Be specific on what product you are building.
- Give examples of who your customers are, how many of them there might be and why they will buy your solution (what is the specific problem that you are solving).
- State clearly against whom you compete and why your solution is better than theirs.
- Be specific on how big a business opportunity this is and what revenues will look like in three to five years.
- State where you are in your company formation process: prototype/demo/alpha/ beta/revenues, etc.
If you don’t use slides, you should be able to communicate these answers in 15 to 30 minutes, even if you are interrupted frequently with questions.
While there is a sexiness and aura of confidence in “flying without a net,” be sure you clearly answer the usual questions that investors need to know. You can have a deck as backup and refer to it as needed, but be very careful that you don’t meander in your meeting such that you don’t efficiently give essential information around your firm’s opportunity.
VCs often see hundreds of companies a month. Your job is to separate us from our money. Make that as easy on yourself as you can.
If you choose not to use a presentation and you discuss the above items effectively, you have a good chance of appearing confident and on top of key issues that will face your startup. VCs love knowledgeable and thoughtful entrepreneurs.
Be aware, however, that the risk of not using a presentation is that you come across as unprepared and disorganized regarding the issues which are critical to the people on the other side of the table.
Be careful that you don’t use the strategy of “just having a conversation” as an excuse for not being prepared and not leading the meeting in a proper direction.
Image via docpop/Flickr
Robert Siegel is a General Partner at XSeed Capital, bringing extensive innovative leadership in strategy definition, operational execution, and international sales and marketing for companies large and small. He is currently on faculty at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, has co-authored several articles for California Management Review, and served as lead researcher for Andy Grove’s book Only the Paranoid Survive. This post originally appeared on his blog.