If everything goes right, at some point you’ll find yourself presenting your plan to potential investors. This can be nerve-wracking for anyone, especially first-timers, but you can do a number of things to ensure your presentation comes off well.
Your objective: inspiration and distillation
When you present your plan, be enthusiastic, be confident and clearly illustrate the need for the product or service you plan to provide. Quickly evoke substantial interest in your venture. Once you’ve captured attention and interest, the audience will ask questions that allow you to expand on your ideas.
Think about your audience
How you present your business plan depends both on your audience and your situation. You really have two pitches: one for end-users (customers) and one for investors. The first focuses on price, performance, and ease of use that provides a sustainable competitive advantage. The second explains why the first one generates substantial return on investment (ROI) for investors or licensees.
And, although you may be formally presenting your plan to venture capitalists, don’t overlook the opportunity to present your ideas to the people you meet every day. In both cases it’s important to be socially astute and to recognize the needs and interests of the people with whom you are speaking.
Regardless of the situation, you have about thirty seconds to get the audience’s attention. One of the most important skills you need is to be able to explain your plan, out loud or in writing, in 30 seconds or less (the amount of time you might have riding an elevator with a prospective funder). Your elevator pitch is a clear, articulate, and concise description of your purpose that should also relay your passion for your venture. When you use the elevator pitch in a written document, the audience should immediately understand what your venture is about.
Brevity is key
Thoughtfully prepare your elevator pitch. You have about thirty seconds to grab the attention of your audience regardless of the situation. Bill Joos from Garage Technology Ventures1 (www.garage.com) recommends that you begin your pitch with an engaging tag line that incorporates your business’s product or service and purpose. A clever tag line can directly and simply convey your idea, and when you have a captive audience you can elaborate on your business. Your ability to clearly, concisely and passionately state your purpose establishes that you have well-defined goals and are adequately prepared to promote your ideas. This also allows you to get your point across before your listener has time to get bored.
Rules of public speaking
Make sure that you tell your audience what you are going to tell them, tell them what you want them to know and then tell them what you told them. Emphasize a few key points throughout your presentation and do not overwhelm your audience with too much information. Help the audience retain what you’ve said by strategically repeating the most important information. If you’ve covered a few main points, you’ve probably given your audience enough information—again, if members of the audience are interested in learning more, they will ask questions.
Main points of a presentation
Bill Joos recommends using the following outline for your business plan presentation:
Summary—a modified version of your elevator pitch. Tell your audience your mission, quickly describe the product and, if appropriate, tell them how much funding you need.
Market—Establish your market by introducing the problem that you will solve with your product or service.
Solution—Explain your proposed venture and how it will solve the problem. Include a description of your idea, a brief description of how you are going to implement this idea, your awareness of major competitors, how you will market this service or product and how you plan to profit from this venture.
Team—Establish that you have a competent team with past experience that makes them ideal for your business venture.
Use of Funds—Explain how you plan to use acquired funds to implement your venture.
Recap—Briefly summarize the main points of what you just finished telling your audience, leaving key points of your presentation fresh in their minds as you ask them to invest in your venture.
End with action
At the end of your presentation, tell your audience what you want them to do. Directly invite your listeners to become a part of your venture and let them know how to go about getting involved.
Example of a great pitch
“ConstructionBoots.com is an e-commerce website that sells construction boots on a b2c and a b2b basis. Our primary market consists of construction workers, with secondary markets including other individuals and companies in the construction trade. We offer the highest quality products and drive traffic to the site by linking to other websites related to the construction industry. We believe the customer would find purchasing and direct delivery of construction boots through our website easier than purchasing via traditional retail outlets.
We believe we will be the only pure e-commerce construction boot site, but will face indirect competition from traditional brick and mortar b2b retailers who target the trade as well as traditional mass merchandisers. If all goes as planned, we would look to sell ConstructionBoots.com to an industry retailer who sells construction gear.”
From “How to Deliver the Big Pitch,” by Todd Balf. Fast Company, June, 1999.