What Not To Do When Pitching to Investors (Part 3)

What Not To Do When Pitching to Investors (Part 3)

Money | Posted by YouInc.com - January 30, 2013 at 4:00 pm

For the last couple of days I've been talking about some common pitching problems. I'm going to wrap this up with two more top-of-my-list pitching Don'ts.

Don't get flowery or come on too strong

Many people think the best way to make a lasting impression when pitching is to go big or go home, but, generally speaking, I find the opposite to be true. I prefer a less-is-more approach. In my experience, too much flash tends to be distracting. And too much noise can make others suspicious. "Noise" includes attempting to ingratiate yourself via flattery, adopting an overly familiar tone, or babbling nervously to fill what you perceive to be an awkward silence. When you're trying to win people over, you don't need to act as if you're their pal, shower them with compliments, or go overboard in an effort to impress. All that just makes you seem needy and insincere. It's one thing to show genuine respect and appreciation for people who have inspired you, but when you start falling all over yourself gushing about how happy you are to meet them, it makes them uncomfortable. And impatient: all right, already – let's get on with the pitch!

Try to avoid dressing up your ideas with flowery language, too. At Venture, I remember reviewing a proposal the team had worked very hard on, but it was full of long sentences and grand words, and I had no clue what it actually meant. I finally asked, "What are we trying to say, exactly?" Turned out that we were trying to say that if we were hired, we'd help drive traffic to the client's stores. I suggested we just say that, which we did. Fancy words don't make you sound smarter, but they do make you sound like you're trying too hard. Clear, simple, direct, precise language is best. I always try to remind myself that people really just want to know what your proposal is and why they should buy into it. That's it. Investors and potential clients all have different levels of intelligence, understanding and background knowledge, but in one respect they're all the same: they want you to demystify and simplify what you're telling them so they can grasp the key points and weigh whether your proposal is of benefit to them or not.

Don't forget to tell a compelling personal story

Everybody loves a great story. And the best pitches are stories, often very personal ones, told in a genuine, funny or moving way. When I'm pitching for investment or new business, I try to weave the nuts and bolts of my message into a lively, memorable narrative, as opposed to simply rattling off a laundry list of facts. People are hungry for personal stories today--just look at the huge popularity of memoirs. If you learn to think of your pitch that way, you're more likely to connect with your audience and they'll be far likelier to remember you. I can tell you that my ability to remember improves dramatically if someone has told a personal story, so long as it wasn't whiny or inappropriate and was obviously genuine. For instance I remember one man who came onto Dragon's Den told us he'd been a singing waiter in Italy before moving to Canada and becoming a restaurateur--and inventing an articulated snow shovel that he was able to turn in any direction. He was about 80 and still shoveling his sidewalk himself. He showed us a picture of himself as a young man in Italy and talked about arriving here as an immigrant – the guy was spellbinding because you really got a sense of what his life had been like, what drove him, who he really is, inside. Out of countless pitches, his stands out for me because his story had great emotional resonance and he told it simply and well.

It's funny to me that so many people think that being an entrepreneur is just about making money. I like to make money--show me an entrepreneur who doesn't--but I also know it's not going to happen without that all-important emotional connection. And frankly, so much of the enjoyment I get from my work stems directly from that. Feeling that you've really connected with other people, and satisfied a need they had (and may not even have known they had) – to me, that's what being an entrepreneur is really all about.

I'd love to hear your story. And see if you can get it across in 50 un-flowery words or less!

Tags: arlene dickinson, dickinson, challenges, connections, investor, language, money, personal, pitch, blog

Dragan Cvijan
January 31, 2013 at 5:08 pm

It takes 64 reading words in three of four letters on 20 pages 14 years long story,Arlene.

Monique M Smith
March 3, 2013 at 6:35 am

My dream has been to make a difference in the lives of youth. Two years of private practice in child/youth counseling, I’ve witnessed positive change. Now I’m working towards making a bigger difference; My friend (a 2012 Olympic wrestler) is supporting me in this quest by speaking to groups of youth and helping them create a “game-plan” for positive decision making!

Tish Heath
April 6, 2013 at 4:44 pm

The last thing I do before I dream is live the lives of others.  I live through adventures and heartbreaks, exhilaration and terror, crushes, blushes and hysterical laughter.  I want to send my books into bed with readers, delight them with my stories and give them fodder for their dreams.

Hanne Selby
April 16, 2013 at 10:40 pm

This is so true there is always a good part about making money but there are so many other benefits as well. I have seen so much joy in the eyes of children when I was involved in setting up schools and showers in the city dumps in Mexico, helping rebuild an orphanage, and helping seniors enjoy their lives more in homes be connecting young people with them for regular visits to make them feel loved, wanted and cared for. I am now working through my own difficulty after 31 years my husband leaving me for no real reason other then he feels the family did less for him then he did for us. Very sad and heartbreaking but I am now looking at how I can improve my personal life and get a new life.I am now  needing to start all over again at 61 and save for retirements.  Arlene's articles and spots I have listened to have not only helped me in how I will run my business, connect with my team and also get the strength to look at what i have to do to survive while still keeping my natural way of thinking and my belief that we need to be kind, think of others, help make a difference in others lives, while focusing on making sure I also am able to make the money needed to retire in the next five years. It will be long hours and hard work, but I understand that you also need to take the time to stop and rest while looking a the big picture before making mistakes. Arlene is an inspiration to me and I am going to try and keep my focus as much as possible and on what i need to do, as I can not fix what is broken her in my life so I need to forward and making the new life for myself and my children and grandchildren who are the joy that will help me through this . Thank you so much for all the wonderful posts

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