Thursday, December 14, 2006

Presenting to Win

The first material step in the fund raising process is the "VC pitch."

The VC blogosphere is full of sage advice on presentation templates and structures. Given the vital importance of clearly articulating the value and merits of a business, however, I continue to be amazed by the lack of preparation, clarity, and "aha!s" in the average pitch. As Eminem says, "you only get one shot!"

The presentation, for better or worse, is the medium via which investors evaluate the merits of a company's market, position, and attractiveness as a possible investment. Given the importance of the "pitch," it pays to spend lots of time drafting, refining, and practicing the presentation. Which brings me to the subject of this post...

Jerry Weissman's great book, Presenting to Win, is a practical how-to guide on the "art of telling your story." The book is the culmination of several decades of coaching technology companies and legends on how best to connect with audiences and effectively communicate ideas. His past clients include Sequoia, CSCO, Yahoo, MSFT, and many others.

I suggest ordering the book and include a short synopsis below:

Five Presentation Sins
  1. no clear point
  2. no audience benefit
  3. no clear flow
  4. too detailed
  5. too long - what he humorously refers to as (MEGO, or mine eyes glaze over)
I like the last one, ie, "man, that guy mego'd me."

Point A and Point B
As you walk into a meeting, room, the audience is mentally at "point a," or their starting point. They have preconceived ideas, experiences, and world views that define their starting point. The goal of ALL pitches is to move them to "point b," or to your objective.

As you think about how best to move them to Point B, remember the golden rule - "WIIFY", or what is in it for you, with "you" being the audience. The WIIFY is the "so what" takeaway.

Understand your Audience
Who are they?
What is their knowledge level?

External Factors
What are the exogenous variables that will impact the audiences' reaction to your message - both positive variables (tail winds) and negative variables (head winds)?

When, where, and how will you present (av tools, internet access, room size, etc)?

Opening Gambit
Seize attention and the stage via an opening remark. Wiessman suggests using a question, factoid, anecdote - a vehicle that forces attention on you and gets the audience thinking about the subject matter in question.

Flow Structure/Metaphor
Use an organizational metaphor to structure the presentation - ie Letterman Top Ten List, compare and contrast, rhetorical questions, etc.

The above is merely a snapshot of some of the ideas. Communicating vision, ideas, value, etc is not easy, particularly in a world of information overload, too many meetings, blackberries...

If a start-up idea warrants your blood, sweat, and tears - it warrants an investment in time and practice in order to "present to win."


  1. Thank you for this post. It is pointing me to buy this book and practice practice practice.

    Now when that is done, if I could only get in the door.

  2. jrichards11:27 AM

    Will - good synopsis. Another mortal sin - relying too much on the presentation doc/deck. Believe it or not, companies DID get funded before PPT became the default for the conversation. The best presentations I've seen have been where the management team is confident, composed and treats it more as a dialogue than a 1-way conversation based on their ppt deck.

  3. I love Presenting to Win, but I found it a bit more aimed at roadshow/IPO events. Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki was the other extreme. Somewhere in between is where a series A stage pitch ought to be..