8.0 Perfect Presentation

HOW TO PRESENT A BUSINESS PLAN >> Each section contains key Action Items located within the downloadable Action Guide >> Click to Download Action Guide.

Congratulations on preparing a great elevator speech and a great presentation!  In this final segment I’d like to talk to you about things you can do to keep improving your presentation, as well as to help you continue improving as a presenter.

The first thing I encourage you to do is to talk with angel investors to find out things they’ve liked and disliked about different presentations. Each time you give your presentation, ask for feedback.  Of course, the real feedback you want is to get members of the audience sufficiently interested to undertake due diligence on your company.  You shouldn’t limit yourself to that kind of feedback, however.  If possible, ask the following types of questions:

  • Was the presentation clear?
  • Were the PowerPoint slides helpful or not?
  • Was any part of the presentation confusing?  If so, what did you find confusing?
  • Were the handouts helpful?
  • Were questions answered in an effective and thorough manner?
  • If the group decides not to go further with you, ask them to identify what they thought were the weaker parts of your presentation.  Ask them what would have had to be better to have them reach a different conclusion.

You’re asking these questions not to get the group to change its decision, merely to help improve your presentation for the next group.  Of course, if they do decide to change their minds as a result of your questions, I’m sure you won’t complain!

Second, keep working on your presentation skills.  As I mentioned before, consider joining a Toastmasters Club. You should be able to find one in your area.  Toastmasters can teach you three important skills that are relevant to making these presentations:

1) How to give better speeches

2) How to speak extemporaneously.  In other words, how to talk without either notes or preparation on a topic for two minutes.  It sounds intimidating and, at first, it is.  But it will teach you valuable skills when it comes time to answer questions.

3) How to evaluate the speaking of others.  This is valuable because you can always learn new and useful things from other speakers.  Toastmasters will teach you how to do this in a systematic way.

Finally, you can always hire a speaking coach.  You can probably find a good coach through a local university or high school, especially through either the drama department or the communications department.  You’ll find an added benefit to doing these things beyond your investor presentation.  As CEO you’re bound to give lots of presentations.  Lots of people, even though they’ve given countless presentations, are lousy presenters.  Do whatever you can to make sure you aren’t in that group.  It will pay huge dividends!

The next thing you can do is to develop your PowerPoint skills.  Let me suggest three resources to consider to help improve your Powerpoint skills.

First, take a look at “Really Bad Powerpoint,” a presentation available through Amazon.  This is a case of going to school on what you don’t want to do.  Study the examples to see what you’ll want to avoid.

I also recommend a book called Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds.  This is also available on Amazon.  The concept here is to strip out the inessential.  Reynolds also offers very useful ideas about graphics.

Finally, I also recommend Nancy Duarte’s slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations.  The title says it all.  There are certainly other resources you can use, but these three should help you improve your Powerpoint presentations immensely.

The next area I would concentrate on is figuring out how to deal with really tough questions.  As you might expect, most people don’t like to answer tough questions.  It shows.  This is an area where videotape or audiotape can be very helpful.  Each of us has certain ways of trying to answer tough questions.  Because we’re not adept at this and haven’t practiced, our answers sound even worse than we think.  We normally don’t answer tough questions well, but we also have our own characteristic ways of fumbling.  Videotape or audiotape yourself and see how you do it, then practice in order to get better.  Find the really tough questions about your company, then practice answering those questions on videotape or audiotape.  Keep practicing to see if you can get better.  At the same time, practice ways of saying either you don’t know the answer to the question (but you’ll try to find the answer), or ways to acknowledge that you know the answer to the question and it isn’t nice.  While I haven’t said it before, please make sure you do the following: in all cases, tell the truth! Do not lie or mislead potential investors as they will likely find out during due diligence that you’ve lied or misled them.  A frank acknowledgement of something unpleasant and undesirable will help create an atmosphere of trust between you and your potential investor.  Get, and be, in the habit of that practice.

At the same time, you’ll recall what I said about storytelling.  Investor presentations are much better when they include great stories.  Of course, it’s not enough to have a great story – having it told well can make a big difference!  Now I’m not saying that you need to go back to school to learn to be the next Garrison Keillor from A Prairie Home Companion.  What I am saying is that, like giving speeches, telling stories requires practice, practice, and some more practice.  So keep practicing the stories you have about your business, and keep soliciting new stories.  Make a habit of asking your employees and friends for good stories.

Finally, make it a practice to find and fix the holes in your presentation.  No matter how good you get, you can always get better!  Improving your speaking abilities is a matter of priorities.  What I’m saying is that as an entrepreneur, you should always make this a priority, not just for purposes of giving a better business plan presentation, but also because there will be so many times it will be helpful to you.  You just can’t get to be too good, but you can remain just too bad.  The choice is yours.

In summary, having a great written business plan is very important, but it clearly isn’t enough.  When it comes to raising money, you’ve got to prepare yourself to give winning presentations about your business plan.  As we’ve discussed, you need two key presentations:

  • An elevator speech that will help get potential investors to take the time to listen to you
  • An interesting and informative investor presentation that will help get investors interested

Each presentation, if successful, will get you your next appointment with your potential investor.

Good luck to you as you develop your enterprise and develop presentation skills that will benefit you for the rest of your life!

ACTION ITEMS: Complete the Action Items in your Action Guide.

FIRST, talk with angel investors to find out things they’ve liked and disliked about different presentations.

SECOND, consider joining a Toastmasters Club or hiring a speaking coach from a local university or high school.

THIRD, consider using these resources to improve your slide presentation:

  • Look up “Really Bad Powerpoint” a presentation available through Amazon.com
  • Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds (Book)
  • Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte (Book)

FOURTH, always tell the truth. Review your slides for any misleading or false items. For example, you may have added a pre-valuation of $1 million to your “payday” slide as a placeholder for a real pre-valuation number. Don’t make the mistake and present a false pre-valuation because you forgot to update the number.

FIFTH, keep looking for great stories.

LASTLY, keep looking to improve your presentation. Review it for holes, errors, etc. Improve your delivery and ability to answer tough questions. Keep practicing. Get investors interested and secure presentation opportunities.