Pitching is hard and taking rejection isn’t a picnic, but being over-rehearsed isn’t the way to solve the problem. I re-framed a question on Quora titled “What are the signs of an entrepreneur who is over-prepared for meetings with investors?” I replaced “over-prepared” with “over-rehearsed” since, well, one can never be (or appear) too prepared, while it is certainly possible to be (or act) over-rehearsed. Someone who is over-rehearsed may exhibit some of the following behaviors:
- Be bound by the confines of the presentation, wanting to flip through every page
- Use lots of VC-buzz speak in order to try and relate to the people being pitched
- Give short, exceptionally positive answers to questions which don’t lend themselves to such confidence or brevity
- Look physically stiff and sound painfully monotonic
- Are unwilling to go deep into challenges, theorize and speak extemporaneously and passionately about the inspiration for the business
There are many more but these are some of the highlights (or lowlights, as the case may be). It is in these meetings that I want to either rip my eyes out or grab the person by the scruff of the neck and scream “Be yourself. Lighten up.” Without question, being over-rehearsed is generally an indication of one of two things:
- Inexperience; or
- Lack of confidence.
Inexperience is function of - lack of experience! There is no way to short-circuit the process of practicing and gaining that experience first-hand. Regardless of what you’ve read in blogs about “The Pitch,” what they are really telling you is what a pitch should contain, not how you do it. Nobody can tell you how YOU should do it; you have your own style and way of displaying passion and knowledge and connecting with your audience. Know that you will invariably suck in your first series of pitches, but that is why the smart newbie pitches friends, advisers, etc. and does a bunch of dry runs before hitting the high-potential funding sources, ergo, gaining valuable experience before the stakes are raised.
Lack of confidence is a harder nut to crack. The best way to combat this is to just know your shit. If you have deep passion, are all-in on your idea, and have done the homework related to customer need, product vision, early product design, competitive landscape, market sizing and capital requirements, then chillax. There is no reason not to be confident. Lack of confidence is probably the single biggest turn-off to a VC (and certainly to me). Being confident does not mean lacking humility or not giving weight to the challenges of achieving your goals, but it does mean conveying deep knowledge, conviction, a “can-do” attitude and engendering confidence in the people whom you are asking to back you. If you can’t do this, you’re screwed. Really.
I understand that pitching VCs can be very stressful but I’ve got to tell you, pitching is fun. You learn so much about yourself and the business through this process, and meet and get introduced to so many cool people to learn from, drink with and to possibly get involved in your passion - your start-up. Just know your stuff, show your passion and confidence and let er’ rip. If it isn’t well-received, well, screw them. Take what you can from the experience and move on. There’s always the next one…