Present Like a Pro

A handful of simple tips to significantly improve your pitch & presentation skills:


Investor Pitch Template & Tips

After seeing hundreds of formal presentation decks and hearing thousands of elevator pitches, some patterns emerge. Here is my recommended formula for how to put together an 8-10 minute pitch deck & speech for investors.

Full template here, summary below:

  1. Company – Describe your venture in a tweet/sentence | describe what kind of skill set you bring to a job in a tweet/sentence. Some tips on condensing your value proposition into a tweet.
  2. Credibility – Talk is cheap, SHOW us you are someone with more than just an idea / someone we should continue listening to. If you have no credibility yet (very common!), skip this section. Remember to show, don’t tell.
  3. Customer Segment(s) – Give us a quick feeling for who your target market is and that they have enough money to make your venture worthwhile. Better yet, tell use about a sample customer.
  4. Pains – What is the pain (for your target market) you are solving? How to articulate your pains. Some tips on making sure your pains & gains match.
  5. Benefits – What benefits can you deliver to the target market that alleviates their pain? Note: features are not benefits :).
  6. Competitive Advantages – How are you positioned better than the competition? Remember the positioning triangle.
  7. Channel/Promotion – How are you going to find and get your customers cost effectively?
  8. Market size – How many dollars have your problem (video tips on market section)?
  9. Rev. Model / Key financial drivers – How do you make money? Can you make enough? Don’t show a spreadsheet!  Video w/ tips on financials & exit
  10. Exit – How do investors get their money back out plus a lot of profit for them? For instance: can you show us a screen full of logos representing companies like you that have been purchased for a lot of money? video w/ tips on financials & exit
  11. Team – If possible, intersperse this content throughout the rest of presentation. If that is tricky, make a dedicated team section. Remember to show, don’t tell how your team has the skills needed to help your kind of company succeed. What skills / people are you missing?
  12. Next Steps / Ask – ALWAYS end a pitch with some kind of ask. It can be explicit or implicit, but it must always be there. A great way to do it implicitly is to show the audience what your next step is. Get more detailed help on how to make a great Ask here. If you are asking for money, remember “Don’t tell us how much money you’ll burn.”

Some other great tips:

  1. When you make your slides you want a “dead seagull” on every slide!
  2. Don’t put more than one number to a slide, it confuses people.
  3. Use relative values instead of absolute, industry-specific ones.
    1. Turn “We added 1,000 customers over the past year” into…
      “Our customer base has doubled in the past year”
    2. Turn “20 customers in the 1st month” into…
      “We acquired as many customers in our first month as our competitors had after two years.”
    3. Turn “We spend $1.24 on materials” into…
      “Our gross margins are 75%.”
  4. Anticipate the questions your audience will ask and have extra slides at the end of your presentation that you can pull up during Q&A if the question comes up.

Hat Tip: This content expands on the work I did while working at the awesome

Tax reform’s impact on Angels and Startups

The Angel Capital Association put out summary of the recent tax reform legislation’s impact on angel investors and startups.

Short Version: 

  • Gains on Qualified Small Business Stock (AKA 1202) will continue to be 100% exempted.  (The continuation happened by not being mentioned in the legislation.)
  • The R&D Tax Credit also continues, as does the ability for startups to take up to $250,000 of the credit against their employment taxes.  (This also happened by not being mentioned in the legislation.)
  • It doesn’t include an initial proposal to tax stock options and restricted stock units when they vest instead of when they are exercised.
  • Carried interest can be taxed as long-term capital gains IF they are held for three years or more.  This appears to be a nice compromise that might help some early-stage investors like angels and VCs.

Full article.

If you have interest in angel investing and are local to Western Massachusetts, check out the local angel group I have the privilege of running: the River Valley Investors.

How to Craft an “Ask”

Every pitch should have an “ask,” a polite request that lets the audience know how they can help you next. A great “Ask” portion of a pitch should be:
  • Actionable for the mentor/audience
  • Ask for advice, not leads/money
  • Helps you towards one of your goals for the program
  • Be specific enough for a large fraction of your audience to feel like they have the knowledge to help you in a limited time frame.
Example 1:
  • BAD: “Introduce me to senior level executives of company X”
  • GOOD: “I want to understand what matters to senior level executives at companies like X”
  • WHY: One is about extraction, the better one is about learning & building a relationship.
Example 2:
  • BAD: “Purchase my discounted product today!”
  • GOOD: “Help me understand who would want my product, why, and how to reach them.”
  • WHY: Same as above!

Example 3:

  • BAD: “I need help with my business model.”
  • GOOD: “I am debating between 3 models: subscription service, a direct sale, or selling through retailers. I’d love to hear your feedback on how to make this decision, especially if you have deep experience in any of these models.”
  • WHY: The first was so generic that people don’t realize they can help, or won’t feel special in helping.  The second one lets people with the right knowledge know they can make an impact on you.  It also shows that you have done work to figure out your options and are ready for guidance vs mentors do your homework for you.

Hat Tip: This content expands on the work I did while at the amazing

KISS Canvas vs Business Model Canvas

About five years ago I switched to using Alex Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas (BMC) as a go-to tool for helping startups. It was superior to anything I had tried before. However, after watching hundreds of students use the BMC (and some alternative canvases), I noticed some consistent friction points:

  • The BMC doesn’t read from left to right (or right to left!), making it hard to tell a story and for newbies to get used to using it.
  • The revenue model section doesn’t capture the value one gets from every customer segment. Its location makes it awkward to cover multiple customer segments’ values.
  • Color coding is required to map components to different customer segments, making the canvas get a bit visually overwhelming.
  • Lots of space was allocated to components that I don’t find as important as others for concept through seed-stage companies.

So, I took a stab at creating a new canvas, one that reflects the way I like to teach and focusing on the elements I have found are the most important for a startup to master. I call it the Keep It Super Simple (KISS) Canvas. It looks like this…

KISS Canvas-Easy2Read Here is a 2-minute video walking you through it.

The main advantages of the KISS canvas for me…

  • It tells a story in the way entrepreneurs should pitch, with the most important elements first. Start with the customer because the understanding of the customer is the foundation of your business. Then explain your value prop, move on to how you’ll Get/Keep/&Grow those customer relationships, and finally cover the financials.
  • The last column lets you explicitly list what value you derive from each customer segment. Sometimes it is money, but many times it is something else, and one needs to know and focus on that!
  • No color coding required. In the upper two thirds, simply add a row for each customer segment like so…Screenshot 2018-01-22 at 7.02.37 PM - Display 1

I welcome your input on the design. You can download two versions here:

Check out more KISS Canvas Content.

Accepting Applications for Nonprofit Accelerator

I am happy to announce that Lean Innovation Institute (full disclosure: I am the founder :)) is launching a pilot accelerator for mature nonprofits in March.

The Nonprofit Accelerator trains leaders of mature nonprofits to discover, assess, and deploy internal innovations that create new sources of unrestricted revenue while furthering their mission.

There are currently only two slots left in this cohort. If you know of a nonprofit with forward-thinking leadership seeking to increase their financial independence, further their mission, and retain their best talent, then please direct them here.