A version of this article previously appeared on Inc.
dilution, as there is zero chance a reasonable investor will give you money. Investors are overrated. Who needs them?
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As noted in Serious Presentation Tips From Standup Comics, anyone can give a really good presentation with adequate practice and focus. Fortunately, it requires relatively little effort to give a really lousy presentation.
Open With An Offensive, Off-color Joke
The great thing about beginning your pitch in an awkward manner is that you can alienate the majority of your audience quickly, making the fact that you are unprepared (as outlined in next suggestion) much less relevant.
In addition to being blatantly offensive, avoid establishing the proper context of your pitch at the outset. The less foreshadowing you provide your audience upfront, the more confused and disengaged they will become. The best way to botch the First Impression Rule is to speak in a nearly inaudible, flat, monotone voice accompanied by distracting and random facial expressions and hand gestures.
Wing It With Irrelevant Sonic Fillers
Would you study for a test, train for a marathon or memorize your lines for a play? Of course not. Such preparation would be a waste of time. You are an entrepreneur – go for it. If you need to fill any uncomfortable pauses, just utter brilliant sonic fillers, such as: “you know,” “like,” “ah,” “let me be clear,” “as I was saying,” or the classic standby “ummm.” “Um” is especially versatile, as you can sustain it for as long as you need to conjure your next rambling thought.
Obscure How You Will Make Money
Throughout your presentation, emphasize fluff over substance. Liberally utilize video, graphics and other eye candy that distracts from your pitch and is irrelevant to your overall venture’s value proposition. If you are forced to display financial data, ensure that the slides are unintelligible. To further obscure how you will earn a return on the investors’ money, verbally stumble through the description of your financial forecast and make it clear that you only have a cursory understanding of the assumptions underlying your business model.
To further weaken your credibility, speak in the future tense as frequently as possible (e.g., we hope to eventually complete our development, once we begin shipping product, etc.). The extensive use of the future tense will make your venture seem less real and more intangible. The more generic and jargon-laden your remarks, the greater the likelihood you will be perceived as an insubstantial dolt.
Do Not Put Yourself in Your Audience’s Shoes
OK, you know that most professional investors listen to hundreds of pitches each year. So what? In order to deliver a particularly terrible fundraising presentation, disregard the fact that your audience is sophisticated and somewhat jaded. Make it clear you do not know their investment focus (e.g., early-stage, late-stage, market-sector focuses, etc.) nor did you take the time to research the investor's investment portfolios.
One way to unequivocally convey your disregard of your audience’s frame-of-reference is to tell them things you are certain to already know. For instance, emphasize basic market issues that are familiar to even the most casual observer of your venture’s space.
Another tactic that will effectively demonstrate your complete lack of self-awareness is to disrespect your audience’s time constraints. If one of your audience members tries to speed you along, consider this an overt challenge to your ability to give a decidedly poor presentation. Slow the cadence of your pitch to a crawl. Also, consider utilizing irrelevant tangents and frequent repetition to further lengthen the grueling duration of your remarks.
Death by PowerPoint
An effective method to incite Death By PowerPoint is to deploy an extraordinary number of slides. A minimum of 20 to 30 slides per minute is a reasonable rule of thumb. In addition to relying on an enormous slide deck, you can accentuate Death By PowerPoint in a number of ways:
- Hide behind a podium
- Avoid eye contact with your audience
- Turn your back to the audience and read each slide verbatim from the screen
- Limit the use of pictures or graphs on your slides
- Utilize extremely small fonts so you can maximize the amount of text per slide
- Select a complicated, distracting background that will compete with the slides' content
Nothing more effectively conveys the sentiment, “I do not respect you” than an apologetic announcement at the outset that you are unprepared. You can also interject apologies throughout your talk, including: your unintelligible slides, your disheveled appearance, starting the presentation late, running over your allotted time, etc. Such apologetic remarks will substantially erode your credibility.
You can also interject subtle, apologetic language into your pitch, such as: “sort of,” “pretty much,” “kind of,” etc. These qualifiers will denude the impact of your comments and reinforce your lack of self-confidence.
Q&A can often make the difference between a mediocre and a compellingly bad presentation. This is an opportunity for you to shine. Irrespective of a question’s validity, approach each with an overt air of disdain. Never admit that you do not know something. If you are unsure of a factual response, make up a fictitious one.
In addition to playing loose with the facts, be defensive and argumentative if a question is too pointed. If the questioner persists with a follow-up question, provide a rambling, semi-coherent response. If you speak long enough, you can be assured that you will squelch any additional questions.
Except as noted below, avoid preparing for Q&A. Do not anticipate questions or think through your responses in advance. You are winging it, remember? This includes Q&A.
Do Not Follow Up
Once the presentation is over, forget about it. If a potential investor asks a question that requires additional research, blow it off. In addition, do not bother tracking down the investors to solicit their feedback after the pitch. If they really want to invest, they will seek you out. You are far too busy for such Tomfoolery.
Cocktail Hour Infamy
With a bit of effort, your investor pitches will cause your audience to walk away with no empathy for you, a vague, disinterested understanding of your venture’s value proposition and absolutely no desire to fork over their dough.
If you are diligent, the prospective investors will remember your pitch for years and will liven up many a cocktail party with anecdotes from your talk. Differentiation is a good thing, so relish the notoriety that these tips will help you achieve and rest assured that you will never be saddled with troublesome investors.
Follow my startup-oriented Twitter feed here: @johngreathouse. I promise I will never tweet about koala bears or that killer burrito I just ate.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)