Financing Your Small Business

The Presenter

The third area to focus on is the actual presenter—his or her communica­tion skills and appearance. If you have not spoken in public quite a bit, seek out opportunities to speak and become comfortable with oral presentations. The quickest way to learn is—you guessed it—speak in public at every opportunity. Join Toastmasters. Attend lead share groups and networking events in your area where everyone makes a short presentation. Professional speaking coaches are everywhere, and in some of the larger cities there are coaches just for business presentations. The first skill is learning to be com­fortable with public speaking, and the next is learning to present your mate­rials in a compelling and persuasive manner. Like learning to sing or playing a musical instrument, the well-known secret is practice, practice, practice. Always rehearse your presentation with your colleagues and include a prac­tice question and answer session.


Design and Presentation: How a presentation looks can be as important as what you say in it. Consider hiring a graphic design firm or branding firm to help put the look of your presentation together. Some of the tips they give include the following.

• Avoid putting video clips in a short presentation or embedding them in PowerPoint. A video, no matter how short, tends to eat into valuable presen­tation time.

• Keep a color scheme that is easy on the eye and perfectly readable. Slides cluttered with cute graphic images distract from your message.

Your personal appearance for presentations seems obvious enough. If you are asking for capital, you need to make a professional appearance relative to the business to whom you are presenting. A coat and tie or a business dress or suit is always a safe bet.

However, there can be some variation to this rule. If you are a country and western entertainer or your business is branded around a particular image, then you may wish to dress a little different. Murray Burk and Mary Spata operate a family-run business located in the village of Post Mills, Vermont, making homemade-style marinara pasta sauces, ketchups, mus­tards, and condiments (Www. vermontfinest. com). Murray has developed the persona of Uncle Dave, a colorful Vermont farmer in a red plaid shirt and overalls. His products are branded with the character of Uncle Dave and he appears at events in full costume. In his case, the overalls are a powerful sales tool.


Ike Gadsden, Managing Director of Diamond State Ventures (Www. dsventures. net), a Delaware technology cultivator, gives the following advice to presenters.

First things first. The primary objective of your Diamond State Ventures pres­entation is to get a meeting with a potential investor. This ten to twelve minute presentation is not a forum to defend your intellectual property position, prove your technology or science, or give a demonstration. For now, the audience will give you the benefit of the doubt on these issues. The objective of this presentation is to persuade the audience that your business opportu­nity is worthy of a more detailed look.

Your presentation should be clear, concise, and to the point. A one-page executive summary about your company (written by you) will be provided to the venture forum attendees. That is where most of your details should reside. Your presentation should cull out the most salient and profound points and emphasize those. Some suggested topics for slides include:

Introduction. What is your company name, what does your company do (high-level)? Provide a real-world setting/example the audience can relate to.

Market Need. What is the pain (cost) associated with this problem? How is the market solving the problem currently?

Company Overview. How do you solve the problem better than anyone else? What is your unique niche and value proposition?

Product/Service. What do you sell?

Competition. Who else is providing solutions to this problem? Where do you rank against/amongst them? (Don't say you have no competition. There is always competition.) How are you different/better?

Intellectual Property. What is your IP? Do you have proprietary processes? (Don't go into the nuts and bolts, but instead present that it exists and the basic premise surrounding it from a business value perspective.)

Sales and Marketing. What is your go-to-market strategy? How will you drive revenues? How will you reach your customers and convince them to buy?

Management team. Who is committed to your company and what is their relevant experience/expertise?

Financial Projections. Assuming you receive the funding you need, what do you anticipate revenues to be Year 1 through Year 5? If you asked for more money, could you scale faster and become profitable sooner?

Sources and Uses. How much money have you raised so far? How much money are you asking for now? How will you use the new funding?

Summary. Review the problem that your solution solves and the impor­tance of it in the marketplace. Review your unique value proposition. Emphasize the dedication of your team. Ask for the money.

An effective presentation:

• focuses on a single objective (get a meeting!);

• is clear, concise, to the point, and readable;

• does not include jargon, scientific terms, or acronyms;

• uses color and graphics appropriately; and,

• does not use hard-to-read graphics or small text.

An effective presenter:

• does not read the slides to the audience;

• is confident and enthusiastic about his or her business;

• establishes eye contact and speaks to the audience;

• respects the time allotted; and,

• brings plenty of business cards and aggressively networks the room.

Remember, the audience knows if you are less than prepared. The audience knows if you are less than convinced.7

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Speaker Tips

The best speaker tip is to be prepared for anything—things will go wrong with varying frequency. The following are some very practical things to consider.

• If possible, check out the room in which the presentation will take place in advance.

• Stand at the podium, if there is a podium, and visualize the audience and your ease and confidence in presenting to them.

• If there is not a podium, which is rare, you will not be able to rely on note cards. The PowerPoint outline may be your savior.

• Check out the sound system—it is rare for most presentations to have a professional sound person running the show. Will there be a micro­phone? Is it stationary or portable? Is there a lavaliere-type microphone available (the one pinned to your clothes)?

• In the event that the presentation is being filmed, find out the range of the camera and stay within its visual boundaries. Also, do not turn your back to the camera, if possible.

• Rehearse your presentation several times before the big day. Watch the clock and time your conclusion accordingly—nothing is more irritating to the sponsors and audience than a speaker intentionally squeezing more time from the presentation than allotted. Arrange for your colleagues to comment on the presentation and ask you some tough questions.

• If you are going to use PowerPoint, make certain that the updated ver­sion is installed on your laptop and double-check that a projector and screen are available. You may need to buy your own projector to be cer­tain one is always available.

• If you suffer from stage fright, you are not alone. However, that is a small consolation when you are expected to get up front and speak. The best way to overcome stage fright is to speak in public often. If you are distressed about this presentation, pick a person or two in the audience, make eye contact and give your presentation to that person or people, as if it were a conversation in your office or living room.

• Be careful about using humor—particularly the planned joke variety— in your presentation. Apart from the fact you are at a business presen­tation, humor, unless you are an after-dinner speaker or a comedian, can be tricky to deliver and a disaster if it does not work. If you are a natu­rally funny person, use your sense of irony and timing to charm your audience, let them see the natural humor in your personality.

The final and most important tip—enjoy yourself. The presentation is your time to shine for your company. You will feel a real high when you have nailed it, even if money does not flow the first time.


The use of PowerPoint can be a powerful presentation tool or a crutch that distracts the audience and derails your presentation. Aided by the ease of creation, data-driven presentations to the investor audience can be deadly.

When preparing your presentation, be cognizant of the way your slides look and the information they convey. In a ten - to twelve-minute presenta­tion you may want to restrict the number of slides to five-seven, using the slides as you would an outline for a speech, evoking the concept and then filling in verbally. In any event, avoid chart junk. As Professor Tufte stated in his seminal essay on PowerPoint:

At a minimum, a presentation format should do no harm. Yet the PowerPoint style routinely disrupts, dominates, and trivializes content. Thus PowerPoint presentations too often resemble a school play—very loud, very slow, and very simple.8

A guideline for presentations is no more than four bullet points per slide and never more than one line per bullet point. Reading the words from the slide has the same effect as reading a speech—you lose contact with the audience and your credibility fades.

Print your presentation and do not look at the screen incessantly. Also, it helps for you to hand out a copy of your slides at the presentation so the audience can review them at their leisure. Make certain all of your con­tact information is included somewhere in the presentation.

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