I started my career in Texas Instruments (TI) and it was a great company to learn from. In fact many of us jokingly used to call TI, a Training Institute (TI). For me I learned two very important things which helped me in my entrepreneurial journey. First was that there is no problem that could not be solved. As an engineer, I had the opportunity and was given the leeway to solve problems in any possible way and I gained confidence that there was nothing that could not be solved. The second was how to make a good presentation. Because we had to make regular presentations to all levels of management in the company, we had to polish up on presentation skills. Many a career was made or broken because of presentation skills. You see, you do not always get an opportunity to present yourself to important people, so when you do have a chance, you must make an excellent first impression and end up with a strong impact to impress those you are presenting to. I must say I developed a knack and skill of making good presentations while at TI.
When I started my first company, I faced tremendous difficulties raising funds in Singapore and found the opportunity to pitch my project to Taiwanese investors. When I went over to Taiwan I had a room full of potential investors, around 50 of them. The presentation was one of the most important milestones of my entrepreneurship journey and as I recall, I did not even name my team members because I wanted to maintain confidentiality for them as they were all still working for their companies (in my presentation, I called them Mr A, Mr B, etc). I knew it was my last chance to find the money at the time, I needed it – it was a like a life and death situation for me. So I applied all my presentation skills I learned from TI to give the pitch of my life. I made just one presentation and the outcome was that I had offers of more money than I needed and even had to turn away some of them. We raised more than US$100m from Taiwan alone!!!
So I would urge entrepreneurs to brush up on your presentation skills and learn to make good pitches. Sometimes you just have one shot at it for a particular investor, so you have to put your best foot forward and do a good job. The good news is that there are many ways you can develop the skill of making good presentations and develop good communications skills. Do not underestimate this. In fact these skills will be important not just to attract investors; the skills will be useful to attract all stakeholders – your potential team members, customers, and other partners. So better work on it before you start meeting others.
There are 2 important components in making a good pitch –
a. First is the content of your presentation and
b. Second the way you deliver it (including your interpersonal skills).
I would say that the content part is slightly easier as you will have the knowledge advantage of what you are going to present, so if you are passionate about what you are doing you can easily impress the listeners. The challenge is how you put together a presentation, which communicates the message concisely and clearly. The placement of your content matters in helping your listeners understand what you are all about better. You can easily get help from experts on this but really it is going to depend on you to be able to present the ideas pictorially or in writing. Presenting is like story telling, we need to get our listeners involved in the story. There has to be a flow from the beginning to the end that has to explain clearly the vision you have.
It is important that you do not assume the listeners have the same technical knowledge that you do. They may not be from the same industry as you are, but have other expertise to help you open other doors. It would be best to simplify what you have, so that everybody would understand. Try to look for presentations online; there are some great TED presenters (http://www.TED.com) who make it seem easy to understand, by the way they put the presentation together. They understand how to deliver and tell their story, with the right punches at the right times. Study how great presenters give their speeches, how they capture the audience’s focus and how they tell their story, such that people jump out of their seat to give them money. Take the good bits and habits from those presentations and tailor make them into yours.
The delivery of your presentation is very important, figure out how to relate your story in the best way possible and then REHEARSE, REHEARSE, REHEARSE to get it just right.