How to Connect with and Make a Great First Impression on Investors

Pitching investors is a performance—you have an audience you need to make a good impression on, you’re presenting a certain vision and version of yourself, and you’re following some type of script. Labs mentor Gustavo Ceccarelli, an actor and singer in Brazil, hosted a session at the Labs Habitat location in Sao Paulo about the art of making a positive first impression when you’re presenting. Here are his top tips.

Tip 1: Know your content—don’t memorize it

There’s a difference between knowing your presentation inside and out and having the words on your slides memorized. “Rule number one in presentation: You have to know your content,” Ceccarelli says. “Do not memorize it. Know it. Because sometimes you’re going to have technical problems. If things break or don’t work, it’s just you up there.” (Learn more about what should go in each slide of your investor deck here.)

Tip 2: Make eye contact with everyone in the room

Even if your potential investor brings a group of assistants or junior-level colleagues with them to the pitch, you can’t just focus on that one investor. “You have to look at all of the people in front of you. No one is more important than anyone else in the room,” Ceccarelli says. “You might have the boss but the boss brought five assistants,” and it could be the case that the boss asks for their impressions and thoughts about potential investments. “You have to connect with everybody in the room.”

Tip 3: Decide what to do with your hands before you start presenting

If you want to avoid fumbling with your hands, awkwardly sticking them into your pockets, or crossing your arms, make a decision before you start about what you’ll do with your hands. Something like holding the clicker for your presentation feels natural to many people, Ceccarelli says. You could also find key points in your presentation and use your hands for additional emphasis—just make sure you practice before you’re in front of investors.

Tip 4: Be yourself

It’s true that you want to be the best possible version of yourself in front of investors, but that still involves being yourself. You’ve probably watched videos of great presenters to get some tips and tricks from them, but it’s important that you don’t try to copy their styles too closely. “You cannot reproduce what they’re doing 100 percent,” Ceccarelli says. “It’s unnatural. Get the stuff that you think is important and try to adapt it to your speech. You have to bring some stuff of your own.”

Tip 5: Take a few breaths before answering questions if you’re feeling flustered

“You don’t have to have the answer right away,” Ceccarelli says. “We’re used to feeling like we have to respond in five nanoseconds, otherwise we’re going to lose the opportunity. That’s not true.” Rushing to give an answer you haven’t fully thought out can actually lead to more problems. “Overselling is a major complication. When people are afraid of losing deals, they sometimes make promises or say things that they’re not able to do,” Ceccarelli says. “You have to be honest with your work and if you don’t have the answer say you’re going to look for it. Breathe and answer with assertiveness. Otherwise you’ll be giving answers and you won’t even realize what you said.”

Tip 6: Socialize more

The more time you spend meeting and speaking with new people, the more comfortable you’ll be in new social situations, like pitching investors you haven’t met face-to-face before. “Have experiences, socialize, talk to all kinds of people,” Ceccarelli says. “You’ll use all of your experiences. Say hi, good evening, how are you, to the people around you. Plus, you never know if you’re sharing a coffee machine with someone who could cut a deal with you.”

Want more advice on how to give a great pitch? Read this article on how to pitch with confidence.

This post is based on content from a WeWork Labs programming session.

Interested in connecting directly with this mentor? Ask your Labs Manager for help.

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