In the comedic movie, “My Cousin Vinnie,” which shows to some extent what trial lawyers do, one of the better scenes is the stuttering pro bono attorney, representing one of the co-defendants. Delivering clumsily, he begins to stutter incessantly. Immediately thereafter, the defendant changes counsel. When an attorney addresses the Court, impressions do matter. In many cases, there is a time limitation in which to make that key argument. And courtroom arguments are a marketing problem: one has to organize and present facts and deliver to an audience your story over the opposing counsel’s case. I use this as an analogy to delivering to a potential investor a pitchdeck and apply the stuttering attorney analogy as to why I found some pitches or pitchdecks to be wanting.
Too lengthy. Judges hear arguments every day and lose patience with complex, unclear, poorly presented arguments for an introduction. Like judges, VCs receive so many business proposals that they need to be informed through a pitch the basic facts. In this case, too much information can be harmful. I once had a colleague, whose experience was commercial banking, felt that the fatter the business plan, the better it was. Wrong. I realized that a potential investor needed to stuff his briefcase with a plan and possibly read it in his train ride home. And it had to be short enough for him to read but with enough details to relate the total story. If one has to be wordy, that should be reserved to the business plan.
Too busy. Pitches do need images that support current traction or visualize the concept. At a biotech competition, I remembered one pitchdeck with the first slide showing a beer for genetically modified yeast. It was memorable and to the point. When I met a co-founder casually, I remarked that I remembered his pitch with the beer. So Powerpoint software allows now the flexibility to phase in pages with images or bullet points. One can include videos. They must be implemented moderately as they can become distracting as well. Videos take too much time. Yet, I have seen so many images on so many slides that they fail to underscore the basic message. Imagine having many slides consistently over the wall with images. But a simple one and to the point, like a beer glass, can stand out.
And images should play a truthful role. And I have seen company logos of a major company, like Fedex, that when I asked, whether Fedex was the company’s client, the CEO admitted it was not.
Too little information. Or key Information left out. During one pitch, the CEO ended with slide 22. My next comment was, all interesting but where are the financials? A basic ingredient for the pitchdeck was not shown: How much is needed? What financing has been done so far? Current traction or sales? In my earlier blogs, I address the key information needed by investors. And the Internet has many examples of what should be included in a pitch. And will revealing a financial projection need a NDA? Investors don’t sign NDAs. If they had to execute a NDA for every pitchdeck they received, their legal bills will match their operating costs. Even I find that executing a NDA for every pitch to be very inconvenient. One has to read, then execute the NDA. That takes longer than going through the pitch. And one can be coy with a pitchdeck by only revealing why they should invest in this company. The due diligence process is where details are revealed. The confidentiality can be covered within a term sheet.
And just like the stuttering attorney, one can easily fail. So it pays to do it right the first time.