Getting Investor Attention: Seven Steps to a Verbal Pitch that Works

There’s a lot of great information available about investor presentations, pitch decks, and the fundraising process. But many entrepreneurs wonder: how do you get the right meetings in the first place? Below, I’ve shared some advice for presenting yourself and your company in a quick, impactful verbal pitch. It’s most targeted to a potential investor (since those are the pitches I hear most often), but with some tweaks it may be useful for other conversations, too, like customers, partners, or potential employees. If you’re here looking for advice on a more formal investor pitch, check this out instead.

Seven tips for a successful verbal pitch

  1. Keep it brief: aim for 30 seconds or less.
  2. Grab their attention: share your exciting vision in a succinct, compelling way that captures their attention and makes them want to learn more. Think of the one key thing you want your audience to remember, and make sure you say it clearly in your pitch.
  3. Be goal-oriented: there’s probably a reason you’re meeting this person. Are you trying to spread your company’s brand? Acquire new customers? Raise money? Keep your goal in mind while crafting your pitch.
  4. Maintain high energy: you may feel like a broken record, but remember everyone else is hearing this for the first time. Don’t be afraid to use the same great pitch over and over, just try to keep your energy high.
  5. Pay attention to your audience: do they understand your pitch, or are they confused and losing interest? What is most compelling to them? If it’s an investor, try to have an understanding of the areas where they invest, both stage (Seed / Series A / Series B / Growth / etc) and sector.
  6. Be authentic, courteous, and friendly: be yourself and speak an authentic message. Make sure you get your point across, but also be mindful of your surroundings. Are there other people waiting in line to meet the speaker? Keep it short and move along once you’ve made your ask and achieved your goal. Does it feel like you’re selling too hard? Yield the floor to someone else for a bit. Are there others lingering around to join your group? Say hello and make it easy for them to join you. Help to diffuse the “awkward factor” at networking events and other attendees will naturally feel more comfortable around you.
  7. Ask for what you want: whether it’s feedback on your deck over email, a 30-minute phone call, a follow-up meeting, or an introduction. You’re not going to get it if you don’t ask.

Verbal pitch outline

This outline is a pretty comprehensive business overview that I’ve shared with founders over the years. It’s too long for a quick interaction, so you’ll want to tailor your pitch to last about 30 seconds or less. The full outline may also be useful when you have more time to delve into your business. Depending on the stage of your startup, your audience, and your desired outcome, choose the sentence or two from each section (intro / evidence / closing) that make your business really shine. You don’t have to give a full overview of every team member, customer, and product feature — give just enough information to pique their interest and get them excited to learn more.

[Intro]

Hi, I’m… (name and role)

From…. (company)

We help (customers) with (problem)… (make a compelling, attention-grabbing claim as you briefly describe your company… who is your customer, and why do they need you?)

This is a big opportunity because… (give a quick, compelling reason why this is a big market)

[Evidence — back up your claim]

We’re better than existing solutions because… (who is your biggest competition and why will you win?)

So far we have…. (what have you accomplished? Traction / product? Killer team?)

Next, we’ll… (what is an exciting milestone coming up?)

[Closing — make your ask]

I know you’re looking for/experienced in… (show understanding of pitch target)

And I can help by… (is there something you can offer?)

Could I ask you for… (your contact information to follow up over email, 30 mins of time, feedback on my pitch, a connection to someone)

***

Write your pitch down, and practice it (out loud!) before your next event. Once you have gleaned sufficient feedback over time about what is and isn’t working, revise your pitch and practice to make it even stronger. Hopefully you feel more prepared for each conversation and are able to convert some of your new connections into lasting relationships.

PS. I was invited to lead a Project Entrepreneur session on this exact topic, which prompted me to get my thoughts on paper. It’s a great organization started by Rent the Runway that provides women access to the tools, training and networks needed to build scalable, economically impactful companies. Thanks, Rent the Runway and Project Entrepreneur for having me, and an extra big thanks to my co-hosts Joanne Yuan, Linnea Roberts, and Crissy Costa for leading that session with me!

Sara Thomas Deshpande

Written by

Consumer tech investor and startup supporter @mavenvc.