As I’ve written elsewhere, a presentation should be a means of getting to a conversation, usually with investors, but it could be with prospective partners, job candidates or attendees at an event. Too many founders tend to treat the presentation as an end in of itself. Sales calls need to be a conversation, not just a presentation. A dialog, not a monolog. Because while you are busy presenting your audience’s mind may wander, they may get bored, impatient or even irritated. Even if none of those emotions transpire they may feel frustrated as they want to respond, but etiquette usually prevents most people from interrupting. The one exception I’ve found is VCs. Much to their credit they have no hesitation about interrupting your pitch to ask questions. And that’s exactly what you want, so don’t be thrown and don’t attempt to herd the VC back into your presentation. Take advantage of their interest and answer on the spot. In fact I’d advise anyone pitching a VC or group of VCs, to start their presentation by stating that you would welcome questions at any time. This is where another trick used by experienced pitchers comes into play. Have a set of slides that go into detail about the salient points in your presentation and where you think VCs will probe. Your data about the size of the market is one obvious point. So instead of packing your market opportunity slide with an eye-glazing blizzard of facts and figures, keep the presentation slide simple and have backup slides readily available. So when you get that interruption: “Ok, so it’s a big market, we get that, but what’s its growth rate?” you can say, “Glad you asked, let’s take a look at this historic chart of sales of VR equipment over the past 5 years.”
I teach my mentees to use examples and to be specific. That’s why I was happy to come across a great example of turning a presentation into a conversation in an article that the intersection of two of my major interests: sports and real estate. Leave it to the New York Times, which has a real estate sweet tooth to come up with that article: Inside the Hamptons House Where Kevin Durant Hosted N.B.A. Suitors in 2016, and the title on the continuing page in the print edition of The Times, An East Hampton Estate Became the Site of a Significant Courtship by By Malika Andrews and Marc Stein. Just in case you aren’t a Times reader or an East Coast millionaire, The Hampton are the playground of the rich and famous. As a free agent, Kevin Durant, an all-start 7 footer, needed a place to meet one of his six suitors: the Golden State Warriors, the San Antonio Spurs, the Miami Heat, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Boston Celtics — who would have Tom Brady in tow. Here’s the money shot of the article. Make no mistake, these six teams were there to sell themselves to Mr. Durant.
The front door of the current home opens into a spacious living room with tan couches on the left and a large, round, black table with six chairs on the right — suitable for meetings with N.B.A. teams. It was in this room that the elaborate virtual reality presentation that the Warriors prepared for Durant, to give him a glimpse of what life at Oracle Arena would be like, malfunctioned. To their relief, Warriors officials later learned that Durant was happy to take advantage of the extra time to chat with his future Hamptons 5 colleagues and hear more from them directly about how they thought the partnership would play out.
It was the Warriors who won Durant over. But who knows, if their VR presentation had worked it might have prevented him from talking with his future team mates and hearing what he wanted to know about joining their team.
So consider cutting right to the chase – skip the fancy VR presentation and spend your time working out how you will jumpstart the conversation with your prospective customer and how you will help guide it to cover the points you want to make. Some times technology works best by not working at all!