Few of us actually enjoy public speaking but for introverts, it can be devastatingly painful. But just because you’re not naturally outgoing doesn’t mean you don’t have a great story to share
As a VC investing in the enterprise-software space — and technology in general – I have noticed this area tends to attract a high level of introverts. And while many of these individuals are absolutely brilliant and have no problem diving into the details of their product, they struggle in delivering a compelling presentation.
For those who are on the shy side, here are a few presentation pointers geared towards introverts.
1. Prepare. Of course people are going to prepare before they present. My point is that for introverts, preparation can be even more important than for extroverts. Only a high level of preparation will allow your presentation to become second nature. This means understanding absolutely everything on every slide. Better to understand every last number — market size, financials and sales data — so if someone wants to go deeper, you can do that without hesitation or clammy palms. The best way to do this is be intimately involved with putting the presentation together (instead of being spoon-fed the info by the marketing department).
Also, use what you’ve learned when pitching customers. You’ve likely encountered questions similar to what investors will ask. Those questions might be more related to product, market and usage than the business, but I think the point stands that those experiences can be very helpful.
2. Practice. We have all heard the old adage, practice makes perfect. For introverts, it not only helps create a flawless presentation but also builds up confidence.
Do as many practice runs as you need. Pitch people who aren’t familiar with your business or with investing. Your parents, friends, a stranger, even your kids are all fair game. You want to get down to the essence of what you do, and make it as simple as possible. Some you can give your elevator pitch, others the entire presentation. If they understand it, then your potential investors will, too.
Also, do some “warm up” pitches with VCs who aren’t in your target market but would be open to offering feedback. Ask your network to connect you with someone who’d be willing to do this. It’s the closest you’re going to get before you do the real thing, and it will feel just as real as if you were pitching to your target investor.
3. Condense. Keep it simple. A good rule of thumb is to keep your presentation to about 45 minutes. This way, you will leave room for a Q&A session at the end. This approach typically benefits introverts, because the presentation morphs into more of a conversation.
You can, of course, also elicit questions throughout the pitch. The only downside to that is if you’re really prepared to deliver your pitch in a certain way, questions in the middle can lead to derailment. When you’re practicing with other people, encourage them to ask questions whenever they like, so you get used to it.
I also recommend keeping the deck slides simple: They’re there to support your points, not to deliver your narrative. Use graphics, diagrams and bullet points on the slides, but keep your notes separate.
4. Focus. One way to do this is use your product in your pitch. This is a great way to feel less like you’re pitching and more that you’re showing off your product — the same as if you were doing a demonstration of its great features and benefits. When the focus is on the product, you’ll see that it drives a lot of business-oriented questions. Who’s using it? Who’s buying it?
Second, if you know you’ve got a weak spot bring in some help. For instance if your go-to-market is a weakness, bring along your head of sales and marketing who can talk to those points. Not only can these people speak in an area they are experts in (a tactic that can increase the value of the conversation) but potential investors also get to see your team
That said, I would caution to keep your presenting group down to one or two extra people.
I really think that introverts have nothing to worry about when it comes to doing presentations because, we’ve all been there, we get it. Everybody gets nervous to some extent when they have to speak in public. So I want to reiterate that with thorough preparation, practice and focus, you can go a long way to calming those nerves.