On the funding trail, while your pitch deck is what the investors use to make their decision, it doesn’t hurt to ensure that your mental and physical appearance help seal the deal. You want investors to know that you are the real deal. After all, aside from your business idea and pitch itself, you are the star of your own startup show.
Here’s some advice on making that first impression the best possible.
Professional Meeting Means Professional Clothing
You may personify the typical tech startup entrepreneur, clad in flip-flops and board shorts. You might have an affinity for turtlenecks like Steve Jobs. Whatever “type” you exemplify, you want to consider a different look for the investor pitch meeting. You are asking for significant amounts of money, so this is not the time to look like you really do live in your parents’ basement.
Look Good, and Feel Comfortable Doing It
Instead, since an investor pitch is very much like any other business meeting, go for business attire. For men and women, that means a suit. I remember spending a lot of time trying on different jackets and ties to get just the right color combination. If your choice doesn’t fit comfortably, take it to a tailor.
It may seem like a small or unnecessary step, but it really does pay to take the suit to a tailor and get it fitted properly. Some places will even include this service if you buy your suit there. Rather than looking like a little kid trying on my dad’s clothing, the final product looks like it was made for me, and shows investors I took the time to even take care of the details. This attention to detail speaks to my ability to handle other seemingly small things in the startup environment as well.
Don’t feel like you have to buy the most expensive outfit either. You don’t want investors to wonder why you are there asking for money if they can tell you just picked out something from Barney’s or Gucci. Keep accessories to a minimum and opt for traditional dress shoes.
Pick Out a Nice Trim
Also pay attention to other grooming details, such as trimmed nails and hairstyle. Get a cut and style prior to the meeting to ensure that you highlight your personal concern for a clean, neat appearance. I am not ashamed to say that I’ve gotten a manicure and professional shave prior to one of these meetings.
Dress For the Cultural Climate
An interesting observation from my experience is that West Coast investors are more casual in their attire than East Coast or international investors. While you might be able to get away with a less formal outfit, I’d still leave the surf wear at home. Save the hoodie and jeans for after the IPO.
Mental Appearance Shines Through Etiquette
Good manners still count in today’s business environment. How you interact with your investors will show them what it will be like to work together on your startup. Your aim is to work with these investors in the near future, so your demeanor must also reflect a heavy dose of professionalism.
Keep Your Mind on the Prize
To stay focused and bolster my confidence when delivering my investor pitch, I practiced my pitch over and over until I have it memorized. I eat, drink, and sleep the pitch. This ensures that my mental appearance looks as sharp as my tailored suit.
Be Confident, Courteous and Not a Jerk
Use a friendly, yet formal greeting that includes a firm handshake and eye contact. Turn your phone off before you enter the pitch so those Candy Crush game alerts or silly ring tones don’t distract.
During the meeting, be respectful and attentive to your audience so you can promptly acknowledge them when they have questions. When they do ask questions, actively listen; it’s better than interrupting because you assume that you know what they are going to ask.
Win Them Over, But Spare the Theatrics
You feel passionate about your business idea, but you might also feel that your audience’s enthusiasm isn’t sufficiently high enough. Be sure to harness your enthusiasm, but release it in such a way that is not disrespectful to your audience. That means no shouting and keeping your arm waving to a minimum, because neither will help you to convince investors.
Be Polished and Poised
I was still a bit nervous going into my first investor pitch meetings, but I focused on what I wanted from them, and reminded myself that these investors were the key to my future. Polishing my physical and mental appearance made all the difference between making a successful presentation and becoming a statistic. Doing so made me confident, and that confidence helped me get all the funding I needed.