An investor meeting is a big deal, so it’s natural to feel nervous. Feeling nervous because you’re unprepared, however, is preventable. We may not be able to solve all your anxiety, but we can help you get ready.
There’s a date on your calendar and you can’t stop thinking about it. Maybe you’ve circled it with a highlighter or set your phone to alert you 60, 30, and 15 minutes before. You have a meeting with your first potential investor next week, and until it happens, not much else is on your mind.
To help you prepare, we’ve broken down what need to know and do into three easy-to-follow sections:
- Before the Meeting
- During the Meeting
- After the Meeting
Before the Meeting
Before your first investor meeting, here’s a checklist to make sure you use the time between now and then effectively:
1. Do Your Homework & Prepare —
You know the name of the investor you’re meeting with, but what else? Understanding a bit about their business background and the types of ventures they’ve previously invested in will accomplish two things: you’ll appear interested in more than just the funding, and it will be easier to craft your pitch around their specific interests.
Of course, the purpose of this meeting isn’t to talk exclusively about them, nor is the point to impress them with facts you’ve memorized. Both of you should be aware that the topic of this meeting is your business and how they can invest in it. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do some homework to make the opportunity relatable and appealing.
2. Review and Revise Your Pitch Deck—
If you are like so many other startup founders, your pitch deck might feel obligatory: a thing that investors expect to receive and review, but not necessarily a clear or compelling representation of your idea or business. For that reason, you may have cobbled something together that checked the most obvious boxes – a vision statement, revenue potential, and competitor analysis – without much thought about who all may eventually view it.
Before your first investor meeting, you need to take a close look at your pitch and make sure it speaks to, engages, and compels your upcoming audience. Again, one of the biggest benefits of pre-meeting research is the ability to tailor your pitch to the investor you’re meeting with. Know what may pique their interest and relate your pitch to their wants and needs. If you’re already on The Main Stage, updating your pitch in Story Vault™ is quick and easy.
3. Practice the Art of Answering Questions
While this may be your first meeting with an investor, it probably isn’t their first meeting with someone like you. While you might feel nervous, they probably don’t. Meetings like this are what they do. Because of that, investors know what to ask, where to dig a little deeper, and when someone knows what they’re talking about.
Good news: they ask a lot of the same questions in every meeting. We’ve compiled a list of the top questions venture capitalists ask, and you can review it here. In the meantime, here’s a tip: once you have an idea of the questions that apply to your business, type your answers out in a Word or Google doc. If you end up with a one or two-paragraph response to each question, find a way to extract the key points and nothing else. The art of answering questions confidently and competently is in learning how to do it concisely.
During the Meeting
With your prep work well underway, you may instinctively shift to feeling nervous about the actual meeting. After all, that part is still unknown. These three ideas should alleviate some of your day-of-meeting nerves.
1. The First Impression You Make Typically Sticks
This, of course, isn’t just true for VCs. We all do it. Knowing how our brains work, and remembering you have a limited amount of time in front of this investor, understand the importance of making a great first impression.
Arrive early, express appreciation for their time, and remain respectful of it by not extending the meeting past the anticipated duration.
“If you want to make a good first impression, smile at people. What does it cost to smile? Nothing. What does it cost not to smile? Everything, if not smiling prevents you from enchanting people.” – Guy Kawasaki, marketing specialist, author, and Silicon Valley venture capitalist
2. If You Don’t Know, Don’t Act Like You Do
For good or bad, there are things you don’t know – at least not yet. As much time and energy as you’ve spent developing your product or idea, it’s unrealistic (as well as unhelpful) to imagine you’ve thought of everything – especially when it comes to the questions investors may be most interested in.
While an investor meeting is your opportunity to highlight what you do know and have thought through, it’s never the right venue for faking your knowledge, debating the merits of multiple opinions, or agreeing to disagree. If you do, your meeting will end quickly and without a deal. Instead, thank them for their feedback and learn something from their experience.
3. Demo Your Product
While the most innovative pitch tools – like The Main Stage, where videos and rich content help bring your product or idea to life – help you secure that first investor meeting, nothing truly compares to putting a product in someone’s hands or allowing them to see it in action. Whether you’re in a coffee shop or a boardroom, be ready to demo your MVP or idea.
Understandably, the thought of this may bring with it some new apprehension, and that’s okay. Investors understand that a prototype isn’t a finished product. You will have already explained what advances – in design, materials, or technology – will be possible through the funding you’re seeking. Investors understand this. They want to see what you have and how it works.
After the Meeting
While you may feel a wave of relief after your first meeting with an investor, the work isn’t over. Here are three things to remember as soon as you’re back at your desk.
1. Follow Up With Your Investors Like a Pro
You already know a quick thank you email is standard, and that’s good. If nothing else, this kind of note solidifies the good impression you made previously. It reaffirms the investor’s belief about you: that you’re solid; that you have the makings of an effective leader; that your business is poised for success. But if your email is just to express gratitude, you’re probably doing it wrong.
Inevitably, there was a question in your meeting you hadn’t thought about or a concern you weren’t prepared for. Since you already knew not to fake it, you may have said something like “I’ll have to get back to you on that.” Perfect. Do that now. Thank them for their time, their interest, and follow up with an answer to the question they raised. This is what professionals do, and that’s who you are.
2. Keep Scheduling Meetings
If every startup could gain the funding it needed from a single meeting, everyone would be a founder. Instead, it takes multiple meetings over weeks, months, and even years. The key here is to be encouraged – not simply overwhelmed. The nervousness you felt with this initial meeting will soon be a thing of the past.
The only way to get there is to continue scheduling these meetings. Are there other important aspects to your job? Absolutely – and some of those may feel like much more natural fits than pitching and raising capital. Keep scheduling meetings anyway. This is a numbers game.
3. Remember: Investor Management is Relationship Management
The only difference between you and the investors you meet with is that they have more money in the bank than you. That’s it – and that may only be a temporary difference. Those roles may eventually change. Regardless of their financial ability to write a big check, investors have most of the same wants and needs as you. One of those is pretty basic: relationships.
Relationships are built on shared interests, expectations, and transparency. Healthy relationships have to be managed. If not, things will get sideways. The relationship won’t work for anyone involved. As a founder, you have a full plate of responsibilities and requirements. Make sure you have an easy and effective way of maintaining and cultivating your investor pipeline. At The Main Stage, our built-in CRM system allows you to send tailored communications and track investor activity. Turning prospects into shareholders has never been easier!
A Final Thought About Startup Funding Success
You may very well feel nervous in your first investor meeting. You’ll feel subsequently less anxious every time after that, though. While you can’t determine the outcome of the meeting, there are other things you can control. We’ve just walked through nine of them together! With practice, intention, the right kind of confidence, and a little humility, this meeting will go well. You’ve got this!
Your startup needs to tell an engaging story, manage investor relationships, and close deals securely. We help with all three. Press the home button above to learn more or start your free 14-day trial. The future of fundraising is here – only at The Main Stage.
Aishlin Harrison is the co-founder of The Main Stage, as well as an artist, musician, and passionate entrepreneur. In addition to these roles, she serves as Creative Advisor for RedCrow™, Inc., a direct investment and marketing platform for healthcare companies. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.