Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
What’s your No. 1 tip for coming across as more trustworthy during a startup pitch?
1. Be Aware of Your Body Language
Your body language says a lot without you saying anything. Be sure to maintain eye contact, face your body toward your audience, and if it’s natural for you, express your passion through your hands. Don’t cross your arms and legs, as it makes you seem uncomfortable and could come off as though you’re hiding something.
2. Acknowledge the Risks
The best entrepreneurs don’t pretend their startup doesn’t have any risk. Instead, they manage risk better than everyone else. When you articulate your biggest risks and your plan for mitigating them, you demonstrate you’re a critical thinker who will manage their cash and the opportunity in a disciplined way.
3. Listen and Don’t Interrupt
Listening is a great way to earn their trust. By listening, we demonstrate a willingness to receive and learn from feedback. Also, don’t interrupt. This shows respect for the other person and their ideas. Investors hear plenty of pitches from hyperbolic founders who interrupt them or always have an answer for every question. Be humble.
4. Don’t Fake It
If you want to build trustworthiness, stop pretending you have all the answers. Acknowledge what you don’t know, and be honest about the fear you have as you embark on this journey. Being honest goes a long way to extending trust. It doesn’t mean that you’ll win every time, but when you do, you’ll be in alignment with your investor.
5. Show Solid Data
Demonstrate that your research and ideas are based on strong foundation of solid data. Make sure your info is recent, from reliable sources and compatible. Avoid vague statements and numbers. Be precise when you can and use supporting evidence. If your proclamations and numbers seem dodgy, so will you. If you come across as well prepared and researched, it will add to your credibility.
6. Bring Someone Experienced Along
Whether it’s someone close to you who’s willing to help you through this stage, or someone you’ve paid for their consulting services, a veteran always looks good on your side of the table. Bringing experience into the leadership early is reliable proof to investors that you are taking this venture seriously.
Any nervous tics you have will come out during a startup pitch if you don’t relax. Many of these tics, like failing to make eye contact, sweating, talking too much or too fast, or not talking enough, are often interpreted as a lack of trustworthiness. People respond much better to relaxed people than to someone who’s wound up, so find a technique you like and practice it as much as you can.
8. Don’t Come Across as Too Eager or Desperate
While you naturally want to be enthusiastic and persuasive, don’t be too attached to the outcome of any one meeting with a potential investor. Think of it as a conversation where you’re explaining your idea. If the other person is interested, great; if not, you can always approach others who are more suitable. If you are too eager, the other person can sense this and trust you less.
9. Stay Levelheaded
It’s very important to remember that when you’re pitching your idea, you’ll always be the most passionate person in the room. If you’re already fired up, take a step back and slow it down a little. Most people making the decisions will remain very levelheaded, so you want to passionately convey your idea without overkill, or you’ll scare them off. Make them believe in your idea.
10. Share a Compelling Story
Whether that means admitting something you’ve been wrong about or sharing a story from your past, investors are people, and they invest in people. Share a compelling story of how and why your idea came to be and why you are the best team for the opportunity. It helps to admit what you need to validate or learn to get to the big win.
11. Make Them Part of the Equation
Investors and venture capitalists don’t want to be treated solely as a source of funding. They want to know that they can be a part of your vision too! When pitching, make the story about them. Involve them in the outcome and success of your company and show that they can be an integral part of your dream in the future. They will be able to see much more value in this kind of opportunity.
12. Be Overprepared
The best way to garner confidence and trust in your startup is to anticipate and prepare for any curveballs ahead of time. To do this, you need to poke holes in your own business plan and understand all the risks associated with your startup ahead of time. Then you need to figure out how to either accept or mitigate each one of those risks and back them up with solid numbers and market research.