It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It (OK, it’s what you say, too)

We know from investing in myriad companies how much time entrepreneurs put into their pitches. And no wonder—if you can quickly convince us that you’ve got a disruptive, protectable idea, a large, addressable market, a brilliant team and a sound go-to-market strategy, you’re all but guaranteed to secure much-needed funding. But your delivery matters too. Pitches that really grab us come from entrepreneurs who project excitement, passion, business savvy and confidence. This can be a tall order when you consider that fear of public speaking is the most commonly reported anxiety. So we asked Greg Williams, the Master Negotiator and Body Language Expert, to give us his best tips for nailing your delivery. (You can watch the master in action on Fox News. He’s also appeared on ABC, MSNBC and Extra.)

VentureClash: Thanks for talking with us, Greg. When it comes to pitching, entrepreneurs are typically told to focus on delivering a narrative that covers things like market traction, scalability and their team’s experience. But does how they present the material play a role as well?

Greg Williams: The way entrepreneurs present their material definitely impacts the message they deliver. Investors want to know whether they’ll receive a return for their efforts. During a pitch, the nonverbal signals the entrepreneur emits add or detract from his or her perceived ability to deliver on the investor’s expectations. Thus, if the entrepreneur appears unsure when answering questions, displays gestures of nervousness, etc., the chance of being green-lighted for an investment diminishes.

VC: What should entrepreneurs do to appear more confident and approachable on stage?

GW: Enter the environment with your head held up, and smile as you confidently glide to the point of your destination. Both gestures will convey a sense of self-assuredness and confidence, which will enhance the perception that you’re someone in control of himself or herself.

Have talking points and rebuttals prepared that highlight the benefits of working with you. This will allow you to control the flow of information and, to a degree, the topic being discussed. One way to do this is to answer questions with questions. For example, if the question is, What backup plans do you have if the economy has a downturn?, you can answer, What contingency plans would you like to know about in particular? This will allow you to focus on the answer that is being sought and gather additional insight into what the other person is seeking from your response.

Also, be prepared to introduce a hidden fact/insight/thought into the conversation. This will display your degree of insightfulness. It will also subliminally suggest that you know how to gather information and use it to benefit a position.

VC: Does practice make perfect, or will practiced movements come across as stilted?

GW: Movement should always have a purpose associated with it. Unnecessary movement may be perceived as nervousness. To enhance your gestures, align them with your message. For example, when talking about high returns, your hand(s) should move up. If you’re talking about combating a challenge or problem, you could push your hands away from your body to signal that you will not allow the situation to go unchecked and/or be allowed to exist in the environment. When practicing for a presentation, envision the audience before you. Observe the gestures you make, when you make them and why you make them. If they don’t add value to your message, discard them.

VC: Any advice for people who are terrified of pitching?

GW: If someone is terrified, they need to first figure out what they fear the most. Then, they need to ask, What will happen if this occurs? Will I die? If I screw this up, will I not get the investment I’m seeking? The point is, if the outcome you seek is worth the effort, you must be willing to put forth the effort to achieve the outcome. You can engage in deep-breathing exercises, meditation, etc., and that does work, but in the end, the driving source/force has to be the motivation to achieve your outcome. If it’s not, maybe what you seek is not really what you want.

Ready to wow us with your presentation skills? Apply to VentureClash today.