The art of ignoring feedback

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By Anil Dilawri

I see a lot of presentations every week. Many of these presentations are investor pitches from small technology companies. Most of these investor pitches are bad … really, really bad. They’re poorly prepared, not well structured, confusing and riddled with jargon.

Following these investor pitches the entrepreneur presenters often say, “It was a good experience, we got some really good feedback on how to improve our pitch.”

There are two main problems with this statement:

1. The pitch was not a practice session, it was THE pitch! The goal of the pitch was to convince the investor of your company/product/idea, not to get feedback on how to improve. The pitch is not a dress rehearsal.

2. If they are not interested in investing in you then why is their feedback valuable to you? Are they honestly interested in you doing better next time, in front of other investor audiences?

Investors are funny creatures. They are kind of like used cars – no two are exactly the same. If you put 10 investors in the same room and asked for their feedback on your investor pitch you are likely to get between eight and 10 different opinions.

So how is an entrepreneur supposed to succeed in a typical investor pitch scenario? Here are three points to consider:

1. Be yourself: You’re not Tony Robbins so let’s not pretend you can present like him. Be passionate, be clear, be concise, be prepared, but most importantly, be you. Those potential investors will appreciate it.

2. Tell stories: Audiences (even investors) love stories. Tell a story about your biggest customer, your smallest (but soon to be big) customer, your partners, your team, or yourself. By stories I also mean examples or anecdotes. Stories bring your concepts to reality. Every investor pitch should have at least one story.

3. Be selective when listening to feedback: Every investor has a different comfort level, different level of experience, different biases, and different amounts of available capital. Trying to implement every potential investor’s advice and feedback is very difficult mainly because it is impossible. You are not going to please and impress and convince and entice every single potential investor. So stop trying to do so.

I recently talked to an entrepreneur who was frustrated because one investor told him to include more competitive analysis in his presentation and another investor told him to include a more high-level competitive analysis. Too many entrepreneurs try to impress everyone by picking the middle ground. I suggest only listening to the potential investors who: 1. Are most likely to invest in your company; 2. Have a history of investing in companies like yours; and 3. Like you and are interested in following up with you. Politely ignore the rest of the feedback.

Investor pitches are tough. Don’t make them tougher by trying to be everything to everyone. Step one is to master the art of ignoring feedback that comes from investors who will never invest in your company.

Anil Dilawri is managing director of Save it like Sully, an executive presentation coaching and training company.

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