Body Language And The Investor’s Brain

When people ask me what they can do to keep from looking like a liar, I always say “Tell the truth.”  When pitching, investors don’t know what to look for to make sure you’re being honest.  It’s a gut feeling they get that tells them not to trust you.

It doesn’t mean you’re lying because they see body language signals that show you’re uncomfortable.  It simply means you’re uncomfortable.  That’s all.

They may not even know what they’re looking at.  But when their brains begin trying to decode what those odd movements and sounds you’re making mean, it puts their limbic systems into a low alert that tells them “Hey, pay attention to this… I don’t what it is… but something isn’t right here”.

What are these movements and sounds you might be making?  There are quite a few actually.

You may be swallowing… at the wrong time.  Typically, a person being dishonest will swallow hard after they make the dishonest statement.  But the investors don’t know that.  They just see you swallowing too much.

Maybe you’re clearing your throat too much.  Some presentation coaches advise to clear your throat when you need extra time to think.  When pitching, you’re gonna want some time to think here and there.  Clearing your throat too much certainly isn’t considered normal behavior.

Everyone is on the lookout for the “Fast Talker.”  You could be a Saint and pitch the investors nothing but the truth… however, their brains are locked in limbic mode because you’re asking for their money.

You’re brain definitely won’t be in a relaxed cognitive mode.  It will be in limbic mode like the investors.  At an even higher alert level.  So if you don’t pay attention, you’ll begin talking fast and you’ll sound like a used car salesman.  Nobody trusts that guy.

Great doctors have great bedside manner.  They tell you things that are sometimes tough to hear.  However, they reassure you, pat you gently on the hand, show true interest in how you feel, and they care about keeping you healthy.

You must have something similar.  I call it “Screen-side Manner”.   You must look confident because you’re in charge.  You must reassure the investors their money will be just fine, and that it’s okay to believe in you.  The only way you can pull this one off, is to be you.  The relaxed, in charge, you.

If you are, they will see your honesty.  They will see you don’t back up a little as you begin talking about your financials.  They will see that small, partial smile on your face as you begin to talk about your status, timeline, and future earnings.  They won’t hear you clearing your throat or saying “uh”.  Because you won’t be.

They’ll ease back into a more relaxed cognitive mode with you.  They will be able to listen and “hear” what you’re saying.  They will want to like you because they will see your passion for what you’re pitching.  That is the key here.  By being yourself and being honest, the investors will see you as a good person, a great leader, a powerful CEO, and hopefully, if you’re pitch is as it should be, a solid financial investment.

How To Stop Worrying And Start Pitching

Ever wonder what to do in those first few seconds before your pitch starts?

STEP 1 Scott Rouse Body Language Expert and Speaker

You’re introduced and the next thing you know, you’re standing in front of investors.  Some are smiling. Others are writing things down or texting.

Who do you look at first?  Where do you look?  If you look at someone, how long do you look them in the eyes before it gets weird? How will you know if they’re interested?  Do you just start talking or wait until they all look up or what?  It’s an unsettling experience.

You see so many faces with so many different expressions.  And there are so many variations of body language going on.

Then it happens… Your Body Language Frankenstein starts yapping in your ear.  He says things like:

“Hey, look at that man’s eyebrows. He despises you.”

“Oh no, that woman with her head tilted to the side and smiling with just one side of her mouth, just said something bad about you.”

“Oh man, that investor you met earlier?  His arms are crossed and his chin is resting in his hand!  He thinks you’re an idiot and a bore.”

Your Body Language Frankenstein is wrong.  About all of that.  Believe me, everyone there wants to see you do well.  That’s why the room has been turned over to you.  So, take control.

Do this: When you reach the front of the room, thank the person who introduced you by name.  Stand up straight.  While smiling, scan the entire audience for two or three seconds, looking as many people in the eyes as possible.

Look to the middle of the room.  Smile a little bigger and act like you recognize a person you know, but are surprised to see there. (Don’t worry, the person you’re looking at will think you’re looking at someone behind or in front of them.  It gives the audience the impression you know some of “them”.  Politicians pull that one all the time during campaigns. )

Put your hands together quickly, not quite fast enough to be a clap, while saying “Okay!”.  Pause for a full second.  Now say “Let’s get started!”  That’s a classic Steve Jobs move.

Right after that, say “I’m ___your name___, (point to the screen without looking at it) and this is ___your startup____.”  With your hand still pointing at the screen say your tag line/purpose statement.

Ahhhh… The hardest part is over.  The audience has gotten a good look at you, and they’ve just seen you be nice to someone they’re familiar with.

By saying “Let’s get started” you’ve issued a command that gives the impression to everyone in the room that you’re all doing something together, and the “something” is starting right now and they can relax, because you’re driving.

Remember, they want you to do well and it already looks like you are.

Most of all, relax, because you’ve gotten through those first few moments that are usually very awkward, and you did it like a pro.

The New Secret Weapon Of The Modern Venture Capitalist. Do You Know What It Is?

There’s a new kind of meeting today’s investor is having.  It saves them many hours of valuable time and sometimes millions of dollars.  As an entrepreneur searching for investment for your new idea, here’s how it will look to you…


As you arrive at one of the many investor pitch meetings you’ll be invited to, especially one made up of a small group of 3 or 4, there will be a guy who gets there just as you do.

Though the meeting was set for 9:00 you were informed things were running a little late and everyone else would be along shortly.  You and that guy are shown to the meeting room.

He introduces himself and tells you he’s heard people saying some good things about your idea.  You chat for a bit.

He asks you the basics; where you’re from, how old you are, how did you meet the people you’re meeting with today, how many brothers and sisters do you have, are you married, and do you know old so and so (some guy you’ve never heard of), and have you eaten at “blah-blah-blah’s” a new place you haven’t heard of.  He’ll probably ask you about the car you drove in high school as well.

After 15 or 20 minutes of shooting the breeze about nothing, in walk the rest of the people you’re meeting with and will pitch to.

Guess what?  You’ve just been baselined.  And the guy with the mundane questions?  That’s me.  I’ve been hired to watch you while you discuss your idea with the investors.  But, I’ll be talking with you and asking questions as well.

What am I looking for?  Things you’ll tell me non-verbally.  For example;  Your body language will tell me if you’re not sure about an answer.  Or it might tell me you’re making the answer up, or making up just part of it.  It will tell me whether or not you act this way all the time, or just today because you’re nervous.  And not just nervous about being there, but uncomfortable with the answers you’re giving to the investors, because you don’t know, or you’re not sure if they are correct.

Most importantly, your body language is gonna tell me whether or not you’ve already decided you’re gonna make it work.  And whether or not you’ll stick with it to make sure this idea of yours comes to life and is scaled to an almost unbelievable size…

Everyone there will be able to see that one.  It shows mostly in your eyes.  But I’ll be alone watching for the things your body language will tell me, that they have no idea exists… and for the most part, neither do you.

So keep this story in the back of your mind.  Because it’s of the utmost importance that you are completely honest in your pitch about who you are, what you’re doing, and where you are with your idea.

Because if I’m there, I’ll see what you’re body language is saying, and it will tell me the truth.  That means the investors will know the truth.  And if everything is as you say it is, you’ll do just fine.

Do You Make These Mistakes When Pitching?

I was asked to help judge student pitches at Vanderbilt University for a class of entrepreneurs.  One pitch team was comprised of three guys and one girl.  The girl was just to the right of the screen, standing very straight with her hands clasped in front.  Next to her was Guy #1, on the far right, with his hands clasped behind his back and his legs planted wide and firm.

scott-rouse-body-language-expert-speaker-pitch-fixer-presentation-presentation skillsHe spoke first, intro’d the idea, and hit two slides.  When he finished, he slightly nodded to Guy #2 at the far left of the screen.

Guy #2 took his hands out of his pockets, took one step forward, hit his two slides, returned to his spot and placed his hands back in his pockets as he took a deep breath and exhaled.

The girl took one step forward, her hands still clasped in front of her, hit her two slides and took one step back to her original spot.

Next, Guy #3 took his hands out of his pockets, took one step forward, described in detail his placement of the product in several stores in town, hit his two slides, then took one step back into his spot.  He put his hands back in his pockets, and stared at the floor.  Even though his head faced forward in a normal position, he didn’t stop looking at the floor.

After the pitch, Guy #1 answered most of our questions.  Even when they were directed at others on his team.  Before anyone else answered a question, they would very quickly look at him before answering.

Here’s what I knew when the pitch was over:  Guy #1 was in charge and it was his idea they were pitching.  He was the CEO and he let a girl he had a crush on be part of it.  Guy #2 and Guy #3 were just glad to be there.

How did I know all of this?  The CEO, Guy #1, was the first to speak.  His dominance posture looked a bit aggressive as well as a touch arrogant.  His hands were clasped behind his back in a position called “Royalty Arms“.  You’ve seen the Queen, the Prince, and other Royals performing this gesture when speaking to non-royals.  Generals do the same thing when inspecting their troops.  That gesture says “I’m not afraid of you.  I’ll get as close as I want and you won’t harm me.  See how sure I am of that?”

When it was my turn to ask questions, I asked Guy #3, who said he had put some product in stores, if he really did that.  “Yes”, he answered.  Then I said, “No, you’re misunderstanding me.  I’m asking if YOU put the product in the stores.”  He said “Well,” as he looked at the CEO who had his eyebrows waaaaayyy up.  “I didn’t personally put them in there, _CEO’s NAME_ did that.”

Then I looked at Guy #2 and asked  “YOU didn’t do the numbers either did you? _CEO’s NAME_ did them didn’t he?”  “Yes.”  “Okay,”  I said.  “The next time you don’t do the numbers, try to stay relaxed when you’re presenting them.  Your leg started wiggling pretty hard about half way through, your voice was higher than it is now, and you swallowed really big when you finished.  All those things together tell me your brain doesn’t know if the information you’re delivering is factual or not.  It probably is factual, and you aren’t lying.  However, you really don’t know if you are or not.  Am I close?”  He laughed as he answered “Yeah, spot on.”

Then he asked me “What else did I do?” “You looked down when you finished talking and you didn’t really look up much after that. You looked ashamed.  Church every Sunday, huh?” “Yes” He replied and laughed.  “Yeah, me too” I said.  Then the rest of the room started laughing.

Then two or three students at the same time said “What about her?” I looked at her and asked  “So, you and _CEO’s NAME_ have been out, what,  two or three times now?” “Twice” she said.  Then she started laughing when she realized it was none of my business.  Then everyone laughed again.

This was fun and funny because it was a classroom setting.  Had it been a real pitch with real VC‘s in the room, they would have shut them down 2 minutes into the pitch.

Here’s my point; When pitching, you don’t want the investor’s brain to think “Hey, I don’t know what’s going on here… but something’s not right.  I don’t trust this person.  Let’s move on.”  You can keep that from happening by being real, being honest, and being you.  It sounds corny, but it’s true.

And trust me, if you are or if you aren’t all of those things… your body language will show it, and the investors will know.

Suspense And The Investor Pitch

We’ve all been in a theater watching an actress inside a haunted house, walking slowly toward the room where a hatchet murderer was hiding.


The music got louder as the girl’s hand got closer to the door knob… and people started squirming in their seats preparing for the inevitable.

You knew what was gonna happen and so did everybody else. Yet, everyone still got worked up. Why? Because you wanted to get worked up. You wanted to get excited.

It’s the same thing when you’re pitching.  Investors are there to get worked up.  They want to get excited about what you’re pitching. They are there hoping to find and  invest in the next Google, Apple, or Facebook, and they know that might be you.

As you get closer to your financial slides, start looking for small movements. Focus on the investor’s body language.  Pay attention to those who begin to squirm a little.  Not squirming like they’re scared, but like they’re trying to see your slides better, and trying to hear you better.

Some times it’s very subtle, just a small “seating adjustment”.  Other times they will uncross their legs or arms and then cross them the other way.

Other times, they’ll lean forward, or if they’re sitting at a table they will pick their pen up or lean waaaay forward and squint and almost frown at your slides. But like I said before, don’t worry about that.  When it comes to body language, things aren’t always what they seem to be…

They are thinking and counting and doing math in their head and trying to remember everything.  You’ve got them right where they want to be.  “All up in” your pitch.

Keep in mind, you’ll also have investors who will do the exact opposite, they won’t move at all.  They will sit there like a statue when they’re interested.  Their face will show a slight squint with their eyebrows pulled together just a bit.

They don’t look sad or in pain, they look serious. Almost angry, but their lips aren’t pursed.  I call that “focus face”.

When you see these signs, those are the investors you want to engage with. In a crowd of 40 to 50, there may be 3 to 5 who will show you what they are really thinking. When you spot them, lock eyes with them and speak directly to them.

Not so long that it’s weird or uncomfortable, but a bit longer than usual. Keep your eyebrows up just a bit longer and show a slight smile when you begin talking to them as well. This shows recognition and gives them an even stronger feeling that you’re talking directly to them.

It will take a couple of pitches to get the hang of it, but once you do, you’ll find you have more meeting requests from investors than you ever expected.

With A Story I Can Make Your Brain Follow Mine

Here’s a short article I wrote for about how listening to a story effects your brain.  It’s an example of how you can execute effective communication, not only with body language and non-verbal communication, but with the story you tell about your idea.


Keys To A Persuasive Presentation Or Investor Pitch

After an entrepreneur I’ve trained pitches to a room packed with several hundred investors, like this year’s Jumpstart Foundry Investor Day Pitches, no less than 10 people always ask me the same question…  “Why do I have the feeling that he/she is into Spirituality or something?”  And I always answer “That’s hilarious.  I have no idea.”


Actually, I do have an idea.  As a matter of fact, I know exactly why they feel that way.  It’s due to a calculated and well timed series of moves and cues that Yogis use during meditation, and “charismatics” from India use when speaking to their followers.  You’ll also see many of the same hand gestures, or “Mudras” as they’re called, used by those practicing Yoga and Transcendental Meditation.

When I’m attempting to secure effective communication between an entrepreneur with a startup idea, to a room full of possible investors, it’s important to equip them with every possible tool I can find or create.  So I do that.

In most cases, Science can’t tell us why these gestures create the feelings they do in humans.  Or why some humans feel compelled to do specific tasks when they are presented with them in a specific fashion.  I’ve found them to be extremely potent when used properly in an interrogation setting, as well as in a presentation or pitch setting.

It’s such a rewarding feeling when you see a pitch containing these gestures and movements executed flawlessly, like the pitch Trevor McCormick, of Spotwise, gave at the Jumpstart Foundry pitches this year.

Watch this video of several sections of that pitch and you’ll see, from a different point of view, the same things the investors saw that made them ask me “Why do I have the feeling he’s into Spirituality or something?”  If you have any questions, or if there’s anything you’d like to learn more about, please email me or ask in the comments.

5 Free Tools That Will Supercharge Your Pitch

Scott Rouse Body Language Expert and Speaker Trainer 3 copy

From Venture Capital and Angel Investing, to raising money from friends and family, investors want you to communicate effectively.  The combination of Body Language and an Investable SlideDeck is the key to a Perfect Presentation and a Perfect Pitch.

Every day I get 3 to 5 emails from startups and entrepreneurs asking “How do I start building a pitch?” I have an almost stock answer I send back:

“Whatever you do, don’t start by opening Keynote or Powerpoint.  Here are some tools that will get you headed down the right path, right now.  Download them, watch the short instruction videos at the bottom of the page I’m going to link you to, and in no time, the entire pitch process will be much less stressful and it will make so much more sense.”

These tools are easy to use, easy to understand, and I use them every day when I’m teaching startups how to create a pitch for just about anything you can imagine.

So go get them, use them, and let me know how your pitch goes.  Email this blog post to someone you think may need or appreciate your help.  If there’s anything else I can do to help you, email me and let me know.

The Secret To Controlling Millions Of People

This is one of those videos you watch and think “Nah… I wouldn’t do that”.  Guess what?  You probably would.  Watch and you’ll see why these people did something they never thought they would do.

Entrepreneurs, Are You Making These Body Language Mistakes?

When pitching, or participating in a meeting, there are many non-verbal cues that can click the investor’s “Gut Feeling Controls” to the “Something’s Not Right Here” setting.


And even though the entrepreneur is being honest, his or her facial expressions, subtle body language, and even sentence structure, may inadvertently be saying to the investor’s Limbic Brain “Heads up, this person is up to something… I don’t know what it is, but it feels like something’s just not right here“.

We’re all familiar with that feeling.  And again, it happens because the entrepreneur is stressed and or nervous.  The investor’s Limbic Brain is relaying what it believes to be correct information to the rest of the brain, just like it’s supposed to, and that makes the investor act just as you would expect.

Want to get past that?  Do you want to look and be confident no matter what happens in any meeting?  Then check out my FREE eBook “Your Body Language Frankenstein“.  It covers the same concept as the TEDx Talk I did earlier this year.

Your Little Body Language Helpers

Building a Body Language Frankenstein isn’t something you do all by yourself.  You may start by yourself, and have the best intentions about discovering the intricacies of human behavior.

However, if you’re not aware of the pitfalls, and you begin believing that everything anyone tells you about body language has been researched and is factual… EVEN IF YOU’VE HEARD IT A THOUSAND TIMES BEFORE… You’re gonna run into some real problems in the very near future communication-wise.

So here’s a short, easy to understand, SlideShare presentation that will help you get a handle on who and what to be on the look out for as you educate yourself in non-verbal communication.