Do you make these mistakes when pitching? I was asked to help judge student pitching 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.
He 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. While pitching they “checked” him as well.
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, and it had nothing to do with pitching. 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 when you’re pitching. It sounds corny, but it’s true.
And trust me, when pitching, if you are or if you aren’t all of those things… your body language will show it, and the investors will know.