As a small business owner or aspiring entrepreneur, meeting with investors is both stressful and exciting. These are people who could get you the funding you need to build the business of your dreams—or the ones who could dash your hopes of obtaining initial capital.
Look Good When Meeting with Investors
Assuming you have a good business plan in place, and a decent knowledge of the industry, one of the best ways to increase your chances of success is to improve your appearance when giving a presentation. Investors often judge the entrepreneur as much as the business they’re pitching, so it’s vital you make a good first impression.
The question is, how?
You can start with personal grooming. Spend some time getting your hair as professional and presentable as possible. In most cases, traditional and conservative looks are ideal. You’ll want to make sure you’re clean-shaven (without being obsessive about it), and avoid that just-got-out-of-bed look in any way you can.
Your choice of attire can also have a major role in forming investors’ first impressions. Again, traditional and conservative looks are typically a good choice. Dress for a formal business environment, and make sure all your clothes fit you well. You’ll want to avoid flashy colors, though you should feel free to showcase your personality with a tasteful accessory choice or a personal favorite clothing item.
You can also form a better initial image by mastering your body language.
- Eye contact. Eye contact is a sign of confidence and can show people that you’re invested in what they have to say. Make eye contact with each person you meet as soon as you meet them, and give them a smile while you’re at it. Throughout the presentation, alternate making eye contact with each other person in the room. During the Q&A and/or discussion section of the interaction, make eye contact with the person to whom you’re speaking.
- Posture. Your posture can say a lot about you as well. If you’re standing, try to stand straight up, with your shoulders back. If you’re sitting, remain straight and leaning slightly forward to show interest. Additionally, it’s important not to fidget or succumb to nervous habits—these can make you appear unconfident or unprofessional.
- Handshakes. Consider perfecting the art of the handshake. A strong, confident handshake can make sure people form a strong impression of you. Give the other person’s hand a firm grip (but not in an aggressive way), and pump twice for best results.
- Facial expressions. Think about your facial expressions too. No matter what, you’ll want to look natural—if you’re caricaturing your own face, you might seem insincere. However, it’s usually a good idea to smile regularly and respond to investor concerns and questions with looks of intrigue.
Your voice isn’t technically a “look,” but it can help you form a better first impression with investors. When you speak, use your natural speaking voice (i.e., don’t try to raise or lower it too much), but speak from the diaphragm to project your voice, and speak slowly and confidently. If you stammer, if you use too many filler words, or if you rush through your speech, it can reflect poorly on you.
If you have documents to share with your investors, like a business plan or financial model, spend some time making it look good as well. It’s a good idea to have your work professionally printed and bound, and give it a final run-through to make sure it’s free of errors. Additionally, make sure to bring a few extra copies so you can guarantee you’ll have enough for all meeting attendees.
These extra tips can help you perfect your appearance even further.
- Learn about your audience. Take the time to learn more about the investors with whom you’re meeting. Are they especially conservative and traditional, or are they more modern and laid back? How do they dress in their own business applications? Try to appeal to your audience, specifically.
- Think positively. You can naturally seem more confident and “put together” if you think positive thoughts. Assume the best in people, believe in your own ideas, and try to banish any negative thoughts before they creep into your mind.
- Relax. If you’re especially nervous before your investor meeting, the advice to “relax” may seem even more nerve-wracking. But it’s important to get your nerves under control. Take deep breaths, meditate, and try to clear your mind of distractions.
By itself, your appearance can’t completely make or break your chances of success. But in combination with a solid business plan and a clever presentation, a thoughtful, polished appearance can help you succeed.