Make Your Case – in 8 Minutes

Posted: March 8, 1999 by Bill Cunningham in Money, Startup

Classic Cincinnati Post column from 1999

You’ve done your homework and put a great business plan together. In five minutes, you will walk into the conference room and WOW the crowd with your presentation.

Have you done all the right things? Will the presentation work? How long will it take them to write you a check?  Here are some things you can do to get positive answers to those questions.

Your presentation needs to fit the audience needs. If this is a presentation at the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association’s monthly luncheon, you will have about 8 minutes to get your point across to the 100 people who are all there looking for great opportunities.

If you are presenting to a venture firm or investment banker, you may have a lot more time, but your first 8 minutes are critical. What can you say in 8 minutes? A lot!

For a venture luncheon, your purpose should be to get them excited enough about your project to follow up with you after the lunch. This means you can’t cover the 5 year projected cash flow forecast, or talk about all the features of your product in the time allotted. However, you can hit the high points and accomplish your goal.

Your first minute or two should be spent clearly communicating the business you are in.

When you present to a large crowd, you will have a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Shoot for the lowest common denominator as your target. Without being patronizing, explain your product or service so that everyone can ‘get it.’ Otherwise, they will spend the rest of your presentation trying to figure that out.

Assume that most of your audience is not familiar with your industry. A good test is to have a friend (not in your industry) circle all the buzzwords and jargon you have used in your speech. Think of a way to change those words to layman’s terms or ask yourself “Do they really need to know this?”

Once your audience has a good feel for your product, tell them how many people will buy it, where they are located, how you will reach them, and why you know all of this to be true. In other words, present your marketing plan.

Many great ideas have passed before the GCVA’s presentation committee without a solid marketing plan. It seems, that at some point in the plan, sales just magically appear. The great idea needs to be coupled with a strong process to turn the idea into money!

Now that you’ve got them on a roll, what your audience really wants to know is who is on your ‘A Team.’  A quick overview of the major players on your team will build your credibility to make this venture successful. Highlight experiences in the industry, in managing a growing company, in taking a company public or any related background material. Do not list every experience, college degree or hobby unless it supports your case.

Remember, once an investor has given your idea the nod, he really bases the decision on whether or not this is the team that can execute on the plan successfully. That’s when they look you square in the eye to see if you have the intestinal fortitude to make this a winner.

We are now seven minutes into your show, and it is time to present the numbers. What are the important ones?

I recommend showing your sales and profit projections for 3 to 5 years — whatever makes the most sense. Any more detail and you will run out of time putting the numbers in context.

A second set of numbers would be how much money you will need and what are you going to do with it. A third set of numbers that you want to consider before making the presentation is what the investor gets for their investment. You don’t necessarily have to put it on a slide, and it will more likely be in a range of figures rather than a specific number. You will be asked at some point — so be prepared.

There is a great tutorial on the Entrepreneurs America website. You can reach it from our home page, as the URL is a long one. Just click the EA button on our page which takes you the EA information. I highly recommend it.

There are many opportunities to present in the near future. Innovest ’99 – our statewide venture conference – is still taking applications through March 11 (this Thursday). To register, visit their website at for details or call Charles Burkett of EDI (216) 229-9445 x157.

Innovest recruits 30 companies to present to a group of over 350 venture related people every year.

The GCVA is always looking for 2 presenters for their monthly meetings. Contact Dave Owens at 513-579-3149 to get more information, or visit the website at Columbus, Louisville, Indianapolis and Cleveland all have venture associations with monthly meetings.


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