Learning how to pause during an investor meeting is one of the important skills for an entrepreneur. Whether it’s to regulate the pace of your pitch or to give yourself some much-needed breathing space.
The art of the pause is crucial to maintaining your flow in front of investors. There are many different types of pauses you can utilize throughout your investor meeting.
Knowing what you want to achieve by pausing is important to get the desired effect. In this article, we will identify some scenarios where a pause would be effective in leveling up your pitch. And teach you how to go about pausing.
For each desired outcome, there are slightly different ways to add a break to your pitch. By reading this, you’ll have the necessary arsenal of skills to learn how to pause during an investor meeting.
The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
Type 1: Pause for Effect
It’s almost a cliché at this point but pausing for effect still has some tangible merits in crafting an engaging investor pitch. For pitches that focus on a story to tell, pauses can signify a “cause and effect” and can strengthen rhetorical questions.
“So, how did we solve that?“ or “What can be done?” are questions that shouldn’t be rushed. If your pitch is channeling melodrama, a pause for effect following a rhetorical question like “How could this possibly be fixed?” can do the trick.
Pairing this with a smile or smirk can really sell a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek tone. This is perfect for casual pitches and can keep your potential investors on the edge of their seats.
What you do not want to do is jump from section to section. A pause at the end of a section of your presentation helps define a coherent structure to your pitch.
However, these types of pauses should only be used sparingly. Over-doing the pause for effect can make your pitch come across less as a professional presentation and more like a pantomime.
This type of break in the flow of a pitch can seem awkward and forced if not placed correctly in your script.
Timing is key to maximize effectiveness.
Great presenters use pauses to let a key phrase “hang in the air”. If you’ve got a profound message, you want to audibly highlight it, so it sticks in investors’ minds.
Rushing to the next paragraph or section will reduce the point’s punching impact. Therefore you could potentially lose your grip on your audience.
That’s where a pause for effect is most useful.
Keep in mind that in fundraising storytelling is everything. In this regard for a winning pitch deck to help you here, take a look at the template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
Type 2: Pause to Allow Understanding
Also known as a transition pause, a pause for reflection is a tool. It will help your investors to collect and gather the information provided to them in the preceding section of your presentation.
This is key to maintaining good pacing and ensuring your investors can understand your pitch. If you’ve just completed a meaty section with a lot of detail, allowing some time for investors to process the information is really important.
If no transition pauses are used, investors may miss the start of the subsequent section or may get frustrated with how fast you are going.
When you’ve got lines of texts or graphs on your pitch deck presentation, you must allow enough time for your audience to read what’s on the screen.
Moving on too fast can be annoying for potential investors and they could miss key data points about your start-up.
A lot of time and effort has been spent crafting this pitch deck. The last thing you want is poor pacing not giving your graphics the time to shine in front of your audience.
Keep in mind that whilst you are talking, investors’ eyes are on you and potentially not on your slideshow presentation at all. Allowing a couple of seconds for investors to turn away from you and check out your slide is really useful.
How long do you need to pause?
It depends on the amount of information that needs to be processed. If the pause is to read the slide behind you, time how long it would take you to read it and wait for that long.
It would be a great idea to practice your pitch with fresh eyes with partners or friends and see if they’re comfortable with your pace. What may be second nature to you may go over the head of someone new to your business and your presentation.
Get their feedback on how fast you’re going and adjust your pauses accordingly. To ensure your pauses for reflection and comprehension are adequate, you’ll also need to respond to how your investors are taking in the information.
If they’re taking notes, observe how long it takes them to finish a note following your first couple of transition pauses. If they are still jotting down by the time you move on to the next section, that’s a great indicator that your transition pauses are too short.
You might have to rethink how to pause during an investor meeting.
Type 3: Pause to Reset Pace
We get it, pitching to investors can be nerve-wracking. You can spend months preparing your pitch deck, ensuring your script is water-tight, designing your slides, and making sure it is perfect.
But, once the lights are on you, those nerves can easily derail your pitch. Perhaps you’ve started too fast, maybe you’re feeling flustered.
Investors can tell when someone’s pacing is off and when they’re nervous, but it’s so easy to slip into a panic. Your cadence can seem off, you can start missing points and going off-script. Disaster, right?
A bad start doesn’t have to spell doom for the rest of your presentation. Just take a deep breath and reset your pace.
If you feel yourself starting to panic, a couple of second’s break can kick you back onto the right track and help you regain your confidence. If you do this early enough on your presentation, your audience might not even have noticed your stage fright.
When we’re nervous, we tend to add filler words to our speech. This isn’t too bad in casual conversation as our friends and family can be quite forgiving to the occasional “um”, “uh” and “like”.
But when big bucks are on the line, investors are looking for entrepreneurs that are confident and sure of themselves.
These are key attributes to successful business owners. Overusing filler words can make you come across as inexperienced and may give the impression you don’t know enough about your start-up to pitch about it.
Whilst this may not be the case, allowing some breathing space to slow your speech down can help you sound a lot more confident and adept.
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Type 4: Pause for Comedic Effect
A great tool for setting the right tone for your pitch is the use of humor. A little comic relief can help lighten the mood and warm up investors to your personality and ideas.
The success of a pause for comedic effect is largely dependent on your natural charisma. Similarly, to the pause for effect, a comedic pause should be used sparingly as overdoing this can be quite awkward.
Unless you’re an experienced presenter, these types of pauses should always be planned. If you’ve got a concrete pitch script, you’ll want to plan some short pauses following jokes or one-liners to allow your investors to laugh.
A key tip for inserting jokes into your pitch is to test them on friends or partners before your presentation. It’s important to gauge whether your joke is actually funny. If your joke falls flat, a pause following is only going to exacerbate the awkwardness.
A pause for comedic effect coupled with the right facial expressions can be used to pass off an innuendo. If your pitch is light-hearted and playful and there are natural places to stick an innuendo, a pause for laughs can work wonders here.
It’s really important to know the tone of your pitch before turning to comic relief.
First of all, does your start-up fit the type of humor you’re looking to add?
For example, are you the founder of a medical company or pitching to provide humanitarian aid to the Middle East? Comic relief will come off as out-of-touch and crude.
However, if you’re a laid-back tech firm or a light-hearted lifestyle entertainment company, or a dating app, investors are much more likely to respond to a few jokes.
Secondly, know your audience. If you’re meeting angel investors, they tend to be more forgiving and may appreciate the break in seriousness.
Venture Capitalists and investment bankers tend to expect more discipline from their entrepreneurs. Comic relief may ruin your chances of being seen as a serious CEO. This is why you should know how to pause during an investor meeting.
Moderation is also key. Comedic pauses should be a tonal reset, not a memorable feature of your presentation.
Too many jokes and accompanying pauses can disrupt the flow of your pitch and be jarring. Placing these pauses at natural points in your pitch helps avoid any pacing issues whilst also acting as a transitional pause in its own right. Neat.
Learning how to pause is a critical part of how to improve storytelling in a pitch deck. Check out this video I have created where I explain how that’s done.
Type 5: Pause before answering questions
So, you’ve gotten through the meat of your pitch. You’ve paced the presentation well, managed your nerves, and even cracked a few jokes to make your potential investors at ease. Now, it’s Q&A time.
For founders without natural confidence and the ability to answer questions, this can be the most daunting part of the pitch.
Now without the safety crutch of a word-by-word script, this is where many begin to stutter and panic. But the question-and-answer section is also where potential investors are looking to test you the most.
To ensure you make a good impression, allowing a brief pause before beginning to answer a question put to you can help you really stand out.
The first reason for a pause before answering is to give you time to properly understand the question. You may know what you want to say before your investor has finished asking the question.
But don’t rush into an answer until you’ve had enough time to consider the entire question. You risk missing out on key information your investor wants to know. And, that’s why you should know how to pause during an investor meeting.
Perhaps it’s a double-pronged question. By not pausing, you could only be answering one-half of the question. The second reason for this type of pause is to allow you time to formulate the answer in your head.
A good rule of thumb?
Don’t begin saying your answer until you know how it’s going to end in your head. If you don’t pause to do this, you risk your answer turning into a nervous mess trickled with filler words.
This makes you come across as nervous, inexperienced, and unsure of yourself. These are attributes that investors do not want to see when looking for a start-up to take their money.
You may forgo a pause as you’re worried about running out of time. But, rushed answers tend to be less concise anyway. By allowing yourself to craft your answer before answering, you’ll end up wasting time through a jumbled answer.
Pausing will also help you to recall the correct information so your answers are accurate. If the answer needs – for example – turnover figures or demographics information.
Allowing some time before the question to remember this (or even check your preparation material to find it) makes sure you’re not giving investors inaccurate information. This is one of the nuances of how to pause during an investor meeeting.
The third reason to use a pause like this is that it projects confidence. You can see this in prolific speakers like Barack Obama utilizing this tool to regain control over a presentation or conversation.
Particularly if they pose a challenging question, a pause before the answer signifies to an investor that you’ve really thought about and engaged with the question.
Therefore, the perception of you is that you’re a measured speaker and sure of yourself. If you rushed into the answer, the perception would be that you were panicky and inexperienced – even if your answer wasn’t too bad.
Of course, as with all of these pause rules, there are caveats.
Whether you should pause depends on what type of question is being asked to you.
If it’s a simple question, perhaps a yes or no question, investors may question why it takes you so long to answer if you pause. Only use this type of pause for complex questions that will naturally need a lot of thought.
You’ll also need to watch out for the length of the pause. If it’s a few seconds, the pause is likely to have a net positive impact on your presentation.
However, extended pauses make you look slow and unintelligent. A good rule of thumb is to not wait for more than 5 or 6 seconds. Saying that, your perception of time is likely to be diluted when presenting.
So a better indicator of pause time is to answer when you’re confident you can finish the answer.
There you go, five types of pauses you should utilize in your investor pitch. Don’t feel inclined to rush your investor meeting. Stick to your script, allow pauses and breaks, and take a deep breath if you find yourself panicking.
Make the effort to learn how to pause during an investor meeting. Take it slow and you’ll project the confidence you know you have deep inside. Good luck, entrepreneurs!
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