Are you at that stage where you are wondering how to read investors’ body language as an entrepreneur? Have you ever found yourselves wondering what your investors are thinking? How can you read them while you pitch your ideas?
As a growing entrepreneur, you know pitching to possible investors is not easy. Your pitch is your only chance to introduce yourself, your product, and your financial model to the people that can help your idea launch into an actual business. The way you present yourself is important. How you dress, speak, and carry yourself can affect your first impression and the result of your pitch.
While your own verbal and nonverbal communication is important, so is understanding your listeners’ reactions. Reading their queues and body language as they take in your pitch can help you change your own conduct and foresee the answer investors might give to your proposal, and turn things in your favor.
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When you are figuring out how to read investors’ body language as an entrepreneur, keep in mind that as an entrepreneur, your job during a pitch presentation is to peak the investors’ interest to the point of getting a second meeting. How can you establish the trust and relation that you need with a simple 20 slide pitch?
There is nothing that can establish a better connection between a pitch giver and his audience than eye contact. Looking directly at everyone in the room can make them feel like you are speaking directly to them. You want to keep the audience’s gaze on you and your slide presentation at all times.
Losing their eye contact can mean many things. It may be caused by distraction—if your slides are too picture or text-heavy or your script is inappropriate. It can also be caused by a lack of interest. If your audience is looking around the room, at their watch, their phone, or anything aside from you, you need to change what you are doing.
There are few things you can do on the fly but altering your pace can be one.
Posture is a major aspect of an entrepreneur’s first impression and a critical part as you are tackling how to read investors’ body language as an entrepreneur. Good posture ties up well with your outfit, transmitting seriousness and confidence to those around you. Even the way you choose to stand while you talk—no swaying, leaning unto one side, or walking around aimlessly—can show the vibe you are trying to convey.
While the entrepreneur needs to keep a certain disposition during his presentation, the investors’ demeanor also gives a lot to think about. Are they slouching in their chair? Are they fidgeting in their seats? Or are they leaning forward?
This pose often demonstrates that the person is comfortable enough to settle in and that they are hooked and waiting to hear more.
Hand and arm gestures can be telling of a person’s opinion too. Using your hands as you speak during the presentation can bring liveliness, but the wrong gestures can also take a bad turn. Overusing your hands, fidgeting your fingers, and swinging your arms can make things awkward.
On the other hand, the investors’ stance can reveal how the presentation is going. If someone is defensive or against the idea being presented, they are likely to cross their arms or clench their fists (though the crossing of arms can also be a way of getting comfortable for some).
Fidgeting hands can also be a conflicting indication. If you lose focus by looking at their fidgeting fingers, they have probably lost focus too. These actions can be signs of boredom, disinterest, or anxiousness.
You can defuse both situations by giving the person space to express his or her resistance and follow that by addressing how the worries can be met.
A person’s face might be their most telling feature and a critical ingredient of how to read investors’ body language as an entrepreneur. It is hard to maintain a poker face—both when interested and when bored—which makes looking at your audience’s faces even more important. Getting a small smile after a comment can encourage you for the rest of the presentation.
On the other hand, a frown or a purse of the lips can show you their disagreement. If an investor replies to a statement with the raise or arch of an eyebrow, you can translate it as a show of interest or awe. Even head nods can make you realize that you are engaging the audience and they are following the message.
If the expressions are positive, keep up the pace and the good work. But if the expressions change for the worse as you look around the room, go a little off-script.
Find ways of bringing them back to your good side and remind them why you receive the appointment in the first place, why the product you are introducing is worth investing in.
In our pre-COVID world, shaking hands was a show of character and something to consider when knowing how to read investors’ body language as an entrepreneur. A firm handshake demonstrated a strong personality and integrity. Your initial handshake—preferably extended to every person present—is simply part of your introduction, giving the investors a glimpse of who you are and what you represent.
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The farewell shake can give you a peek of how the audience felt about the presentation. Does the investor bid you goodbye with pursed lips and a sloppy grip? Or is the end of your presentation met with a smile, a cheerful shake, and an assuring comment?
The investor’s level of eye contact as he shakes your hand can also be telling of their opinion. Think of ways to adapt this when traditional handshaking isn’t going to be well received or smart.
Reading your audience is not easy, especially in the middle of the presentation. But knowing beforehand what their little queues could mean can help you prepare ahead. Start by preparing your pitch deck.
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.
Once your presentation is ready, create a plan b. What should your team do if they notice an investor is no longer making eye contact with them during the presentation? What can you say to relieve stress if you see someone in the audience frowning about one of your proposals?
Understanding investors’ body language and having a backup plan at hand will allow you to sail smoothly through your pitch.
Hopefully, this post provided some perspective on how to read investors’ body language as an entrepreneur. You may also find interesting the video below where I cover in detail how to prepare investor meetings.