Professional woman presenting to a room of investors.
While it can be hard to keep excitement from shining through, experts caution budding business owners about enthusiastic pitches, recommending they focus on facts and expertise. — Getty Images/JohnnyGreig

It may sound counterintuitive, but when you pitch your business to investors for funding, showing too much enthusiasm can sometimes backfire. A study by the University of Southern Florida (USF) found that when entrepreneurs display a high level of enthusiasm through energetic body movements, varied vocal pitches, and animated facial expressions, it could make investors question their underlying motives.

Focus on showing your expertise

The study, which was published online in the journal Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, was based on an experiment in which researchers hired an actor to present the same product pitch in two different ways: one with high enthusiasm and one without. Viewers were asked which pitch they would be more likely to fund.

“When an entrepreneur shows a lot of enthusiasm during a pitch, one thing that investors may suspect is that this entrepreneur is acting up to get their money and relying on impression management tactics to influence them,” said the study’s lead author, Lin Jiang, an assistant professor of entrepreneurship at the USF Muma College of Business, in an interview with CO—.

The study also found that an investor’s negative reaction toward an enthusiastic product pitch increases if the entrepreneur is viewed as less competent. “If you have a lot of expertise in your domain, show it, talk about it, and demonstrate it,” said Jiang. “This can help alleviate the negative perception of impression management and allow you to use enthusiasm more freely.”

Investors are very savvy at picking up on cues, and when people are overly enthusiastic, investors might see that as covering up some areas that reveal weaknesses in the company.

Steve Williams, partner, Incentica Business Plans

Tips for pitching effectively

To find out more about how to strike the right tone with investors, CO— spoke with Steve Williams, partner for Incentica Business Plans, a business management consulting firm. Among their services to help businesses grow and become more profitable, the company advises businesses on how to create the right pitches to secure funding from investors. Williams shared with us some of his top advice:

Stick to the facts

“I tell all my clients, make sure that you’re delivering the benefit side of what you’re doing, but do it in a way that is based in fact,” said Williams. “Investors are very savvy at picking up on cues, and when people are overly enthusiastic, investors might see that as covering up some areas that reveal weaknesses in the company.” When you prepare your “pitch deck”—a brief presentation that gives an overview of your business—you’ll want to keep it simple and straightforward.

Be sure to share things like the problem you want to solve and your solution, the size of your market, your business model, your company’s basic financials, your company’s traction (progress and momentum), and your own background and that of any other key team members. Let the facts speak for themselves and avoid any lies or embellishments, said Williams.

Show quiet confidence

Although it’s a good idea to show confidence in yourself, you don’t want to seem overly promotional. “Instead of jumping up and down and saying you’re going to be a billion-dollar company in three years, it’s better to say in a quiet, confident way, things like, ‘We just signed our first major retail contract with Walmart and we are contracted to ship 100,000 units over the next three years,’” said Williams. “You’ll be able to have that quiet confidence if you’re prepared and making statements of fact.”

Keep emotions in check

While passion is an important part of being an entrepreneur, showing too much emotion during your pitch can sometimes work against you. “At the end of the day, if you’re emotional about solving this problem, investors might worry that maybe you’re going to go too far before you realize that you need to pivot or make a change,” said Williams. “On the other hand, if you’re very pragmatic and have a good understanding of the problem your business is trying to solve, that’s even better. Your passion will shine through.”

Be prepared for questions

After your presentation, investors will ask you key questions. Make sure you’ve done your homework and that you can justify any numbers you’ve presented. “Investors will likely ask you things like: ‘So, how did you get to that number in three years?’” said Williams. “They’ll also want to know more about the business model and what makes your business different from others on the market.” Again, stick to the facts and avoid exaggerated/overly enthusiastic antics. “If you’re prepared and ready for the questions, it’ll be easier to display that quiet confidence,” said Williams.

[Read: 9 Steps to Creating a Pitch Deck That Will Set Your Company Apart]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published August 04, 2022