Getting investors for your startup is a lot like being an artist. There’s a lot of romance balanced with a lot of fear and rejection.

There are lots of charismatic entrepreneurs out there, and they’re all gunning for investment dollars, so how do you stand out? Come out of your shells, nerdy padawans, it’s time to talk to three-dimensional people.

1. Let the story do the talking.

Data does not grab people’s attention and keep them listening, emotions do. Everyone wants to be told a story that is engaging and compelling, so prepare your pitch as an emotional journey. If your investors are left with a sense of who you are, where you come from, and where you’re going, and they care about all of the above in a personal way, they’ll root for you. And when they’re rooting for you, they want to make you successful. Numbers are boring, so keep them to a minimum. Give just enough to support your story, not a digit more.

2. Get out of the driver’s seat.

Your story is not a monologue. If you’re telling your story right, they will ask questions. Let them! That means they’re engaged. Never come back to a question later – instead, stop everything and dive in. They won’t care about what you have to say if you don’t care about what they have to say. This means you have to know your pitch – your story – well enough to jump in and out without losing focus.

 3. Be a human.

You are a person, so are your investors. If you don’t know, just say so. Don’t vamp or invent – that just weakens your pitch. If you tell them you’ll find the answer and get back to them, and then you do, you’ve shown your initiative and helped your cause. Trust comes from honesty and follow-through, not bravado.

 4. Ask!

A pitch is inherently an ask. Everyone in the room knows and expects it. So when the time is right, don’t be nervous or wobbly when it’s time to lay down what you want. At the end of the presentation, be clear, confident, and specific: “I’m going to raise $10 million this year, and I’m willing to give you [percentage here] of the company. Are you interested?”

 5. Doom yourself to failure.

This is just for practice. Before you start pitching to your warm leads, set as many meetings as you can with people who would never, in several million years, give you money. When you have nothing to lose, you’ll get great priceless practice giving your pitch to very scary people, and those people will ask questions that make your pitch better the next time. Welcome the holes they punch in your story with a smile and improve every time. Then when you meet with the real deal, you’re light as a feather and ready for anything.

 

 

When you meet with possible investors, you’re on a stage and people are looking at you, but it doesn’t have to be scary. Remember, you’re excited about your startup for a good reason.