Tip 35: The importance of Q&A. This might be our single most important tip of all.
VentureSouth pitch slots are generally 30 minutes, and we tell presenters to do 15 minutes of presentation and 15 minutes of Q&A. We guide presenters to reserve half their entire slot for Q&A. Why?
Partly because we know no-one listens to us, so presenters at least (usually) get the chance finish their “15 minute pitch” of downloading everything they want to by having 30 minutes.
But more seriously it’s because Q&A is just as important as the pitch. If you are exciting investors, their brains are engaged and they are going to have questions. To keep them excited, you need to answer these questions. If you don’t get chance to even hear the questions, your momentum is gone.
In general, you need to reserve time to give people the information they want to receive. Even with great preparation, homework, and practice, you can’t know what this particular audience wants to know (or doesn’t understand). Q&A is your answer.
It is also a great way to differentiate yourself from your pitching peers. You can prove your ability to think under pressure and demonstrate your profound knowledge (not just the “rehearsed script” that every graduate from every incubator/accelerator can do) – and in a format where you are directly engaging in conversation with people.
Yet, almost all pitches score poorly in Q&A. Future tips will help you excel at Q&A, but for now just recognize that you should spend nearly as much time preparing and practicing Q&A as you spend preparing and practicing your slides. Someone handling Q&A well is infrequent enough that it usually attracts comment in post-pitch discussion: “they handled Q&A very well” is rare, but it often gets companies into the next stage of the process.