Every entrepreneur knows that while delivering a pitch is crucial, the real test often comes during the Q&A session. This is where potential investors probe, challenge, and evaluate your business acumen. It’s natural to feel nervous, but with the right preparation, you can turn this segment into a golden opportunity to shine and secure that investment. Let’s walk through six strategies to ace the Q&A during your business presentations.
1. Anticipate Questions
Before you step into the room, put yourself in the investor’s shoes. What would you want to know? For instance, if you’re pitching a revolutionary tech product, expect questions like, “How does your product differ from existing solutions?” or “What’s your plan to gain market share?” By preparing for these queries, you’ll not only feel more at ease but also demonstrate foresight and thoroughness.
If you are presenting with a slide deck, consider having an appendix section with extra slides with data and analysis that will answer likely questions.
2. Stay Calm and Collected
Shark Tank fans may remember the Squatty Potty pitch. Entrepreneur mother and son team Judy and Bobby Edwards maintained their charisma throughout a long Q&A session, despite the potentially awkward subject matter of toilet accessories. Bobby’s charisma got the better of him, and his frenetic energy turned off at least one of the sharks, despite their excellent business track record. Thankfully for the squatty startup, shark Lori Greiner saw the multi-million dollar business potential, and the deal was secured… but not before Bobby’s Q&A lip-biting and swaying had already put it all at risk.
If you feel overwhelmed or attacked during Q&A, take a moment to breathe and collect your thoughts before answering. Remember, you are a subject matter expert in your own proposal. Your confidence and strength should persist as an asset, even through a tense Q&A.
3. Practice Active Listening
It’s not just about your answers; it’s about understanding the questions. If an investor asks, “How do you plan to scale?”, they’re not just asking about logistics. They want to know if you’ve considered the challenges and are ready for growth. Clarify if needed, such as through paraphrasing the question, to ensure your response is on point.
Listen to both the language in the questions you’re asked as well as the values embedded in those questions. Use those words and attitudes to help guide how you frame your response.
4. Be Honest and Transparent
There’s a saying: “It’s okay not to know, but it’s not okay to pretend to know.” If a question stumps you, it’s better to admit it and offer to follow up later. Investors appreciate honesty over empty jargon.
That said, give yourself a moment to reflect on the question. You may be able to answer part of it, or perhaps its underlying values, better than you might initially think.
Never simply make up information that you cannot back up. It may feel good in the moment to get out of a question, but it will cost you your credibility, may obligate you to something unplanned, and will likely sink more than just this one deal.
Pro Tip: If you are going to say “Thank you for asking that question,” make sure you deliver that line with sincerity. You can kill your own credibility by robotically saying “thank you” like you don’t mean it.
5. Control the Conversation
While it’s essential to address questions, remember you’re still leading the presentation. Every answer is still your opportunity to persuade your audience. Find opportunities to pivot, to strategically repeat, and even to turn down the temperature on tricky topics when needed. Investors don’t want to feel like you ignored or disregarded their questions, but if you truly believe pivoting is in their best interest too, then boldly make that move.
If someone goes off on a tangent, politely steer them back. For instance, if you’re asked about a topic not directly related to your pitch, you might say, “That’s an interesting point. I’d love to discuss it further after the presentation to ensure we cover all the primary concerns first.”
Pitching to investors is as much about building trust and rapport as it is about presenting data and business plans. The Q&A session is your chance to solidify that connection. With these strategies in hand, you’re not just answering questions; you’re building a bridge to a successful partnership. So, the next time you’re up on that stage, embrace the Q&A with confidence and poise. Your dream investment might just be a question away.