10 Pointers to Ensure a Great Pre-Meeting
Your pre-meetings are a chance to get perspective, input and advice from people that could be potential investors (or who might introduce you to someone who will fund your business). Pre-meetings are a great way to practice your pitch and refine your story. However, if you want to get the most out of these meetings, there are some dos and don’ts that will help you get closer to the funding that you so badly need. Follow these pointers, and you’re more likely to walk away with critical allies. You’ll also be a step closer to a formal pitch for funding.
- Research their background – You want to know as much as possible about the person you’re meeting with. Specifically, look at jobs they’ve held, deals they’ve made and boards they’re on. This will give you information to open the conversation and ask thoughtful questions. You want these people to know that you know who they are, which is why you specifically wanted to meet with them. If you show up without knowing anything about the contact, they’re unlikely to believe you have what it takes to grow the company.
- Tell them you’re not actively raising right now – Potential investors are much more likely to talk to people who aren’t asking them for money. They’re way happier this way. If you can tell them you’re not currently fundraising, they’ll be far more open and willing to speak with you. Their guard will be down. The follow-up to this, of course, is that you need to start the long process of getting to know people before you need money. Keep that in mind as you start your journey!
- Don’t bring a presentation – You don’t need anything formal in a pre-meeting. Leave your deck at home. Instead, be prepared with your story and mission. That’s what you’ll want to share. Given the casual nature of these discussions, you have some incredible opportunities to refine your story and how you share it. Use them! You can make sure to email them a one pager later.
- Pick a setting that isn’t intimidating – Go somewhere relaxed and neutral. This isn’t a formal pitch, it’s a business date. Treat it like such by going for coffee somewhere lively where you can meet. Don’t pick something too stiff or formal. Another tip: Make it easy for the contact and ask them if there is a meeting location they prefer! Remember, they are doing you a favor.
- Ask for advice – Make sure you ask for their input on what you’re building and what steps you should take once you share your story. This will show that you’re interested in their specific point of view. Make sure you listen. Keep your phone tucked away and ask direct questions.
- Take notes on everything they say – Write down everything. Listen for all the keywords that they mention when they are reacting to your ideas and giving you advice. Take note of the obstacles they potentially see, and then use those notes to address them upfront in future meetings with other people. These meetings are intelligence-gathering efforts, so make sure you’ve taken as many notes as possible. You’re evangelizing your idea, but you’re also sponging up their thoughts. You must do both.
- Pay attention to their engagement level – Are they sharing their own experience and relating your idea to their life? Or are they doubting your ability and only focusing on the negatives instead of the possibilities? You’ll want to note how engaged they are, because it will affect your ask at the end. You don’t want to put someone in an awkward position by asking them for ongoing help when they spent your whole pre-meeting dismissing your idea.
- Ask, “Who else do you think I should talk to?” – Don’t forget to ask this! It’s the easiest question to ask and it will yield incredible results. It will help broaden your list and your network. If they do give you a name, ask for contact information — and ask why they think this person is a great contact. You’ll gain valuable insight to put into action when the time comes to meet them.
- Follow up with them and thank them within 24 hours – Make it timely. Reference a piece of advice that they gave you. And include any follow-up information they may have asked for. They made time for you; now make sure you make time for the follow-up.
- Send a forwardable email – When your follow-up involves getting an introduction, write a separate, forwardable email in addition to your follow-up, like Amy mentioned in the video above. For example, if John offered to introduce you to Sally Angel Investor, you’d write in the subject line of the email to John, “John, thanks for passing this email onto Sally Angel Investor.” In the body of the email, write a specific note to Sally, so all John has to do is forward the note to Sally with a simple, “Hey will you take this introduction?” You’ve got to make your asks as easy as possible on people. If you do, you’re way more likely to get the help, and eventually the money, that you need.
*John Zagula’s effective communication pointers in this course were adapted from Jerry Weissman, Rich Tong and Jonathan Roberts.
7 Questions to Help You Prep for Your Pre-Meeting Worksheet:Download Worksheet PDF