The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What did you learn from one of the toughest investor meetings you’ve ever had?” is written by Assaf Resnick, founder and CEO of BigPanda.
For many entrepreneurs, when you’re trying to convey the true potential of your company to an investor, it’s tempting to provide as much information as possible. But striving to capture everything in the space of a one-hour meeting can be a trap. Your well-intentioned efforts to convey every detail of your company will leave investor audiences baffled about what the really important parts of your story actually are.
That’s why my primary “lesson learned” from tough investor meetings is the power of simplicity. I’ve been on both sides of the meeting table, currently as a founder and CEO, but previously as an investor at Sequoia Capital. I’ve sat through hundreds of pitches, and these experiences have taught me that the most critical thing is to boil down your story so that it’s as simple and straightforward as possible.
In the space of a one-hour meeting, you do not have the time to explain all of the complex, minute details of your market and your company’s proposed solution. Presenting all of the complexities—and assuming investors will make sense of it all—won’t work. The everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach almost always backfires and just confuses investors. As an executive, it is your responsibility to understand the most critical parts of your story and know what you want the audience to remember and judge you by and focus only on that. Those critical parts should include convincing investors that your solution addresses a real pain point, solves the pain in a unique way, addresses a large market, and that your team is qualified to address the pain.
See also: The Brutal Truth About Meeting With VCs
Mark Twain’s quote says it all: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” It’s much easier to load down your presentation with as many data points as possible rather than carefully crafting a clear and powerful message. But you’ll do a much better job of conveying a mastery of your subject and market when you use concise language rather than an endless parade of facts and figures.
Just ask yourself: Does the data align with your key value proposition or not? Does it succinctly support the story you are trying to tell? The message here is not to refrain from using data—in fact, you can even arm yourself with an arsenal of it—but to keep the majority of it in your back pocket. Avoid a data dump, play your key cards up front, and showcase the points that support a simple, focused message.
Building your presentation and planning your meeting agenda in this way will take time and effort, but you will be rewarded with a much more valuable presentation in the end. Don’t muddle your message, and remember that you can peel the onion in follow-up meetings. If you, as a founder, cannot sharply articulate your vision, potential investors will conclude that you won’t be good at other roles that you’ll have to play within your company, such as salesman, marketer, and recruiter.
As an investor, I saw that an entrepreneur’s lack of ability to present a concept in a simple, yet resonant way would force me to question whether they could be successful. Nobody wants to sit through a lecture, and I often found myself asking, “Can this person take powerful, impactful messages to other constituencies?” Frequently, I would conclude that the entrepreneur couldn’t handle the task and declined to invest.
Regardless of whom you are pitching, your audience should walk away and remember the key points from your talk, and they should be excited about them. Investor meetings are sales meetings, too, and pitches must be short, crisp, powerful, and repeatable. By cutting through your story like a sharp knife, you can achieve simplicity, elegance, and differentiation. It isn’t always an easy balance, but we should all aim for what Albert Einstein is reputed to have said: “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.”