6 Blunders to Avoid When Pitching to Influencers, Especially at SXSW

6 Blunders to Avoid When Pitching to Influencers, Especially at SXSW

Man shaking hands

Four. Don’t Cyber Stalk: This tip was shared by serial entrepreneur Matt Galligan: “Just because someone [you want to meet] tweets their breakfast tacos, Instagrams their drink or checks in on Swarm, their check-ins do not mean it’s an invitation to find (OK, stalk) them.” This took her by surprise, notes Harris. “Did fellow founders actively stalk VIPs by tracking them on social media? Apparently, yes.”

Takeaway: Galligan’s advice was that instead of stalking VIPs with whom you want to meet, “consider posting a comment [in their feed] or sending a reply to see if it’s cool if you drop in and say hi.”

Five. Don’t Probe for Info: Tech founder Ann Greenberg shared a pet peeve of hers: “An immediate turnoff for me is when a founder asks to ‘pick my brain.’ It says to me that you don’t respect my time, and worse, that your ideas aren’t yet gelled or original. Not a great way to pitch!”

Takeaway: Instead of asking a founder or investor to ‘pick their brain’ and come up with ideas for you, have a concise set of ‘asks’ or ‘questions’ you can intelligently ply.

Six. Go for a Second Date: McKenna Walsh, partner emeritus of DreamVentures, likens getting an investment to getting married: “You’re trying to find a potential partner. Anything that you wouldn’t do on a first date, don’t do it when pitching a VC.” Apparently, this lesson became especially pertinent when a startup CEO, who was fundraising, decided he simply had to pitch her. At 3 a.m. Dressed as an elf. It wasn’t the suspenders, thigh-highs or speedo that were the deal breaker, though. It was his state of inebriation. Needless to say, if it were a first date, this pitch would not be getting him a second.

Takeaway: Play the long game and avoid too much drinking. Chances are, in a quick meeting you cannot convince anyone to fund you, but you can certainly convince them to not fund you.

These tips seem pretty basic, but based on conversations at SXSW, they need to be learned, Harris explains. “Form a real relationship, an authentic connection. Be respectful and polite. And remember: you are approaching a stranger and asking them for money or advice. Get the follow-up meeting and move on.”

A version of this story appeared on the BusinessCollective, a virtual mentorship program designed to help millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses, which was launched by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC).