Defense

Being defensive is a common trait among people. When presenting before investors - or others - many people shun being questioned. If the questions are perceived as "hard" or "harsh", there is a tendency to try to defend yourself. But this almost never works and is generally problematic.

It's really hard not to defend when being attacked. The fight or flight reflex kicks in (note I am not a psychologist, so don't count on my terminology making sense) and you either run away or fight back. The problem is that you cannot run away when you are presenting or you will certainly not get funded. The leaves fighting back, which means getting aggressive and trying to kill the messenger.

Of course neither strategy is a good one. What you need is more strategies.

More Strategies

Obfuscation and misdirection are commonly used in politics. A direct question leads to a quick delay, followed by expression of talking points possibly unrelated to the question. The hope is that they forget the question before you finish the answer. This does work sometimes for some people, but don't try it with me. I am likely to do one of three things; (1) stop listening to anything you have to say, (2) interrupt you and state something like "that's not what I asked you, can you please answer my question", or (3) say "so your answer to [my question] is [your irrelevant answer]?". None of these are good for you.

Say "great questions" while you think of something to say and recover your composure. Then tell me what you just said about the same subject, essentially reiterating your standard commentary on the issue. This is uninformative, but at least it's not aggressively defensive.

The best strategy

Of course the best strategy is to simply answer the question. The key to doing this is to not become offended by any question. It's a matter of adjusting your attitude toward the process, people, and task of presenting information. But how do you do this?

Not so easy...

It wouldn't be Angel to Exit if there wasn't a story behind it. Naturally, I am the worst offender in terms of being defensive, and I learned over the years by paying the price.

In the early 1980s, I discovered and started to work on defenses against computer viruses. The first publication I had on the subject was associated with the IFIP TC-11 conference in 1984. The original paper I submitted was called "Algorithmic Authentication of Identification", a real barn burner... not! In conversations with Herald Highland, who is no longer with us, he suggested that I present "Computer Viruses - Theory and Practice" as a substitution, having read the paper as a submission to another journal. I said "yes" and we agreed not to tell anyone in advance...

The paper was well received, and in many senses, a real shocker for the audience. I had a private question afterward from someone at the US State Department who told me that if I had let them know in advance I was going to present this paper, they would have stopped me from doing so. My response was "That's why I didn't tell you."

Note: I strongly advise against this sort of response by others. Especially these days.

At the time, I was a graduate student, wearing jeans and a tee shirt pretty much all the time. My clothes were in a backpack and my papers, etc. were in a brief case. When I went to the airport in Canada to return to the US, I presented as what I was, provided my passport for reentry, and the border patrol agent took it and looked at me like any normal student entering the US from Canada after a visit.

He punched in the passport information, and I could see his face change dramatically as he saw the result. I don't know what it said, but he decided to do an in-depth search of all of my belongings, looking at every sheet of paper, etc. The only thing he ignored was the floppy disks (don't ask...).

At the end of the day, I was allowed back in, but as I learned over time, this approach to people is problematic.

In summary

I strongly advise you to not be defensive about your answers to questions, particularly from potential investors. Remember always, it's their money, they likely worked hard for it, and they want you to succeed. Try to learn from their questions and improve your presentation and approach to help them better understand the value you bring.

Copyright(c) Fred Cohen, 2016 - All Rights Reserved