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Raising Capital & Strategy—the Straight Face Test

Can you pass the Straight Face Test? If not, your chances for raising capital plummet. Why?

Because your face reveals to your audience how you’re feeling when you’re interacting with them. If you're not 100% on your game, investors will read that and shut you down.

What is The Straight Face Test?

For your first meeting with a Venture Capital team, let’s assume that you’re well groomed, have no dog hair on your beautiful suit, introduce yourself with a genuine smile, and give a firm handshake. Great—you’ll probably pass the initial seven-second test. This test is pre-wired into your brain from prehistoric times when making an instant judgement about someone you meet could be a life or death decision. ​​​​​​​

What about after that first seven seconds—how does your audience judge you then?

We coined the phrase Straight Face Test years ago after watching our clients run through thousands of practice and live company presentations. The Straight Face Test is the way your face—and body—reflect your internal truth to the world. Your words are important, but if you’re uncomfortable, unsure, or picking up a bad vibe from your audience, your face and body will reflect this instantly.

Key Point: It’s not what your words say, but what your face and body convey.

You can certainly “fake it” for a period of time. But when you get asked difficult questions and sense investor disbelief, your face and body change in subtle ways seen by investors, employees, and shareholders. While they may not know consciously that they’re making judgments about you based on your facial language, they will certainly have opinions about you when you leave.

Want to see for yourself? Turn on the television, streaming news, or a presidential debate and turn the volume off.

With just this visual information, what do you notice? Do you trust the person? Respect them? Believe that they are competent? How do you know? The supercomputer built into your brain picks up thousands of subtle cues; giving you judgments about the person you’re watching that enter your brain as grounded assessments or facts.

When you meet someone new, trust is the number one marker people look for unconsciously, according to Harvard Business School professor and psychologist Amy Cuddy. In her book Presence, she describes how trustworthiness or warmth is more important than competence from an evolutionary perspective: It was more important in cavewoman days to figure out if the person you met was going to kill you than if she was a good hunter.

So how do you pass the Straight Face Test and convince investors that you’re trustworthy and competent? We’ll cover those important details next week.


Others learn a lot about you from your unconscious facial expressions and body language. Can you pass the Straight Face Test when you’re meeting with employees, investors, and shareholders? Passing this test means coming across as trustworthy first and competent second. These are the two most important attributes that people look when they meet you for the first time.


How are you coming across when you deliver a presentation to investors, shareholders, or employees? Do you know? Schedule a one-hour call with us here to find out how we work to help you transform and wow your audience.

Until next week!

All the best,


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