It’s four months into the pandemic, and if we’re being honest with ourselves, there’s no clear path back to “normal.” With millions of people now working remotely, videoconferencing has become the new pulse of the workplace. It may be awkward, but it’s here to stay. And if you’re a startup, that means that Zoom and its counterparts are your new avenue for pitching venture capitalists.
At Costanoa we have already made two investments during the pandemic, and we did it all virtually. Along the way, we identified a few best practices on how to pitch virtually:
Send the deck beforehand
This may seem incredibly basic, but it’s a huge timesaver and eliminates the problem of people leafing it while you’re talking. It also lets the deck be less central to the pitch. That way, you can spend less time explaining what you do and more time answering questions and going more deeply into your product and plans.
Keep slides punchy and concise
There’s always a temptation to put as much data as possible into every presentation. That rarely works. Instead, take the time necessary to edit your presentation down to the essentials. If the investors you're pitching are looking for something else, let them dig into the details as they see fit, and be ready with answers to any potential questions.
Keep the small talk!
A big part of connecting with a potential investor is getting to know them on a personal level. Set aside at least five minutes to talk about where they are, how their holding up during the pandemic, and simple things, like whether their kids are in school or not. Since we all are going through a shared experience, it is easier than ever to relate with other people. So, don’t jump straight into business. Everyone is going a little stir crazy, and this let’s you establish a baseline of trust and familiarity at the start of the meeting.
Read virtual body language
Body language is hard to read via videoconferencing, but not impossible. Keep alert to things like, whether they’re asking a question, looking at a different screen, or feeling frustrated because they are unable to get a word in edgewise. As much as possible, you should remember to pull back if they seem disengaged or regroup if it looks like they’re having difficulty following your train of thought.
Pause for questions
In ordinary conversation, there is a natural rhythm, including pauses where people can ask questions or interrupt for clarification. This is much harder to replicate in a videoconferencing setting, especially given the awkward and unpredictable lags for bandwidth and latency. Because of that, it’s really important to make extra space for questions and even say out loud that you’ll intentionally stop often to allow for comments or questions.
Practice objection handling
Objection handling is an extremely important skill in any sales process, but it often doesn’t happen during sales pitches. Especially during virtual pitches, it’s important to ask if the potential investor has any objections or reservations to see if you can address them on the spot. And make sure that you practice any answers you can think of beforehand, so you're fully prepared.
Manage the clock
It’s easy to lose track of time when there are so many other things going on while on a Zoom (not least in the background). You have to acknowledge that this is not the ideal way to pitch, so it’s really important to manage the clock and ensure that you hit all of the key points within the allotted time — with spare room for questions. Because your potential investors likely have no more time than what is set out for the meeting, running over is not an option.
Pitching over Zoom, Teams, and other virtual software is not ideal, but it is something that everyone has to do. It’s the new, level playing field, and those who master it earliest will gain an advantage. Right now, for better or for worse, your path to success lies through a virtual pitch, so try to make the most of it.