With the current global lockdown, the world has turned to two things above all: hoarding toilet paper and video calls. Zoom this... Zoom that...
For founders raising money, this means meeting investors and pitching in front of a camera instead of in person. This is not an easy switch... there is much to bemoan about video meetings. But, not to worry- here are some best practices to raise your spirits and help founders and investors alike navigate the world of virtual pitches. My personal favorite? Put some pants on.
To start, I want to highlight the unique opportunity that video pitches present. We’re all in the business of finding opportunity in challenges, after all...
👋 Embrace the intimacy
People across the globe- founders and investors alike - are stuck at home. Wary of being cliché, we’re all in this together. People are worried about their loved ones, parents are figuring out how to homeschool their children, everyone feels those quarantine blues... and more people can bond over their recent bread-making attempts than ever before.
While video cannot replace the connection forged by in-person interactions, it can make way for a new level of connection. For example, video meetings allow you to immediately transport into the other’s private space, “hello and welcome to my...home.” There is a shared intimacy not afforded otherwise. Embrace this and connect - not despite - but in light of it.
You can even break the ice by telling something interesting about the painting on your wall or why you have 12 empty wine bottles on your dresser...
🐘 Address the elephant in the room
In case you haven’t heard... we’re currently in the midst of a global pandemic. Once again, this is on top of mind for everyone and directly or indirectly affects us all. Rather than try to skim over the topic or downplay the impact, talk about it: how does COVID-19 impact your business? Be open and transparent about the implications, be them for better or for worse. You can address this vocally, build a section in your slide deck, or however you see fit. Just don’t ignore the elephant in the room.
🏡 Location, location, location
Location matters and distracting backgrounds are...well, distracting. On this point, many recommend to “choose a neutral background with good lighting” or “find a plain white wall” to sit in front of. Personally, I’m not team white wall. Spaces say a lot about a person. Think about your space as a representation of who you are and your background as an opportunity to show that over camera. This goes for both founders and investors!
That being said, there are some things to keep in mind:
- Do make sure you find a quiet and appropriate space to sit.
- Clean up- no one wants to look at your socks on the ground.
- Preferably don’t sit in a bedroom or at least don’t show it if you are (this is perhaps too intimate).
- Do ensure good lighting. So, don’t sit with your back to a window as this will wash out the image.
(Bonus tip: if you are looking for a virtual background, check out Creative Fabrica’s guide to creating your own)
Don’t underestimate the importance of those small in-person moments: pouring coffee, catching up from hallway to meeting room, and the customary small talk about the weather (😬). These moments are opportunities to build rapport. Video meetings are immediate and you miss out on those small moments; it’s harder to “vibe” with people without that. To build rapport over video:
- Resist the urge to dive right into business/the pitch.
- Take time for a proper introduction.
- Don’t cut out the small talk, but do make it more relevant and better researched.
- On a personal note, consider incorporating more storytelling into your pitch.
- Look into the camera, utilize vocal cues, and use body language when possible (more on this later).
🏝️ Vote someone off the island
There are undeniable diminishing returns between the quality of video meetings and the number of participants. If one-on-one is hard enough, then “two’s a company, three’s a crowd.” Unless necessary, keep your video pitches small. Choose your star pitcher and put your confidence behind them. If needed, you can always keep a team slack channel open for quick-fire questions and support.
🔪 Kill your darlings
I know you love the animation on slide 4...and the killer joke you slip in after the competition slide, but online pitching is a different world. Things get lost in translation...or rather, lost in slow wifi. Adjust your pitch deck and script accordingly: ensure your font is big (=readable), your graphics are clear, and each piece of content is necessary. Animations and videos are not recommended. Cut out non-essential slides and banish in-depth slides to the appendix so they’re on hand if needed.
⏰ Watch the clock
Time is a strange thing during these days of lock-down. Do you feel as though it’s hard to tell one day from the other, that hours bleed together, you don’t have the feeling of coming home after a day of work? Undeniably, the pace of life is different. So be especially aware of the time and pace of video meetings.
- It should go without saying: be on time (you too, investors!). Nowadays, you can’t use the excuse that you were looking for a parking spot.
- Make sure to set an agenda beforehand or at the beginning of the call- and stick to it.
- Respect the end time as well. Just because its a video call doesn’t mean that you can roll over 10-15 more minutes.
- Don’t forget to send your pitch deck in advance! Time is money 💸
At this point, it’s clear that the theme of this article is that video meetings are a different animal than face-to-face meetings. However, the most essential part of any pitch is the same across the board. That is: listen. Both parties take note: you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listening becomes even more critical over video as it is harder to pick up on body language, facial expressions, and verbal cues. These are subtle and critical ways we use to communicate, read the room, and set the mood.
👩💻 Dot your I’s and cross your T’s.
Make sure you’re prepared. I’m not talking about knowing your pitch material here (this should be obvious!) but rather about running the meeting itself. Here’s a quick checklist:
- What conferencing tool will you use? Make sure it’s set up and you know how to use it. You don’t want to be scrambling last minute to install browser plug-ins and applications or wasting time figuring out how to screen share during the meeting.
- Familiarize yourself with the different tools available and consider choosing the one that the investor normally uses to avoid confusion.
- Double-check that the meeting link is correct and the calendar invite is clear, to begin with. Bonus points for re-sending the link 15 min before the meeting!
- Double-check that your camera and microphone work.
- Above all, make sure your wifi works!!
💥 Bonus points!
👀 Clean up
You’re likely going to screen share. To avoid any unfortunate mishaps, clean up your desktop, close extra tabs, turn off desktop notifications (especially for messaging services). If your tool allows it, try sharing just a tab or portion of your screen for extra security.
👖Put on a pants/skirt/bottoms.
You’re at home. You’ve been at home for weeks... and will be for weeks to come. We know that sweatpants are probably your new normal. While video meeting are only from the waist up, it can be helpful to fully dress the part. Putting on pants can help you mentally prepare and get you in the pitch zone. For more takes on dress code when your new office is video chat, check out the WSJ’s take on “How to Look Professional—From the Waist Up At Least”.
.......😉 Last but not least, don’t stare at yourself on the screen *too* much.
We’re only human after all.