April 22, 2020

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by: Jonathan Hung

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Categories: Investing, Startup Funding

7 Virtual Pitch Tips For Startups

Many entrepreneurs have had experience pitching prospective investors in-person. You meet with an investor, go over your presentation, documents, and other pertinent information. They ask some questions, and you ask some as well. If all goes well, you’ll discuss specifics, and eventually, they’ll cut you a check and potentially take a seat on your board of directors. Entrepreneurs have also likely experienced demo days where prospective investors come to see your product and invest in your company. Virtual pitches should be no different.

Intuitively, taking your pitch online might seem the same. You’ll go over a presentation, discuss your business, and answer questions. However, while the core concept remains the same, the medium is very different. Making a pitch online is much different than being able to sit down with an investor face-to-face. Meeting problems, technical difficulties, and distractions all come into play when working from home. Instead of focusing on the amazing things your business is doing, your prospective investor might be distracted by elements outside of your control.

Therefore, virtual pitches require unwavering attention to detail and polish. Here are seven online pitch tips for startups that will make your pitch have a higher chance of success!

  1. Use An Open Meeting Platform
  2. Ensure You Have The Right Equipment
  3. Minimize Background Distractions
  4. Ensure Your Connection Is Fantastic
  5. Make A Sizzle Reel
  6. Look Into The Camera
  7. Practice.
  8. Use These Virtual Pitch Tips To Succeed

1. Use An Open Meeting Platform

Within your company, you may have an online meeting solution. That works well for your employees. However, when you meet with outside VCs, they’re going to need a link to join the meeting. Since they won’t be within your company, you’re going to need a meeting solution that supports outside users.

Zoom has proven to be one of the more popular virtual pitch solutions, given that it allows for a significant number of simultaneous connections (up to 500 with the right licenses, as of the time of this writing). You can generate a link to the meeting and send it to the VCs to join. Microsoft Teams can also create public URLs that will permit anyone to join the meeting.

No matter what solution you use, ensure that participants can join the meeting quickly and with minimal obstruction. The last thing you want is to have a pitch at 9 am and spend the first 20 minutes trying to get everyone to download the software, connect, and set up their computers. Join the call a little early so you can be available to help with any issues.

Also, send out the meeting invite with the URL again to all attendees 15 minutes before the session starts. Let them know that you’re bubbling it up in their inbox. With how many meeting requests VCs get, your pitch might not be at the top of their inbox or on their calendar, and the VC either forgets or can’t find your link. Make it easy for them to remember and join!

2. Ensure You Have The Right Equipment

Making a virtual pitch using your phone’s microphone and camera in portrait mode isn’t going to give your presentation the appearance that you want. Furthermore, using your phone will be tough to share your screen, send out documents or presentation decks, or show a demo. Even worse, some entrepreneurs will make their pitch on their phones walking down the street.

All of this can give a wrong first impression. It makes you seem like you don’t care about the pitch enough to acquire the right equipment and dedicate space and time for the presentation.

Invest in a good webcam (laptop webcams are sometimes alright, but the positioning of them can be tricky to get an excellent looking image). Invest in a proper microphone so that when you speak, your voice is crystal clear. Also, ensure that the computer from which you’re conducting the meeting is fast enough to handle the meeting plus any other applications that you have open.

At most, getting this type of quality setup might cost $200-300, but it will be well worth it to give your presentation a level of professionalism that other entrepreneurs don’t have. After all, when faced with someone who’s walking with AirPods pitching to their iPhone or you, who has the equipment necessary to provide perfect sound and images, VCs will lean towards you. If you’re that dedicated to making the pitch to them, you’ll dedicate your time and effort to ensuring your business succeeds!

3. Minimize Background Distractions

Even though venture capitalists should dedicate their time and energy during the call to learning more about your business, the reality is that everyone is human. If there is a bunch of artworks, decorations, or a bright window, the focus of the people on the call won’t be on your fantastic startup, but on “what exactly IS that thing behind you?”

Pick a dedicated spot in your house and set up your equipment so that it is facing a neutral color wall. All investors need to see is a neutral background, and you – the star of the show – giving a fantastic pitch for your business.

Some video chat software lets you adjust the background with an image. For example, you can make the environment look like you’re in Hawaii and give the pitch with palm trees, sun, and the ocean behind you. (Never do this.) Some programs also let you blur your background so people can’t see the details of what is behind you. Or, you could set a neutral color background that way. Generally, though, these software approaches aren’t as good. It’s going to be evident that you’re using these artificial backgrounds and that, in and of itself, could be a distraction.

4. Ensure Your Connection Is Fantastic

You’ll need a stellar internet connection to make your virtual pitch successful. If your picture keeps freezing or your words are hard to hear, it’s going to create a negative impression that will make it difficult for the people on the other side of the call to invest in your business.

Some technical problems are outside of your control (like their internet connection is the bad one), but you shouldn’t add to those potential complications. Zoom recommends having a minimum of 3.0 Mbps upload and download speed for sending and receiving HD 1080p video. Other software, of course, has different requirements. Ensure that your internet connection meets those requirements.

If you use your home’s WIFI connection, consider switching to Ethernet instead. A wired connection tends to have slightly less lag and be more robust. Wifi can cut out, drop packets, and be subject to interference from other devices. However, a wired Ethernet connection ensures that your video gets to your router and across the internet!

Again, your goal is to minimize the potential for something going wrong. Of course, there’s always the chance that technical difficulties will arise even with precautions, and in that case, you will have to reschedule.

5. Make A Sizzle Reel

In the television and entertainment industry, a sizzle reels “are short promotional videos, also known as demo reels, highlight reels, showreels, promo videos, pitch tapes, or teasers.” For your startup, your sizzle reel is going to be a fantastic demo or mock-up of your product! It’s going to be the thing that excites a potential investor and makes them realize that your product is going to do very well in the marketplace.

Invest in a high-quality sizzle reel for your pitch. Pre-record it and share it. You can try and play it as a screen share, but sometimes there’s some lag playing the video, so you shouldn’t count on that as the only means of showing your demo. Share it so you can be confident that everyone will see it.

Many people go into virtual pitches, thinking about giving live demos. App developers, for example, may load up the emulator to try and show the app in real-time. The logic is that seeing the app working in real-time will be more awe-inspiring than seeing a video of it.

However, generally, sizzle reels work better for a couple of reasons. First, live demos are notoriously finicky. After all, it’s always that one minute when you’re trying to give a live demo that the servers implode, and you get a bunch of errors (or, at least, it can feel that way). Second, it’s more important for investors to understand the concept of what you’re trying to build than it is for them to see it working right then and there. If the demo has issues, they’ll not only have a negative impression, but they’ll walk away, not knowing what your vision is. That’s worse.

Record a sizzle reel and ensure it gets into the hands of your prospective investors before your pitch!

6. Look Into The Camera

We’ve all probably been on calls before where there’s one person that seems like they’re always looking off to the side. Or they’re looking at the ceiling. That can sometimes be very distracting!

On computers, cameras are not in the middle of the screen, yet most people look at the screen while making the pitch. Intuitively, our minds want to look at the other person to make eye contact, but since the camera isn’t where their eyes are, the image they see looks like you’re looking somewhere else in the room.

It’s a hard habit to get into, but train yourself to look at the camera, so that way, people perceive that you are making eye contact with them. You’ll come across as much more professional and less distracting that way.

7. Practice

Give your virtual startup pitch to a colleague or mentor and solicit feedback. One of the beautiful things about virtual meeting software is that usually, you can record the meetings. Record all your practice sessions and play them back. Answer some key questions honestly.

  • Would you fund this business?
  • Is there any critical question you didn’t answer?
  • Were you awed by the pitch? Or did it seem dull?
  • Was there anything distracting? Did your voice and image have high quality, or did it look grainy or compressed?

Give your pitch as many times as necessary until you’re happy with the level of professionalism and attention to detail. You want to ensure that your presentation is one that captivates potential investors and puts the emphasis on you, the entrepreneur.

Use These Virtual Pitch Tips To Succeed

Even though your pitch might be online now instead of in-person, the premise of it remains the same. You want the person on the other end of the call to invest money into your business. Similarly, they want to learn more about your company and see if it would be a good investment. Nothing has changed about why the call is happening, just how it will happen.

Therefore, the goal should be to make the call as intuitive and seamless as possible. You want the focus to be on you, the entrepreneur. Investors aren’t going to invest in your slides. Instead, they’ll be investing in your abilities, talents, and the strength of your overall team.

To accomplish this, first, get the right equipment. Choose a meeting platform that’s fast, friendly, and easy for everyone to join. Minimize distractions and ensure your connection meets the minimum requirements for whatever platform you choose (if you can use a wired connection instead of wireless, that would be best). Look into the camera during your presentation so that your prospective investor perceives it as you are making eye contact with them. Make a quality sizzle reel that excites them! Finally, practice your pitch. Making these pitches online is new for everyone, so don’t start by experimenting with your investors.

By making sure to follow these tips, you’ll put the focus on you as the investor and on your fantastic product, which is right where you want it to be. You’ll also stand out from the crowd, and your attention to detail will provide investors with confidence in your ability to deliver a quality product for customers. You have the unique opportunity to be more memorable by putting together a quality virtual pitch.

Indeed, even though virtual pitches might be scary, at first, for entrepreneurs, in reality, they’re your time to shine!