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Pitching in a Time of Pandemic

Expert in entrepreneurship, John Biggs, reveals tips that can make your virtual pitch more effective.

If you’re building a business, you’re going to be pitching. And if you’re pitching today, during COVID, you are going to be pitching virtually. This is classic good news, bad news situation.

The good news: VCs and angel investors are already familiar with and using video chat services like Zoom or Google Hangouts to keep pitches moving. Just make sure you are too.

The bad news: Pitching virtually makes it harder to command the attention of others. But there are some tips that can make your virtual pitch more effective.

Control the “virtual” room. You want to have complete control over the video chat system you use. If the investor has initiated the virtual call, then make sure to ask for “host” sharing privileges immediately.

Get right to the pitch.  Make introductions and limit small talk. In an in-person pitch, there is more room for chatter. But in the virtual pitch this can get distracting and awkward quickly. So, make introductions and get to the pitch.

Stay on track. In an in-person pitch, you can expect interruptions and questions. You can see people’s reactions more easily. You get feedback. But an interesting thing can happen in a virtual pitch that seldom happens with in-person pitches. People are quiet. There is less visual feedback. And investors may wait until after the presentation to provide comments. So in a virtual pitch keep things short and sweet. In our book “Get Funded!” we outline how to create a winning ten slide pitch deck. When you do it virtually, the trick will be to speed things up a little and keep the presentation portion of the pitch to five minutes — and get quickly to the demo by either sharing your screen or following the next tip.

Ask them to show you how they’d use your product. A recent pitch we saw dealt with a new web-based software product. Instead of running through a slide deck, the founder gave us access to the product and asked us to try it while sharing our screen. The result did two things: it gave the founder important feedback about the product and it demoed the product in a very real way.

Practice for video. When pitching live you have a lot on your side. You can interact with the subject, maintain eye contact, and feel, intuitively, when they’re getting bored. Because you don’t have any of these things when interacting online you’re going to have to learn to pitch for video. Ask a friend – preferably a mean one – to watch your pitch in a real Zoom call. Time your pitch to minimize any opportunity for your subject to click away to other things and practice your cadence and clarity. Also have them critique your body language and environment.

Keep the kids and dogs out in the backyard. It goes without saying that you’re going to want the kids to keep quiet during your pitch. You need to concentrate, right? Prepare your space for pitching, get the pitch done, and then let everyone back in.

Be technically ready to do, and be ready for technical glitches. Things are going to go wrong, on your side or the investor’s side. Have another video conference option ready and available that can be shared through email or text if there are any issues connecting. And make sure you know how each video conference system works. Sometimes video conference systems require you to download software, updates and give permissions (audio and video) to your computer to work. Make sure you do this prior to the pitch day, as making the investor wait to figure your “tech out,” is not a great way to start a pitch. Pro tip: know how to mute your microphone or stop video if something goes wrong.

Post-pitch, follow up twice then chill. Follow up immediately after your call to thank the VC for their time and then follow up three or four days later if you don’t hear back. We are currently all overwhelmed by communications so there is no benefit to going nuts and pinging them too often. Interestingly, now that people are out of the office and not distracted by travel decisions are coming faster.

If you are beginning to pitch for the first time, learning to pitch virtually can be a bit awkward. Just remember there is a human on the other side. So make sure they see the human in you. Be prepared and excited about their business or idea, but also make sure you are interested in what the investor has to say.

To read more from John Biggs, check out his new book, Get Funded!
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Pitching in a Time of Pandemic

John Biggs is the Editor in Chief of Gizmodo, a news and opinion site dedicated to technology, gadgets, and science. He has been at the forefront of the new entrepreneurial revolution since 2004. A programmer by training, he was one of the founding editors of TechCrunch, where he spent the past 12 years flying coast to coast and around the world to spread a very specific form of entrepreneurial evangelism. He has taught his methods in multiple countries and has spoken and consulted with some of the world’s fastest-moving companies. Biggs has written 12,000 posts about technology, business, gadgets, and the future.