As part of our investment programme this year, we’re asking our member companies to pitch online to a panel of investors in order to win a pitching slot at our annual investment showcase.
Traditionally we’ve held ‘panel selection days’ with a live assembled audience of investors and experts. Whilst these have worked well, they are time consuming for both the panel and pitching companies.
It was definitely time to shake up and improve the process, but what are the differences when pitching to an audience that are not in the room with you? What things do you need to think about to engage the audience?
Essentially the contents of the pitch should be the same, such as remembering to sell the technology rather then explain it, but here are a few things to think about when preparing your online pitch.
- Grab my attention
When people are joining a call from their homes or offices there are many things to distract them. You no longer have a captive audience. You have to work hard to grab their attention and keep it. How many of us have been on a conference call and started doing our emails or scrolling through the internet? You have to ensure you grab people’s attention and keep it. Bold headline messages up front with impactful slides will help. An unclear message leads to an underserved and unsatisfied audience. You will never have a second chance to make a first impression.
- Your voice is your instrument
Your voice is the way to create impact when presenting online. Make sure your audience can hear you! Your sound quality needs to be excellent. It helps to also have good video, but good sound is most important. Turns out people will tolerate poor video, but if they can’t hear properly, they hang up. Do not use the built-in microphone and speakers on your computer. Use an external mic and speakers. Vary your voice pitch and delivery speed as this is just another variable to be aware of that can help keep your audience engaged. Speak clearly and masterfully. Your voice can command attention. You can’t be a mouse when presenting online.
- You’re talking to a brick wall
The worst part of presenting online is the lack of immediate feedback. When you are in a room with an audience you pick up on clues of how the audience is reacting to what you are saying and if they are engaging. Presenting online is like presenting to a blank wall. This is where confidence and belief in your product and yourself is essential. You need to show energy and enthusiasm for what you are doing with no sense of whether the audience feels the same way. You are not conversing to socialise, you are conversing to influence and persuade. Some people forget when you are pitching online that you are there to persuade the audience to part with cash.
- Mirror, mirror, on the wall
To create the confidence and check how you are going to come across, practise so you can see what you look like. Using a mirror to rehearse might seem odd, but by doing this you can check your facial expressions. It sounds silly, but smiling does really help to put some spark in your voice. Always have a mental picture of what you want to have before you start speaking and converse as an authority. Make sure to stay energised throughout the entire presentation.
- Your friends are your harshest critics
Have a trial run using the online technology and pitch to your friends and family. These are the people who want you to succeed the most and will give you honest feedback. Ask they how you come across online and what you could do differently. Ask them not to interrupt but give feedback at the end, as an online pitch would work. This way you can get a sense of presenting to the blank wall. If you can, record your presentation and play it back. You may discover things you didn’t know you do that distract from the message you are trying to get across.
- Avoid a script
Just because you’re pitching online, don’t think you can deliver your presentation from a script. By all means have a few notes but it will still be obvious, even online, if you are reading from a script. Confidence is essential when pitching and investors want to see that you are totally consumed by the product you have and believe in the value you can bring to customers. A script doesn’t give this and in fact online would make you seem wooden and unbelievable. Leading your audience by telling a clear story, means you are in control and you have an opportunity to position yourself as an authority.
- Speak to your audience
One way to help people stay engaged and interact with what you are saying is to ask questions of the audience in your presentation. Have you ever …? What do you think when …? Set up scenarios that people can relate to and pose them as questions. This will get the audience to think about what you are presenting and will keep them engaged. Your audience is a key to any presentation, and when presenting online this is still the case. Address your audience as individuals rather than as a group and make sure each and every one of them feels like you are speaking directly to them.
- You are the star of the show
Avoid unexpected actors and objects in your pitch. How many of us have joined conference calls where people have their washing hanging to dry in the background, or the kids and the dog keep going past? This is very distracting for people watching your presentation. Even if you are presenting from home, make sure you have an office-like environment with a closed door so no additional stars can make it on to the screen. You want the attention solely on you. This is another reason to have a trial run with friends or record it and play it back. You may be less aware of what is behind you when you are focused on delivering an amazing pitch.
- Death by IT
When there is technology involved things will go wrong. Have a backup plan. No matter how prepared you are, things can go wrong. Make sure you’re ready for them. Don’t let IT glitches throw you. Stay calm and in control as this will build your credibility. Check before you start everyone can hear you clearly but don’t expect a reaction other than perhaps nods. When presenting online, silence is an affirmative statement.
- Keep calm and carry on
It’s easy to get distracted when getting ready for your presentation, especially when the nerves kick in. Having a checklist can help keep you on track. Go through and ensure everything is working as it should be. Have a quick test call with a colleague or friend 30 minutes before you start. Remember to keep calm when things do go wrong, as a flustered pitch with not give the air of authority and confidence you want to portray.
- The most important thing to rememberis that unlike a pitch in a room where your panellists or investors can see you alongside your presentation, online it is just your head and your slides. You will have to work hard to engage your audience but a confident, clearly delivered pitch following these hints and tips will help you on the path to investment success.