It seems like forever since I was able to have in-person meetings, where I’d be able to engage in the age-old art of conversation. With the world closing down to cope with the new reality of COVID-19 pandemic, entrepreneurs are having to pitch remotely to investors while dealing with various challenges. Below you will find a checklist of items that would definitely help any entrepreneur perfect their upcoming remote pitch.
First, you want to share your deck with whoever you’re pitching to; that way they’d have time to go through it and have their questions prepared. Also, it would help avoid any technical problems with screen sharing later on when you hold the scheduled video meeting.
Have your questions ready ahead of time. This one goes to the judges or investors, particularly as they should help the entrepreneur hone in on the most important aspects of the pitch. Setting the agenda straight saves everybody’s time and helps drive the conversation in a constructive manner. Additionally, the entrepreneurs must come prepared to answer these questions and do their own due diligence.
Practice, practice, practice! I’ve seen this one way too many times, where entrepreneurs practice their pitch in their head without actually setting a timer and improving their posture. Managing the time of your pitch not only shows that you’ve practiced but also gives you time to discuss more important things. Word of advice: practice in front of a mirror to see how your hands move, try to maintain eye contact one way or another (we understand webcams aren’t the ideal situation), and ensure your voice is well heard.
Bonus: Don’t have too many distractions in the background (pro tip: don’t use a funny customized Zoom background).
One thing we’ve learned at MITEF Pan Arab during the past 13 years of organizing startup competitions is that accidents happen, and we don’t want that to happen to you while you’re pitching to an investor remotely. Test your WiFi beforehand and make sure that no one is downloading the latest season of Money Heist. Remember, you don’t want them to have the first impression of you as a frozen blob of pixels that pitched from the realms of dial-up internet. If in doubt, ask to postpone the meeting. Also, don’t forget to charge your laptop or device before the call (we get it, you’re nervous).
One last thing before you actually have the call is to ensure that you invite the right people. In this case, having fewer people is more. Having too many people on the call might not be to your benefit, especially if it’s your first (or only?) meeting. Furthermore, it’s always safe to assume that the person(s) who will be on your call will probably be calling the shots on whether they will invest in your startup or not (in most cases, they could either be your best friend or your worst enemy).
Once the day comes and you’re having the call, it’s good to break the ice by acknowledging that things are not particularly ideal for anyone, and that’s okay. Pretending that all things are normal won’t help you much, so you might as well live with the new norms set with remote work (aka kids walking in on your call, or a needy pet scratching your door).
In terms of technical requirements, I highly encourage you to find your best camera angle, for me, I use books to elevate the laptop so that it’s on eye-level (to avoid someone having to look up my nostrils). Also, it’s always good to test your microphone levels ahead of time so that you know the judges could hear you clearly and loudly.
It doesn’t hurt to remind yourself that pacing yourself and answering concisely is key to make the conversation flow easier and more understandable. With internet delays and connection problems, it’s easy for talks to overlap and cause awkward silences as a result: “Go ahead…”
After the call, have a clear actionable next step, literally ask “What’s next?”
If you’re the VC or judge on that side of the call, make sure that the founder knows your process and how you will be moving forward, especially with the extraordinary circumstances that the world’s going through.
Lastly, send a follow-up email to all attending parties. Though don’t immediately send that pre-drafted email you’ve used on many occasions before, it’s usually better to wait a few hours or even a day.
Think of it this way: you simply want to thank them for their time, highlight the main takeaways from the call, and underline your availability to address any issue or question you might have not been able to answer during the call.