Virtual fundraising can be a daunting prospect even for the most experienced presenter.
It involves becoming comfortable using Zoom and other teleconferencing technology. It requires physical techniques to present with a higher level of energy and conviction to an unseen audience in multiple locations. In short, it means even more preparation than for a physical encounter.
But as you practice, you’ll become more confident “speaking into the Zoom void” by controlling the setting and delivery so you can concentrate on the pitch itself.
Here are some tips for perfecting your next virtual pitch:
1) Do your background research on potential investors even more thoroughly than you normally would. Since it will be hard to gauge their reactions during the call, you need to assemble information about the participants beforehand so that you can gear your pitch appropriately. What is their overall level of knowledge of the market and your specific investment areas? How much do they know about your fund? What have been their recent commitments? What do they expect from you?
2) Your next challenge is to build a compelling investment story. You would always do this, of course, but when presenting virtually, you need to jack up the energy and the intensity of the vision you convey. Your biggest challenge is keeping your listeners engaged, and mere facts and figures are unlikely to do the trick. Use storytelling techniques: create an actual story with a beginning, middle and end, and a strong key message appealing to emotions, not just reason. Describe a particular problem and how you plan to solve it.
3) Consider jump-starting your presentation with a strong personal anecdote that will grab your audience’s attention. And keep your pitch tight: use short sentences and slides that are simple, clear and light on text. Aim to cover less content than you would during an in-person pitch meeting; focus on the most essential points and leave the rest for the Q&A or follow-up meetings.
4) Do a thorough tech check beforehand. This includes making sure any filters are off and that your dog, cat or child isn’t prepared to photobomb through the background – this has lost its initial charm. You needn’t become an expert overnight, but make sure you’re comfortable with the conferencing technology. Be sure to do at least one dry run with colleagues to identify and remove any glitches.
5) If you don’t have an external camera and microphone, consider investing in them, as they make a big difference in the quality of sound and image. Check to make sure your desktop doesn’t have any windows open that you’d prefer to keep personal. And, of course, make sure your background is uncluttered and free of any revealing details – especially if you’re presenting from home. Play around with the lighting until you’re happy with it and make sure your camera is slighting higher than eye level, the most attractive angle for your face.
6) As with in-person meetings, the Q&A part is the most important, since this is where potential investors can test your investment story. The last thing you want is to appear flustered by a difficult or unanticipated question, so don’t stint on rehearsal time and make sure to cover even the most uncomfortable or tricky questions that may come up. Because you’re remote, you need to be even more physical in your responses by nodding, using appropriate facial expressions and taking notes.
7) When the big day arrives, use your new confidence in your pitch and the technology to concentrate on projecting as much energy and emotion as possible. Look into the camera lens as if you were looking at the audience in real life. Smile when introducing yourself and use facial expressions and gestures that are consistent with your message. Maintain an active and engaged posture, avoid slumping in a chair or leaning on the table. Decide whether you’re most comfortable sitting or standing: you may find that standing helps you breathe better and frees up your body language.
8) Finally, bear in mind that we’re all suffering from “Zoom fatigue” these days, partly because the cognitive load is much higher in video chats. Your listeners will be grateful for a short, snappy presentation. And you’ll have a better shot at setting up more meetings to cover any outstanding questions.
It doesn’t come naturally to most of us, but Zoom presenting is something we can all master with practice and patience.
Madeleine Resener is a pitch training and marketing consultant at Brackendale Consulting in Paris