The same skills that make a good pitcher tend to make a good communicator: being able to relax in front of an audience and read body language and silent cues to adjust your approach accordingly. But what happens when, instead of being in a boardroom and six feet away from the client, you’re in your own home? Not only are you missing your usual soft skills toolkit, but you now have the added threats of child intrusions, slow internet and interruptions to deal with.
So how do you pitch effectively over a video call? Rupert Wesson, director at Debrett’s, shares his key tips for performing in front of a webcam:
1.) Be succinct: There is no greater compliment to your client than valuing their time. Don’t forget that video calls take longer to cover the same material as a face-to-face conversation. So:
- Prepare a robust plan and be ready to pitch to it, but also be ready to adapt.
- Know what your overall headline is (why they should choose your company) and then build up the key facts that support it.
- These facts should be expressed in simple clear sentences without charts, pictures or bulleted lists. If you say why something is important it can’t be ignored or misinterpreted like a PowerPoint slide. Besides, if you can’t describe your product, offering or value proposition in simple words then you probably don’t understand it and nor will your clients.
- Think about what the client needs to know, not what you want to tell them.
2.) Be interactive: Give the client plenty of airtime. Conversations are harder on a video call and as a result many people deliver a SlideShare monologue instead. This is off-putting and may mean you never truly find out what the buyer really thinks or wants to know. Instead:
- Prepare a 20-minute pitch for a one-hour pitch meeting
- Keep slides to a minimum (ideally 3-5 for 20 minutes)
- Include breaks from the slides to make eye contact and check for understanding
- Encourage your clients to ask questions to your face (as it were) and invite them to do so.
3.) Be disciplined:
- Have a colleague act as a kind of ‘compere’: someone to make introductions, mediate, monitor the agenda and keep an eye on the clock.
- Minimise the number of people from your team: if someone doesn’t have a critical role, don’t have them on the call. You can lose 15 minutes just making introductions.
4.) Be prepared:
- Prepare in advance. Rehearse the format, timings and words. Trial your AV setup to allow for a seamless start.
- If it’s your first time pitching over VC, run it past a colleague and get their feedback.
- Check the technology and stage management from the viewer’s perspective. Are you silhouetted in front of a window? Can your clients hear the kids watching TV next door? Make it look and sound good.
It’s a simple toolkit but should stand anyone in good stead until we return to office (and long after that too!)