Pitching over video is now the new norm, and startup founders are having to adapt quickly to make sure they do not fall behind. Founders need to be able to communicate what they do in a compelling way, even across the digital void, says Ginny Radmall from Amplify. She has worked with companies like Google, Microsoft and IKEA.
Radmall was a mentor and pitch coach at the recently held global online hackathon The Global Hack, as well as HackForce hackathon in Latvia and Hack the Crisis Denmark. Radmall is a longtime storytelling and pitch coach at startup accelerator Startup Wise Guys and shares the key things she is teaching to startups right now.
I. Create new habits
When people are pitching in person they might hide behind their slides, overuse jargon or show very little passion, and the same is true over video. I help founders address what bad habits they might have when pitching over video, and teach them the technique to help them create some new habits.
Two key things I think people need to be aware of when pitching over video is:
-- How they would like to come across or be perceived by their audience. It is important to identify this so that it gives you something to work towards and aim for;
-- How you want your audience to feel. We have mirror neurons in our brains, meaning we imitate or mirror what we see in front of us. If you want your virtual audience to be excited by what you’re saying, you will need to take certain steps to help them get there.
II. Practical tips to overcome tech challenges
Test your mics/cameras before calls, or even invest in better equipment where possible.
Sit up tall, or even stand up if you can when you’re pitching to a camera. It will allow you take more air into your lungs.
Think about projecting your voice and over pronouncing your words. Scrunching up your facial muscles is a good way to warm up your face so you are ready to pitch. Audio quality isn’t as good over video, so you cannot afford to mumble!
Speak in short sentences and get to the point quickly. An audience is just as distractible over video as they are in person, you need to fight to get their attention, so rambling means you’re in danger of loosing them.
Have notes and a structure to what you’re saying. Use stories where you can. Stanford University found that a story (when told well) was 22x more powerful than a fact. People need connection more than ever, so use stories to explain your customers pain, or what you’re doing to make a difference in the world.
Traditionally during on-site accelerator pitch coaches mostly work with stories and “acting on stage”, however, in an online environment, you lose many of the supporting elements, says Karina Lapina. She runs the startup scouting for Startup Wise Guys, which means she is the first person on the team to see startup decks and regularly participates in jury and startup evaluations of tech conferences, now mostly happening online.
Lapina is also one of the people behind the Startup Wise Guys online pre-accelerator, running pitch drills for startups in the program. She recently participated in the monthly networking business conference Wolves Summit which was held entirely online and shares her tips from experience.
I. Play with three elements
You might not have a video on a call, body language, mimics have way less impact, whereas your voice and pronunciation - more.
You basically have 3 elements in an online pitch you can play (and should work) with: your slides or any other visual material that you show, the structure of your talk and the overall message/content of your pitch. Some practical advice as follows:
-- Online pitch should be simplified if compared to stage pitch and you should make sure that your font is readable on a smaller screen (test it);
-- Although it might not be relevant for very seasoned startups, to our online pre-accelerator teams we suggest “Empty slides template” which basically means that you are allowed to use only one item per slide (one image, one keyword OR one number - nothing else) and have 10-11 slides max;
-- Exception to simplification is in case the person presenting has a specific accent or has issues with clear pronounciation. In that case there should be twice as much text on the slides, so it serves as subtitles and helps the audience to understand;
-- Use the same keywords in your speech and on your slides. Your connection might not be great or sound not perfect – if people don’t hear something, they can read it and understand your point without extra frustration, it’s like double-proofing the key message.
II. Technology is your best friend
But also your enemy. In the current situation more than before it is crucial to practice your pitch with tech as things will go wrong. On the stage maybe the clicker was your only enemy, but here it is everything from the internet connection, your computer settings to file-size, audio input etc.
-- Run a test in the same tool that you are using for the call. Zoom, Microsoft teams and Google Hangouts are all different. Plugins might not be set up automatically, screen sharing might not be allowed because of privacy settings, etc;
-- Use headphones with microphone;
-- Be prepared to switch off the camera if there's a lag in wifi connection. Warn the listener beforehand, saying “I'll do this, if the wifi gets slow”;
-- Pay attention to the file size of your deck (less is more) - so it doesn't slow down the internet connection.