Securing investment can be more difficult when you can’t wow potential investors in person – so how do you make sure your pitch hits the mark?
With coronavirus measures still limiting face-to-face contact, most business meetings are taking place remotely – and that includes investment pitches. But don’t let that put you off: eager investors are still out there looking for great opportunities.
Armed with insight from entrepreneurs who’ve done it all before, we look at the steps you can take to capitalise on your next video-pitching opportunity.
With no real template to follow, all businesses have their own lockdown stories – be ready to tell yours while in front of the camera.
“How you’ve handled the last few months will tell investors a lot about you as a business owner, so have your honest story ready for whoever’s listening,” says Michael Blakeley, founder of the Entrepreneurs Collective, a networking platform that connects start-ups with investors. “Talk about how you’re coping during the crisis, what it’s meant for your business so far and what will happen to it after the pandemic – this information will help to reassure those watching.”
This also means demonstrating how your firm may have pivoted or diversified during the crisis.
“It sounds very simple but as well as selling yourself and your business, you need to make sure the investors know what you are pitching for,” says Joe Sillett, who’s successfully used video pitching to raise funding for The Funky Appliance Company, a kitchen equipment business he runs with partner Sadie.
“Don’t start a video call with a group of investors if you don’t know how much money you are looking for and how much equity you are prepared to sell – you should know before you pitch what your terms are.”
Learning a basic script might help you get a recorded video pitch perfect, but you’ll need to be more natural on a live call.
“How you’ve handled the last few months will tell investors a lot about you as a business owner. Talk about how you’re coping during the crisis, what it’s meant for your business so far and what will happen to it after the pandemic”Michael Blakeley, founder, Entrepreneurs Collective
“My biggest tip would be to prepare meticulously,” Sillett says. “And by that I mean that you need to know everything about your business and your business plan. You need to be in a position where if any investor on the video call asks you a question after you have finished presenting, you are able to answer it straightaway and with confidence.”
When it comes to answering ad-hoc questions, having a robust understanding of your finances is essential. Make sure you can comprehensively communicate your current financial position, and be clear about exactly what financial input you are asking for.
Technical hitches and noisy or cluttered surroundings can make you look unorganised and even unprofessional, so get everything set up in advance and test your equipment on a less important call or dummy recording if possible.
“Go for a quiet space with no distractions and test the microphone and video so you know everything is working properly,” advises Lowri Tan, who’s been pitching remotely for baby food brand Little Tummy during lockdown. “Switch off all sound notifications on your laptop, too, and have an alternative dial-in ready in case the technology fails you.”
Investors need to see the passion you have for your business, and that can be harder to get across without the benefit of in-person body language. So, instead of learning your script word for word, consider working through a list of bullet points, expanding on each one in a more natural, conversational manner.
“Be yourself, be excited about your pitch and let the investors feel your enthusiasm,” Sillett says. “Whilst presenting to investors, you should be mentally visualising these people being your future business partners. Your aim is to get to the end of the pitch with investors thinking, ‘I really like this person; they really know their business and are excited by it’.”
Without any real people in the room, it might feel like you’re presenting into the ether, but remember there are real people watching, so be personable; just as you would in the flesh.
Sillett recommends using the name tags on video chat platforms to address everyone properly during live pitches. “If someone asks a question, respond with their name,” he says. “So for example ‘that’s a great question, Samantha…etc’, or if there are a few people on the call, and you can see all of their names on the screen, greet them personally.”
The end of a video call or presentation will always feel more abrupt when compared with the conventional counterparts, so do what you can to make the ending softer and keep investors engaged.
“Make sure to arrange some next steps or actions and follow up in a timely manner,” advises Blakeley, who also runs London dating app CLiKD. Those steps could be as simple as providing some additional information, or you could go a little further to keep investors engaged: “The more involved they [investors] can feel in the business, the better,” he adds. “Offer to have them to join a team meeting or something else that makes them feel part of the company and make their experience positive and interesting. Investors generally want to feel valued and appreciated, not just that you are after their money.”
Unless you happen to have a professional camera operator on hand, you’ll need to film any recorded pitches yourself. And to do that successfully, you’ll need some equipment: namely a camera or high-quality smartphone camera, some editing software and some kind of tripod or phone stand.
As for the content to include, Little Tummy’s Lowri Tan suggests the following priorities: “Keep it short – ideally you should convey all necessary information in a period of 2 – 3 minutes – keep your attire simple to avoid distracting viewers; and make your opening statement bold but honest to grab attention.”