Imagine this: you just gave what you thought was a flawless presentation for a potential multimillion-dollar business opportunity—only to be met by silence and blank stares. No, the potential customers weren’t put off by your enthusiasm, there was just a delay in the videoconferencing technology.
Virtual pitches are the new reality business professionals are faced with in the era of social distancing and remote work. If you’re preparing to present work to a customer virtually, you might be thinking to yourself: “I’ve had some video conferences before, I’m sure it will be the same.” Think again. Working with distributed participants on the customer side and the team side comes with a whole new set of considerations and challenges.
When you’re not able to be in the same room as each other, you can’t rely on body language, eye movement, subtle gestures, or any of the other nonverbal clues you’d normally look for to gauge how things are going. For a virtual pitch, you’ll need to take a different approach to ensure things go smoothly.
U.Group participated in our first fully remote pitch a few weeks ago—these are five of the practices we found most helpful. Help your team put their best virtual foot forward by trying them yourselves.
Practice Your Virtual Pitch—And Then Practice Some More
Plan to do more run-throughs with your team than you might for an in-person presentation. Not only does it take longer for everyone to feel comfortable with the technology, but you also want your team to be aware of what everyone ELSE on the team is planning to say.
That way, if someone experiences interruptions like signal loss, dead batteries, the dog bursting into the room and peeing on the carpet, or any other unexpected mishaps, someone else on your team can step in and carry the conversation along for a little while. While you’re at it, be sure to practice muting and unmuting yourselves! It may seem like a small thing, but it will cut down on time and awkward silences later.
Invite Teammates to Role Play the Customer’s Responses
Ask one or two team members who are not participating in the presentation to join your rehearsals. They can role play as the customer, allowing your team to walk through scenarios and answer questions you may not have anticipated otherwise, like:
- What order you will introduce yourselves in?
- How will you answer questions?
- How do you manage and communicate scope changes?
- What’s the organizational structure of your team?
- Can you go into more detail about the pricing structure you proposed?
As a bonus, having a teammate role play as the customer allows someone to focus just on watching your team and giving feedback on your “performances.”
Assign a “Referee”
When someone asks a question, how do you prevent three people from jumping in at once, all trying to answer at the same time? Help curb the enthusiasm by appointing a “referee.” The referee will delegate which team member will answer a question and ensure a smooth handoff by verbally alerting them.
A simple “That is a great question. Alex, why don’t you go ahead and answer that?” ensures there is no confusion about who is speaking, and guarantees your customer gets an easy-to-understand answer. Be sure to avoid the temptation to pile on with additional thoughts. A good rule of thumb is “plus one answering,” which means that the maximum number of people who should respond to a question is two: the original respondent, and then one other if it really warrants it.
Make the Pitch Shorter
We all know it’s important to keep text on slides to a minimum. But when you’re on video, you need to consider reducing speaking time as well. Tolerance for listening to people talk is much lower when the speaker isn’t in the room—it’s harder to stay engaged when not directly face-to-face with someone. Consider breaking up long sections by having more than one person do the talking, or plan to send supplemental material after the meeting is over to provide additional backup to your presentation.
Acknowledge the Reality
We are all still adjusting to working remotely during these stressful, uncertain times. Pause a moment in the beginning to acknowledge that truth, and to recognize that team members might forget to come off mute, there might be technical challenges, there may be dogs barking or kids playing (or crying!) in the background—and that is okay. Don’t forget: your customers are people too, and we’re all going through the same thing. It’s helpful and healthy to set the stage with a moment of humanity.