COVID-19 has changed how we work. Social distancing means businesses seeking investment must learn to pitch online.
Without that interaction in the room, businesses must be able to connect with investors in a virtual setting. We asked Jenny Tooth, CEO of the UK Business Angels Association, for her insight into what businesses can do to make that connection and ensure they deliver a first-class pitch from the comfort of their office.
Getting the chance to pitch
Most online pitching going on right now is by invitation only. And here’s where things might be difficult.
Typically, you’ll stand a good chance of being invited if you spoke to an investor before COVID-19 and they added you to their investment pipeline. If you didn’t, getting your foot in the door could be much tougher.
And there’s always the “cold approach”. Indeed, its success rate is traditionally quite low, with many investors preferring a “warm” reference from a trusted connection. But in the current circumstances, a well-researched, well-written cold email sent to the right investor could have its benefits.
Putting together your pitch
Creating a pitch deck
Whenever an investor invites you to pitch, they’ll likely ask to see a pitch deck first. This is a set of slides that outlines the key information about your business.
While any slides you supply before the meeting can be quite detailed, the ones you use to aid your presentation should be simpler and much more visual.
Consider how an online pitch comes across. The investor is focused on your screen and your slides do much of the talking. Consequently, it pays to:
- keep copy sparse
- use clear typefaces
- support what you’re saying with eye-catching (but clear!) infographics.
Investors need to be able to digest this information easily, so your slides must be impactful in both design and content.
That said, it’s crucial that they don’t draw attention completely — you want the investor to absorb what you’re saying. Having many clean and concise slides and working through them at speed can be a good way to ensure your pitch remains compelling.
Avoiding videos or animations is also advised, as they can sometimes cause connection issues and disrupt your flow.
“Your pitch deck should be impactful in both its design and content. But keep it clean and concise and avoid causing a distraction — the investor must be able to absorb what you’re saying.”
Preparing your words
Pitching is about getting information across in an effective and engaging way. While it might help your delivery to read from a pre-written script, it can remove any feeling of spontaneity and make you sound stilted.
It might also cause you to avert your eyes from the camera, which can give the wrong impression.
With this in mind, the recommended approach is to practise and practise! Read the words out loud so you can pick out any awkward parts of your speech. Memorise the words as much as you can so you can deliver them in a professional manner.
The nature of online pitching means you simply can’t avoid technology. You’re depending on computers, cameras and microphones, internet connections and software, and they aren’t always reliable.
To lessen the chances of your pitch falling prey to technical gremlins:
- Use easily accessible programs and platforms
You’re aiming to make it as simple as possible for the investor to follow your pitch and take on board all the information you’re presenting.
- Use a hardwired internet connection, if possible
They are generally more stable than Wi‑Fi and less likely to drop out while you’re mid-flow.
And consider rehearsing your pitch from a technical perspective, so you know exactly what you’ll need to do when the actual meeting takes place.
“Draw particular attention to any aspects of your business, products or services that address the impact of COVID-19. At this time, investors are likely to find these of special interest.”
Delivering your pitch
Online pitching tends to be short and sharp, so you have to get all your information over in five to six minutes. Each slide in your deck has to really make a difference. Don’t get into too much technical detail.
Communicate what’s important
What you want to convey most of all is why you set up this specific business, and why investing in it is a great opportunity in the current climate.
Aim to get across what you’ve achieved so far — the milestones you’ve hit and the traction you’ve gained. Demonstrate clearly that you know your market, your customers and your finances and how much investment you need. Show that you understand how your business will grow and scale when it comes through this testing period.
You should especially draw attention to any aspects of your business, products or services that may be addressing the impact of Covid-19, since investors could find these of particular interest.
Remember you’re being judged
Because these are challenging times, investors will be looking at you and your team and whether you’re resilient, flexible and adaptable. They’ll want to know how you’re going to take advantage of opportunities in these present circumstances.
Your ability to show that you’re a strong entrepreneur with great people around you could make the difference as to whether investors think they should back your business right now.