video pitch

Video Pitching: It’s not just a webcam!

It became standard to use video pitches (recorded or live) in selection processes for accelerators, competitions or even to be considered in a traditional VC deal flow. For them, advantages are straightforward: it’s faster to watch a 3′-7′ video than reading a complete application or meeting in person, you get to see the other people (so you know they, supposedly, are not maniacs), and forces entrepreneurs to focus on main points. Well, and you can have all of that wearing flip flops…

For entrepreneurs, however, it brings an additional complexity: a video pitch is not just a recorded version… you need to adapt your speech, material and even preparation is different.

Live (videoconference) Pitch

A live pitch over videoconference (Skype, Hangout, BlueJeans, Go to Meeting…) it’s a different game; in my opinion, it’s much more technical.

1) You won’t be able to use too many resources

It’s almost like a face to face presentation… but worse! You will be talking, presenting slides and, depending on the conference system used, might do a demo. Using different resources increases the odds of something going wrong.

2) Technology issues

On a pitch over videoconference, technology can bring additional challenges:

  • Make sure you have a stable and fast internet connection. You should use a cable and dedicated connection. Sorry Starbucks! Also, you should have a plan B in case connection goes down before/ during your presentation.
  • Make sure to extensively test the conferencing software. Check the compatibility with your computer (no, you cannot use your table of Facetime) and the other systems you might need (Power Point, Prezi, Video, Browser…);
  • Having a backup (previously shared) PDF is important, in case things go south.
  • Check how you look (lights) and how you sound beforehand. Test the microphone before and watch for the noise caused by headsets scrubbing your shirt or beard.

3) There will be delay… so prepare yourself with it

My pitches are usually fast paced, with 3 slides per minute. Over video, though, it’s almost sure you will face 2-3 seconds delay (at least), and this could be disturbing with a fast paced pitch. You need to slow things down: less slides, with more information on each.

Also, what I do is to prepare myself with the delay: I change slides a couple seconds before I’ll talk about them, so it compensates the delay. Record yourself on the other computer to check and adjust your strategy. I also like to use a second computer during the official pitch itself, so I can monitor if there’s any change in delay.

4) Be (really) prepared for a Plan B – you will probably need it!

Things go wrong over videoconference pitches more often; much more! As such, you need to be prepared in case something goes wrong and, for example, you need to switch to telephone pitch (and it sucks!).

Share your deck before your presentation. If you need to switch to a voice only, they will be able to follow your presentation. One tip when you cannot show your slides (as when you’re over the phone) is to announce every transition, with the slide number: “Slide 23”, “Slide 33″… This way you make sure everyone is (literally) on the same page.

Also, for cases like this you should restrain from using animations: it will be extremely annoying to tell people to click through them, a few times per slide. So, if video doesn’t work, ask people to open the PDF files shared previously.

Recorded Video Pitch

They say production value doesn’t count… BS!

That’s a tricky one; investors are not expecting you to produce a Steven Spielberg movie. And if you do, that will raise questions on your money management skills. Having said that, a structured and well finished video will get you extra points.

I remember the first time I made a recorded pitch: it was a traditional VC player, and they had asked me a 12 minute video pitch, which would be used at their weekly investment committee. “Production value is not important”, they said… and I called BS! I prepared the video, with smooth transitions between my presentation with slides on a large TV screen and slides/ demo videos themselves on the screen; well finished introduction, cohesive flow. A week later they said I was moving to their next phase; they were impressed with the pitch and decided to use it as a reference for other entrepreneurs. The extra mile paid off!

Take advantage of the format: mix resources!

One great advantage of recorded pitches is that you’re able to use different types of resources: your image, presentation, video demo etc.

What I like to do is to present over a flatscreen and make transitions between my image presenting and slides. Making transitions every 5-10 seconds is important, as it gives a good pace to the video. Just for reference, action movies cut scenes at every 3 seconds… so what we’re suggesting is reasonable.

Having said all of that, we advise you to be sober on animations and resources, specially with music/ soundtrack, which I advise against… and believe me, I’ve made that error before (check below).

Recorded elevator pitch

Some processes request you to make an even shorter video, just presenting yourself and the team. In this case, it will be hard to use slides or other resources. You should focus on you and the team.

See, since this will be a self presentation only, you got watch out not to look a narcisistic douche, as I did on the video above, to a Techstar selection process. No wonder I never heard of them!

I was the only founder of AgendaPet and had a team of contractors at the time. For this reason, I decided just to present myself. Looking back now I realize what a big mistake that was! I should have explored my model, and team, even if they were contractors!

Video pitching is here to stay. It brings many benefits os a face 2 face presentation, but without spending all that time in addition to the presentation. Be ready, prepare yourself and go the extra mile!

Pitch types: from 1 to 30 minutes, what changes?

We define pitch as a single presentation structure… but in reality, you will need to prepare different presentations, depending on the type of pitch you’re giving. To make matter worse, a 7-minute pitch is not just a summary of a 30-minute one. It’s a totally different “beast”.

In summary, you will need to prepare the following types of pitch:

1) Elevator pitch (1′):

That’s where it all started; writers in Hollywood wanted to sell their scripts to producers/ studios and would take any opportunity to sell their ideas, including riding along with people in charge in the elevators. All they had was until reaching the destination’s floor, which took from 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Simply put, a 1′ minute pitch is what you say when people ask what you do; the pitch must be simple and clear enough so even your relatives understand. 

You will be using this type of pitch a lot in networking/ social events and, as such, don’t be pushy; don’t try to sell something or get that so desired funding. Instead, your focus must be on explaining what you do and trigger curiosity around it. Your goal here is to get a follow up question or an invitation to grab a coffee with him/ her; only that.

2) Competition pitch (7′ + 2′):

Startup competitions usually work with 6′-7′ pitches. When you’re presenting to a large audience, dynamics is different. You need to focus on the problem and how you solve it, business model and your team. On this post I go through the topics that you should cover in a pitch.

Competition pitches usually happen on a large stage, so your slides should be clean, with large elements, and one information per page. Make sure that someone sitting on the last row should be able to (comfortably) read the content. In a later post I’ll explore slide structures and give other tips.

Time management is also crucial. When time is up organizers will cut your mic. A (much) shorter presentation will give the idea that you don’t have much to say; you should have problems summarizing everything rather than filling in time. Some tips on time management:

  1. Record yourself on video to an exhaustion, until you find the proper content and pace of the presentation. Also, you should be wary of your issues when speaking in public; some people will talk faster, others slower. Knowing what type you are will help you to better manage your pace.
  2. Define two time milestones on the presentation and ask someone in the audience to raise a small piece of paper when those milestones are reached. By doing this you will be able to know when you need to speak faster/ slower. I usually leave one of those milestones for the last minute, so I’m comfortable with the final presentation sprint.
  3. Have a “Plan B” to correct time. Many things can happen during the presentation that might disturb your pace plane: you might need a glass of water, you can have problems switching slides, you might forget to say something… possibilities are countless. I plan myself ahead so I know what I wouldn’t say (or slide I’d jump) in case time is running out. I also plan myself for the other scenario, and prepare how I could fill in 30 seconds of pitch time in case I go too fast. Check Preemadona’s pitch at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 20015; she does exactly that around 5’25”.

Usually, together with the presentation itself there’s a Q&A session of 1′-2′. It’s as important as the presentation itself. We will dedicate an entire article for the Q&A, but you must anticipate what questions judges might ask and be prepared for them. On 43North, the last competition I participated with AgendaPet, my pitch had 24 slides and I had 60 others just for Q&A. When judges asked me a question and I opened a slide to answer, they got impressed. We will talk about Q&A and the difference of a “good question” and a “great question” in another article.

I also recommend watching as many pitches as possible. This way you will be able to develop a better understanding of which style suits you better. Just search pitch competition finals on TechCrunch Disrupt, The Next Web, Web Summit, etc.

3) Investor Pitch (30′ + 30′):

Investor Pitch

It’s a good sign being called to a face-to-face pitch with investors. You called their attention, and now you’re close to hitting a home run. But it’s a totally different game now…

An investor pitch is much more detailed and will demand both control and flexibility from you. The problem is that they rarely allow you go through a “sanitized” presentation flow; They will interrupt you and ask questions that will force you to adjust the sequence. That’s the tricky part. For this issue, I recommend 3 things:

  1. Set the presentation expectations before you start: before start I like to ask how much time I have, and to share with them my game plan for the meeting: what topics I’ll cover, how long it will take, how much time I plan to leave for Q&A etc. I also like to start by asking how much they know about the business (they might have analyzed a competitor already, read an executive summary…) and whether there are specific points they would like me to give an special attention. By doing that, in on hand you will be able to have a much deeper understanding of the expectations, which topics to give more emphasis etc. On the other hand, you will be reducing their anxiety by acknowledging their expectations.
  2. Answer on the spot: standard presentation techniques would tell you to “write down” the question and tell the audience you will get back to that later into the presentation. I advise you the completely opposite; answer on the spot. An investor pitch should be more of a “guided conversation”, and having this back and forth dynamics is actually a good sign; it means they’re interested! Thus, jump to the slide answering the question and try to come back to your sequence.
  3. Feel the audience: on these types of pitches people give a lot of indicators on when you’re loosing their attention or on which part they want you to focus. You need feel the audience and adapt; go with the flow. investors are time managing your presentation when they give you cues on what they would like you to explore. Use those cues! Remember: your goal is not to go through all slides; it’s to make sure they know what cool aspects your business can bring to the table. Having said that, if you feel they’re a missing one crucial point in the presentation, do impose yourself and make sure to cover that point.

To have this sort of flexibility, you will need much more complete presentation deck. If on competition pitches people are more interested with the problem + solution + business model, on investor pitches they (supposedly) know that already. The focus will be more on the execution capability/ history your company has. They will go through detailed financials, go to market strategy and numbers (acquisition costs, conversion, lifetime value), team composition (including cap table and contract details), legal/ financial contingencies and liabilities, and cash requirements and use.

Notice also that slide structure will be different from competition pitches. As you will be presenting to a only a few people, in a room, slides can be more dense and contain more information (they will work also as handouts). We will talk about that in a dedicated article.

If they’re interested, they will ask you to share the presentation package, including excel spreadsheets etc. Assuming you will have to share your materials will save you time later; do things well organized on the first time already. Don’t forget the usual M&A documents, such as NDA and LOI (Letter of Intent).

Finally, whatever you do, avoid answering about expected valuation. They will ask the question but you should only get to it when they’re completely “sold” on your company; until that happens, stall, divert from the issue. Just say: “that’s not critical now; we’re looking for a long term partner who’s going to offer us more than money, and who wants to make a fair deal.”

Yes, that’s a lot of work. In pitches, “one size fits all” never happens. However, understanding the purpose of those 3 pitch types is crucial; it will help you tailoring the message to that audience, taking you one step closer to success.