Some tips on running virtual pitchesJul 24, 2020
Even as offices are beginning to open up and people are returning slowly back to their desks, we’re hearing that virtual pitches may be here to stay. Especially for those bigger global pitches - it’s just so much easier (& cheaper) to gather virtually rather than fly in from different countries to pitch.
There are challenges though in pitching to people virtually, especially if you’ve never physically met. Building that essential human connection is the hardest part. I’ve listened to a few webinars and read some articles on virtual pitching and have summarised what I’ve learnt into some useful tips for you.
In advance of the pitch
It goes without saying that no longer can you be running through the creds deck in the 5-minute taxi dash enroute to the pitch. With virtual pitches, it’s so important that you don’t speak over each other and so you need to rehearse, knowing each other's roles is vital. This is basic stuff but you need to plan this time in.
Get as much time as possible on the phone with the client team as possible. Ideally have phone calls to ask questions rather than email (some of course, won’t let you). The more conversations you can have, the more you can build the relationship with them.
Add some creative spark to your pitch and try to send something physical in advance of the pitch. It may just be an envelope with a physical pack inside that they open during the pitch or it could be more of a prop that adds to your pitch. This does require planning, as it’s tricky given people are working from home. Speak to the office manager and see whether you can send something to them for them to distribute.
The set up
Being in your own home can help you engage on a more human level, people are getting to see a closer view of you and your life. Think carefully about your background - make sure that there isn’t anything in there that could put people off - an allegiance to a football team or political party for example. Ideally keep your background on brand if possible. Make sure there’s nothing in the background that might distract people.
- Check camera view, lighting and do sound checks.
- Disconnect anything that isn’t need during the pitch so your devices aren’t using unnecessary bandwidth.
- Make sure you look at the top of the screen so you are looking at their eyes - you want to try and create that intimacy that you have when you meet face-to-face.
- Use headphones so that you don’t get echos.
- If you want to use a script, just make sure your notes are where your camera is facing so that you are not looking away from the screen
- Have two screens - deck on one screen and view of people on the other so you can see whether people are engaged or not.
- Ask whether you can use your own platform - whatever you are used to using. If you can’t then practice and do tutorials first so that you are familiar with the workings of it.
- Use a separate messenger group for your team, either Slack or WhatsApp so that they can comment on stuff as you are presenting. This is super helpful as they can chip in if you miss out something important or tell you to speed up if you need to - use virtual pitching to your advantage!
Building rapport during the pitch
Think of the pitch as a performance, and your background and space as your stage. You are performing all the time - this means that you don’t have to always sit still, when you are speaking think about standing to maybe create more energy.
Feedback on virtual pitching is that often the informal chat at the start is forgone and agencies are just diving straight into the pitch. Depending on how much time you have, try to work proactively at the start at the culture side of things. Consider a mini ice-breaker or add a bit of informality to your intros. Also give clients expectations in advance and at the start that you want it to be an engaging / interactive session. Encourage them if possible to keep their camera on - just explain it helps you and your team see whether they are engaged or whether you need to move on.
If you use Zoom and are pitching to a larger team, consider using the platform’s “breakout room” options. This can give you ways to get people involved.
Don’t just use slides, you want active engagement so use different mediums: infographics, images, augmented VR, posters & videos (just beware with video that it can mess up if it’s too large so a better idea would be to send links in advance). Have sections in the deck where you can pause for questions or run polls, rather than waiting until the end.
Use people’s first names throughout to keep their attention and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback along the way - asking if people want a break, have any questions etc. it’s really easy to get distracted when on a Zoom call so you want to use as many ways as possible to keep people engaged.
After the pitch
Send out the content after you have finished. It’s also a good idea to record the session so you can share it with the team - but don’t forget to let them know it’s being recorded as you do need their consent
I love the idea of using live illustration in the pitch. Ralph Mann offers this service and he can create a great illustration of the pitch which you can then send to people afterwards.
Don’t forget that as with most buying purchases, whether you win a pitch or not is usually based on emotion and how you have made them feel.
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