It’s no secret that agencies are accustomed to wooing clients during in-person pitches.
In fact, the term “pitch theater” is regularly used in the agency world to describe over-the-top presentations that go to great lengths to win accounts.
But, with the recent shift to remote work, agencies can no longer rely on a firm handshake, in-person meetings, and casual small talk to help land them a client.
If you’re one of the many marketers or agency members who thrive during in-person pitches, you might still be learning how to create a presentation that brings your memorable charm and flair to a small computer screen.
Luckily, as you pivot some aspects of your presentation style to a new video-friendly format, you can leverage your inner creativity, meeting software, and other digital tools to give you a leg up against other agencies vying for the same clients.
With a creative mindset, it actually isn’t too hard to give a concise virtual presentation that answers most of a prospect’s burning questions. In this post, I’ll highlight 11 tips for planning, practicing, and presenting virtual pitches.
With the growth of video call technology, most or all elements of a pitch can be virtual. For example, you can simply share your screen to show your peers a presentation, or send a video pitch to your team if you can’t book a full meeting. However, virtualizing your presentation will still take careful planning.
As you map out your pitch, take the time to figure out which parts require a screen share as well as who on your team will be presenting. Then, once you’ve outlined your presentation, practice using features like screen share ahead of time to prevent technical difficulties during the actual pitch.
As you’ll plan, you’ll also want to identify pitching elements that might be more challenging virtually.
For example, if you’re pitching a physical product or campaign asset in-person, you might pass the item around, or let a member of your audience test-run it. Or, you might be a fan of asking audiences to raise their hands if they agree with a statement relating to a pain point that your campaign will solve for.
The interactive in-person presentation tactics above might not be possible during your virtual pitch where everyone is looking at your slide deck. So, you’ll want to come up with alternatives. Instead of having an audience member demonstrate something, perform the demo yourself. Or, instead of polling the audience by asking them to raise their hands, ask them to answer a question with “yes” or “no” in your video call’s chat area.
When giving an in-person pitch, you might have a half-hour to give the actual presentation and answer questions. Then, you might even get some bonus time after the meeting if stakeholders stick around to ask questions, or chat with you as you walk out of the meeting room. While you’ll have lots of opportunities to leave a good impression in person, you’ll likely be limited to an exact time slot if you’re just hosting a video call.
While you might be tempted to bring all the fun elements of in-person “pitch theater” to a short video call, you’ll actually want to cut to the chase and give stakeholders the information they need as soon as possible.
Quickly, but concisely, describe your project idea, why you think it will be a good investment, any data-backed evidence of your claims, and what resources you’ll need to complete the campaign.
You’ll also want to address the concerns your team leader or client might have and explain how your project will avoid those blockers. Addressing an audience member’s concerns in your presentation might eliminate some of the need for a question-and-answer period and will make your prospect believe that you value their goals and mission.
Like with any virtual or in-person presentation, practice makes perfect.
One great way to practice a virtual pitch could be to record yourself doing it through a screen recorder or video call software. After you record yourself, rewatch your pitch and make notes of where you need improvement. While you can make notes about your speaking or the content of your pitch, you can also make notes on more technical aspects, like how well you navigated to your slideshow or any presentation glitches that occurred.
Recording and reviewing your practice sessions will ensure that your clients or teammates see a crisp and clear presentation when you’re giving it online.
Aside from recording yourself, consider hosting a video call with a few of your teammates where you run through your presentation. While the recording will help you troubleshoot many things, it’s always helpful to have another person give feedback or point out any technical issues they discover from their computer.
For example, many schools using Zoom to host classes have discovered that some students and teachers can’t use its Whiteboard tool because the feature isn’t available on Chromebooks. If you discover something like this when practicing your marketing pitch with other users on the call, you’ll have time to pivot and adjust your pitch accordingly.
For any type of pitch, a slide deck with videos and visual aids enables your clients to see quick facts, visualize the campaign you’re pitching, and grasp any hard data that you throw at them quickly.
But, as you create a presentation, keep in mind that company stakeholders will be viewing it over a video call software. And. while some videos or visuals might look and sound absolutely stunning in-person, they could show up poorly on video calls, especially in areas with slower internet speeds.
As you practice your pitch with your team on a video call, or while recording yourself privately, make sure you know how to play a video within your slide show, ensure that your graphics are high resolution, double-check that any GIFs placed will play automatically, and turn your volume up to test any sound elements.
Cut anything from your pitch that will look or sound poorly over a video call. For example, if a video in your presentation seems to be buffering, blurry, or sounds muffled, consider swapping it out with a photo or GIF.
Additionally, accept feedback from your team if they see blurry imagery or can’t hear something when you’re giving a practice run. This is how members on my team recently discovered that having your headphones plugged in when playing a video can prevent your call attendees from hearing the sound. Had one of our colleagues not rehearsed for us, we wouldn’t have caught and resolved this potential technical difficulty ahead of time.
As you would with any other virtual meeting, pick or create a workspace that offers you a professional-looking background, limited noise, and a solid internet connection.
In a HubSpot Blog post, my colleague, Lindsay Kolowich gave a great example of a poor virtual meeting workspace:
“A colleague of mine once had a call with a client whose neighbor was mowing the lawn right outside his home office window. Sounds super distracting, doesn’t it?” Kolowich said.
“Be mindful of where you are and what’s going on in the background,” advised Kolowich. “Certain rooms are noisier than others, even if you’re at home. And while it’s probably adorable when your dog jumps on your lap and peers into the camera, you’re typically better off letting pets go outside to play before the meeting starts.”
Some video call tools now offer a “Waiting Room” feature. This allows those on the call to be shown just the call’s title and other basic information until the host allows them to enter the meeting.
When you’re hosting a video call, having a Waiting Room will enable you to enter the call first, see a list of who’s on the call, and let them in all at once or one at a time. The room also ensures that your attendees will only see you when you’re ready to be seen.
The Waiting Room feature might be a great option for hosts that want to avoid the awkwardness of saying hello to everyone one by one, or for teams that want to get on a call a few minutes ahead of time for a quick chat before their eager clients log on.
Here’s a look at how the Waiting Room feature works on Zoom.
As with any in-person meeting, greet your teammates or clients, and possibly make a bit of small talk before jumping into a pitch. This will allow the team to bond with you and see you as a person who cares about their time. You should also thank this team for attending your meeting before the pitch as well as after.
During an in-person pitch or presentation, you can work the room or energize the audience by moving around, making eye contact, or speaking directly to a few specific stakeholders in your meeting. On a video call, these speaking tactics can obviously be much more challenging. This is why simply turning on your camera, looking directly into it, and speaking energetically can go a long way with your audience.
When you enter your video call, be sure to turn on the camera as soon as possible if it isn’t already showing you onscreen. Surprisingly, some marketers and telecommuters regularly forget to do this.
“Turn on the video during your meetings,” advised Christina Perricone, a senior marketing manager, in a recent blog post.
“Ninety-three percent of communication is non-verbal,” Perricone added. “Being remote puts you at a disadvantage when it comes to reading facial expressions and body language during meetings. Video calls mitigate the disconnect that can arise from not being in-person.”
Once you turn the camera on, remember that your audience of team leads or clients will be able to see you even when you are sharing a presentation on your screen. While it might be tempting to focus on your presentation when there’s no immediate audience in the room with you, eye contact is still an important way to grab and hold attention from your audience.
Although you’ll be doing a pitch virtually, you can mimic making eye contact by looking at the camera or the center of your screen rather than reading the text directly from your slides.
Presentation notes can be a helpful way to remind yourself of data, points to make, or transitions to add in your presentation. However, things can get pretty awkward if you share your screen and accidentally show your audience your private notes at the same time.
Depending on which video software you use, you can likely share just your presentation with your audience using screen share settings. When you do this, you’ll still be able to see your presentation and a digital notepad with text for each slide. However, your audience will only be able to see the presentation.
Before you begin your presentation or during a practice session, have a colleague log on to the video software earlier in the day and test your screen sharing strategy to ensure that they see only your slides and not your notes.
After you give your pitch, you should leave a bit of extra time to answer your client or team leader’s questions about the project. This can also be a great time for you to continue making connections with the people you’re pitching to. To ensure that everyone is talking to each other face-to-face, make sure you turn your screen share off so you have a better view of who you’re talking to.
At the conclusion of the call, thank your audiences again for their time and discuss what next steps they can take if they’re interested in accepting your pitch.
Sometimes, important stakeholders who were invited to your call won’t be able to attend, or your stakeholders might want to refer back to your presentation later. When you give an in-person pitch, it might be more challenging or odd to have someone film your presentation just in case. But, with video calls, recording your presentation is possible and feels much more natural
Before you begin your presentation, be sure to inform your attendees that you’ll be recording it, just in case someone wants to hide their video or is uncomfortable with being recorded. Once the presentation is done, you’ll be able to send that recording in a follow-up email to stakeholders that could and couldn’t make the presentation.
Aside from sending the recording, which can help stakeholders reflect on the questions answered and the discussions that happened during the pitch session, you can send other digital documents like the slide deck, links to marketing content or any other assets you think will seal the deal.
Like any good follow-up email, be sure to thank attendees for their time and note that you enjoyed your conversation with them. Also remind them that they can reach out to you with questions, comments, or feedback related to the pitch you’ve given. For a few follow-up email examples, check out this blog post.
If you’re used to pitching marketing campaign ideas in person, virtual pitching could be quite the transition. However, while you’ll need to make a few tweaks to adapt your pitch to a video call setting, it’s certainly possible to effectively persuade teams with virtual presentations.
At its core, a pitch clearly explains a campaign or tactic, research that defends why it might work, and how you plan to efficiently execute on the strategy. These are all important tidbits of information that can easily be explained or shown visually in a video-based presentation.
To learn more about how to perfect a virtual pitch, check out this post related to pitch deck design, this piece that creatively compares pitches to debates, and this guide to running virtual meetings.