The COVID-19 pandemic forced all interactions between investors and fundraising founders into virtual settings. And the return to a “new normal” will certainly leave a place for them into the foreseeable future. This article includes 20 best practices for optimizing your virtual investor meetings for the highest odds of success.
TL/DR Summary of the 20 Tips Covered in This Article
- If you subscribe to a basic Internet data package, pay the extra $20/mo to double your speed
- Plug your laptop/computer directly into the network (versus using Wi-Fi)
- Use a high-quality webcam
- Use a high-quality microphone
- Evaluate the lighting for brightness and evenness
- Don’t sit with a window behind you, unless it has blinds/curtains that can be closed. A blank wall or one with a simple piece of artwork is ideal.
- Situate yourself and your computer such that the camera is level with your face, or close
- Pick a location with minimal background noise
- Use earbuds or a headset to reduce background noise
- Dress as you would if you were meeting the investor in their office. Same for basic grooming.
- Wear a solid-colored shirt to optimize video quality
- If your co-founder(s) will also participate, pick one person as the lead presenter and “router” for answering questions
- Everyone focuses on the meeting – no texting, checking email, writing code, etc
- Practice the presentation sharing feature ahead of time, and for the exact videoconferencing service that’s being used
- Share the presentation’s app window or browser tab instead of your full desktop
- Do not read from a script. Crib notes only, if needed.
- Silence your cell phone and temporarily disable various pop-up notifications on your computer (ie – email, Slack)
- Move the videoconferencing window you’re looking at as close to the camera as possible
- If the videoconferencing window is split into multiple squares due to 3+ participants, move the window to the left or right so that the person you want to be looking at is as close to the camera as possible
- For a dual-monitor setup, situate the camera on top of the monitor you’ll most often be looking at
Audio & Video Quality
If your audio or video stream get glitchy, it will greatly impact the overall quality of the interaction. If you subscribe for the most basic data package with your Internet provider, upgrade it. You can probably double your bandwidth for an extra $20/mo. If possible, plug directly into the network with an ethernet cable instead of using Wi-Fi.
If you have a crappy webcam, replace it. If the microphone in your laptop or webcam isn’t great, get a good quality USB-connected one or high-quality earbuds. Evaluate the lighting in your chosen default setting and decide if you need to add some accent lighting.
If you have a home office, great. If not, your couch or outdoor porch are not good settings. Neither is a setting with a window behind you and that causes you to look like a silhouette.
Situate yourself with the camera as level with your face as possible (ie – not on your lap looking up at your face) and think about what’s behind you. A blank wall or a wall with a piece of artwork is great. A collage of party photos from your college days isn’t. Finally, either try to pick a location where background noise is minimized or use a headset with a microphone that only picks up your speaking voice and not surrounding noises.
Dress like you would if you were meeting the other party at their office. And go through your normal morning grooming routine, as if you were going to meet them in their office. Look like you’re fresh and sharp on a Tuesday morning much more than Saturday morning after a hard night of partying.
Solid-colored shirts are the best for videoconferences, due to the way video encoding works. Ones with tight checkered patterns, or stripes are the worst because they cause more blurriness with just minor body movement.
Number of Founders
If more than one founder really needs to attend the meeting, realize that it adds complexity that should be considered. The lack of body language clues and the delayed audio stream from the videoconference dramatically increase the odds that the founders will trip over each other. Make sure to follow my “one driver” advice from above. Additionally, for any interactive part of the meeting in which you’re answering questions, you have two approaches to consider. Pick one and make sure your co-founder knows.
Your first option is to have one person serve as the router of questions. In other words, if you’re the router, your co-founder doesn’t answer a question unless you flip it to her. The other option is to decide ahead of time who should answer questions based on the topic area. Maybe you handle all questions related to business and your co-founder handles the ones related to product and technology. Just beware that there could be hybrid topics that cause a collision in response. As you can probably tell, I tend to prefer the router approach for videoconferences.
Finally, whoever isn’t talking needs to remain focused on the meeting (looking into the screen), not texting on their phone, working on emails, or writing code. You wouldn’t do those things if you were sitting at a table with the investor.
Presenting and Demonstrating
In the event that you’ll have a chance to present some of your pitch deck or do a short product demo, prepare and practice ahead of time with a co-founder. Know exactly where the share buttons and related collaboration functions are for the selected videoconferencing service. If you fumble basic presentation and collaboration tasks, it will have a negative effect on the overall quality of the interaction while offering the extra punishment of wasting time.
When you share your content, make note of the sharing options. Most services give you a choice of sharing your entire screen, a specific application window, or a specific browser tab. If you don’t need to jump around to different apps/tabs on your computer during the presentation/demonstration, then only share a specific window or browser tab so as to keep the focus on only what you need to share and nothing else.
At all costs, DO NOT read from a script during your presentation. It is OK to have some cheat notes with your important statistics or talking points. But your cheat notes shouldn’t have full, written sentences. Reading from a script will be obvious to the other party, take your visual focus away from the camera, and generally not be natural or exciting.
There’s not much you can do about your barking dog or a doorbell ring due to an Amazon delivery. But two easily avoidable distractions are listed below:
- Silence your cell phone – Silent is better than vibrate, because a vibrating phone on your desk could still mentally distract you and the buzzing noise might get picked up by your microphone
- Disable instant messaging pop up notifications on your computer – When you’re doing a screen share of your pitch deck, visible pop-up notifications are hugely distracting – especially so if they’re accompanied with an audible chime.
Making Eye Contact
During an in-person meeting or presentation, you look the other meeting participant(s) directly in the eye. This is human nature and it’s what creates the personal connection and opportunity for a focused conversation.
During a videoconference, you can’t easily look directly into the camera most of the time. That’s because you’re usually either looking at the window on your computer that displays the remote participants or the window that has your presentation. With your camera either sitting on top of your monitor or embedded into the upper part of your monitor, it means that it looks like you’re looking down, rather than directly into the other person’s eyes. Below are three recommendations to help with this phenomenon.
- Move the window you’re looking at as close to the camera as possible
- If the videoconferencing window is split into multiple video images due to 3+ participants, move the window to the left or right so that the person you want to be looking at is as close to the camera as possible
- If you use a dual-monitor setup, you want the camera situated on top of the monitor you’ll most be looking at
Following the advice in this article won’t guarantee you get funded via your virtual investor meetings, but since fundraising is an “at bats” process, you must do everything possible to optimize each and every investor interaction. And since most intro meetings with investors are only 30 minutes long, you will want to read my related article titled “Mastering the 30-Minute Meeting“.