April 16, 2020

Pitch (Zoom!) Perfect

Now that the initial scramble to organize a daily home office routine has become, well, routine, many of us are lifting up our heads from the minute-to-minute-problem-solving of the last few weeks and beginning to think long term.

What does that look like? Taking our in-person pitching online.

How can you ensure you are presenting your best self via this new medium?

Here, a few do’s and don’ts:

  • Set aside time for brainstorming and a formal practice prior to your meeting. Since you no longer have the luxury of running into colleagues in the hallway/elevator and “running an idea past you,” setting aside brainstorming time is critical. Formal practice is non-negotiable
  • During your formal practice, make decisions about who will be handling each portion of the presentation and how and when you plan to hand things off to one another. This is easily muddied in real time. Add in screens and you can really lose the plot.
  • Discuss your question policy: will you be taking questions throughout your presentation or are you going to ask them to be held until the end? Plan to announce your question policy at the outset of your meeting. If you are going to have people hold their questions until the end, encourage them to write them down so they aren’t forgotten.
  • You can also assign someone on your team to take note of questions and alert the people you’re meeting with to that function. This is helpful if you’re meeting with an interrupter. With a note-taker in place, you can say, “Excellent question. X is making a note of it,” and move on.
  • Send over a draft agenda prior to the meeting. While it’s understood that the people with whom you will be meeting may not look at it, it’s helpful to have it in-hand once the meeting begins.
  • Respect time limits. In addition to the usual work-related attention tugs, your audience now has home-related attention tugs. Don’t run long. Small children and dogs can only be kept at bay for so long.
  • As with all online meetings, have tech support information front and center—not only for your team but also for the team with which you’re meeting.
  • Have your entire team online no less than 10 minutes before the scheduled start of your meeting.
  • If the people you are meeting with roll into the meeting early, have 3 small talk topics handy. Don’t use that time to check your phone/finish up a text. Make a human connection.
  • Distractions are difficult enough in real-time pitches—add in screens and you can count on the people you are meeting with beginning to work through their to-do lists on the sly. With this in mind, build in places where you ask for input. This might sound like, “To me, your customer’s biggest pain point seems to be X, but you are the expert. Do I have that right?”
  • Should your “pitchee” begin to elaborate on a dilemma/problem they are having, be sure to ask clarifying questions along the lines of, “What have you tried?” as opposed to advice-giving questions such as “What if you tried?” Why? Because you aren’t the authority on their business. They are. If you want to offer an idea, frame it exactly that way, “I’m sure you have already thought of this, but do you think X might work?” Only do this after asking clarifying questions.
  • After you have asked any question, give the person TIME to think/respond. Don’t assume because they aren’t speaking that they aren’t thinking about what you have said. It’s bad enough in real time, where—when someone doesn’t respond immediately—many of us rephrase the question or turn it into a multiple choice quiz. When you add screens you must practice a black-belt level of patience while you wait for their response.
  • If you are going to ask people to hold questions until the end, build in time to answer those questions.
  • Plan to follow up with a written recap of what occurred. Everyone is struggling to pay attention these days. Giving people a written debrief is a kindness they will appreciate.

Happy pitching!

 

This past week, I wrote a piece for my chums over at Beauty Matter titled, “Practical Strategies for Managing Your Effective Virtual Team”. If you’re interested, check it out!

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