How to plan your pitches in the ‘new normal’ virtual reality

Now many of us are locked in our houses, and many early-stage and small businesses are in an adapt or regret situation. While startups switched to video conferencing, and some even are successfully closing rounds of investments, I believe we can do more than just using Zoom virtual backgrounds. And now you can join a video conference from within VR and use an adjustable virtual camera and whiteboard. Looks like a trend to me. This is why I borrowed a VR headset from a friend and decided to join a conference on, you guessed it, VR organized by HTC.

While you can read about how the conference went, I’ve talked with VR professionals and Silicon Valley VCs, and here are some reasons why VR works not only for games. 

Why VR will reshape a future for pitches and work meetings

  • No need to fly or commute anywhere. VR is like Zoom, easy, comfortable, and, most importantly, carbon-neutral. As one VC partner told me, “even if the environment doesn’t bother you that much, you will save plenty of time, and time is money, isn’t it?”. But VR is more than just video conferencing with virtual backgrounds. As Adam, Managing Director at Boost VC accelerator posted on his Medium back in 2018: “We have discovered two deals strictly through Virtual Reality and signed one in Virtual Reality. That saved me time. I meet with VR companies in VR now, and get pitched. It’s amazing.”
  • Thanks to the Front row feature all the people you pitch will all be in the front row, seeing every aspect of your visual message without interruption. And you are delivering it to a truly captured audience who doesn’t get distracted by checking Twitter or emails. Actually, MeetinVR claims that there is a 25% increase in attention span when meeting in virtual reality compared to video conferencing. Therefore, you can share and work together in real-time in a truly collaborative manner.

  • Product demos in VR are even better than in real life. Kosta Popov, CEO and founder at Cappasity, which helps to create 3D models of products for top-tier brands, says “Users can now interact with a product the way they would offline, with the added benefits of staying at home and taking as much time to browse as needed.” Morten Haulik, Danish VR Expert and 360 Video director, has been doing this for years. His team has created a clear visual experience in Virtual Reality displaying Keofitt’s valves’ engineering. “I made it for a tradeshow in Japan, where most attendees didn’t speak English,” Morten says. “This way they could even try the product in VR, and see why it would save them a lot of money, and they had a Japanese voiceover explaining everything,” he adds. And what you can be sure about is that thanks to the Front row feature the people you pitch will all be in the front row, seeing every aspect of your visual message without interruption. And you are delivering it to a truly captured audience who doesn’t get distracted by checking Twitter or emails.

VR-powered effects that would be costly or impossible to deliver in real life. Example: A VR train that bursts through the slideshow, paying homage to how audiences reacted to the early film “Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat.” How cool is that? A lot of opportunities for business to unleash their inner Spielbergs when pitching ideas, demoing products, or showing investment decks. Besides the effects, you can add some nice touches like HTC did. They really tried to bring it as close to reality as possible with cute, gimmicky things like this Vive virtual coffee experience you could share with someone else. Put a T-shirt with your logo but don’t try too hard. Most VR chatrooms allow cosplaying, and what I’d never expect — a VR church which allows you to appear in full gear. If you work in the gaming industry and pitching a Polygon reporter, that might work just right.

  • Solving a well-known technology’s diversity problem VR could be a good option for female founders and PRs. When you are physically home, every space becomes a safer space. VR presents an excellent opportunity to meet new people with no fear of being physically assaulted or even accidentally pushed. You are 100% in control of what your avatar looks like, and no one is there to spill coffee on it. But be prepared to see that.

VR also makes all equal and provides an opportunity to those who really need it. If you have mobility issues, you can put on a headset and appear in front of the audience.

With all that in mind, should we start studying VR pitching? Generally speaking, the answer is yes. So if you are fundraising right now for your hardware or software startup, or trying to pitch a journalist in a creative way, VR is a good option to consider.

A few more tips how to perfect your VR pitch experience

  • All you need is to create a 3D model using a scanning device, or a smartphone app, like the one by Cappasity. If you then upload the file to a Unity build then you have to share the .exe file. Alternatively, you may import the 3D model directly to one of the existing VR chat apps, most of which offer the option. You still may need to hire a VR specialist or a VR studio. I’ve spotted one in Australia which offers to improve your VR pitch. Apart from VR studios, there are a lot of freelancers who are willing to help with a 3D model or a presentation and be paid for a side project. Looking this way, try a 54,000-strong Facebook group for AR/VR developers.

  • Soon enough, we won’t require a powerful gaming rig or expensive headset. The VR industry is evolving rapidly, and both GeForce Now and Shadow have launched support for VR games, which means VR will be more affordable and startup-friendly. But, don’t wait for the prices to drop. Borrow a VR headset from a friend. If you are both locked down, use one of the services that lend headsets in the UK or US (I believe there is at least one service in each country) offering all equipment needed including PCs that are powerful enough. That, and some out-of-the-box thinking should get you going.
  • My experience with crashing into a meeting in Spanish should tell you that private settings are important as always. You do not want to be interrupted or overheard. When setting up a session, mark it as a private one. All platforms have FAQs or Support pages, which could help (like this one for setting up a meeting on Engage).

Despite all the magic, VR has its very own challenges like locomotion or background noise. Charlie Fink, an “XR explainer-in-chief”, says: “Nevertheless, we believe the coronacrisis will give VR needed momentum.” It’s clearly the right time to try new digital experiences. Businesses who are flexible in a way they communicate to their journalists, investors or customers have more chances to succeed on the other side.

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