The Pitch. Next to the client visit, it’s the moment of the heightened anxiety in any agency – a make or break meeting that brings windfalls – or crest-fallen disappointment. Pitching is an artform, to be sure. Little in the business world matches the palpable excitement of sharing creativity, and if it isn’t sacrosanct in your agency, then you might want to look at your priorities. Agencies adopt many strategies to win a pitch, some of it hard work skillfully sold in, a lot of it swagger and yawn. I’ve sat on both sides of the table in my years, and it’s pretty clear what flies and what fails.
Here’s a list of 10 pet peeves and pleads for your next pitch:
1. Tell a story. When it comes to sharing ideas, there’s nothing worse than a Powerpoint walkthrough. Take your audience on a journey with a compelling story. Better yet, consider going ‘off piste’ in your next pitch and presenting ideas by some other means and without the aid of a PPT.
2. Make sure everyone at the table has a role. Wheeling out the big guys might lend some balls to a meeting, but unless everyone has a role in that presentation, big balls end up looking deflated. There’s no such thing as ‘it would be good if you could attend,’ so pare it down to the essentials peeps only, and let the ideas do the talking.
3. Test your concepts. It’s one thing to present an impressive idea, but if you haven’t done the leg work to make sure it works in the real world, then it ain’t gonna stick – and worse, you’re going to look stupid for even trying. Follow through your idea at least theoretically before you show your client, so you know it’s robust.
4. Show empathy. Too often I’ve sat in disconnected ideas showcases that feel like they entertain the whims of creatives rather than the client they were intended for. It’s all about meeting in the middle – let go of your ego for just long enough to click.
let go of your ego for just long enough to click
5. Know your client’s brand values. It’s one thing to present an idea that will challenge a brief and take it to the next level, it’s quite another to go so left field that the marketing team want to pitch – to a new agency. Instead of alienating your audience, show how your value-add is itself the perfect expression of brand values.
6. Be prepared. Whether it’s hand-outs, props, tech checks or finished presentations, make sure you’re ready. Showing up empty – or one-handed is the best way to demonstrate your planning skills – and the quickest way to lose cred in the process.
7. Anticipate hotspots. A good pitch will take people outside of comfort zones and into a vision. Know the danger zones in your presentation, and be ready with the right diplomacy to counteract the resistance you’re likely to receive.
8. Rehearse. You only get one chance to make a great pitch, and as much as the ideas themselves, it’s about a strong, seamless flow. Take the time with your team to get to know your material inside and out so it rolls off the tongue on the day.
9. Be excited! Enthusiasm spreads wayyy more than a monotone, and if you can’t feel it from your work, how could anyone else? Don’t be afraid to muster up and let the high energy ooze.
10. Know your figures. It’s an inevitable, sticky question –and can be the poisoned dart that shoots down your entire show. Make sure you’ve done some preliminary sums so you can carry a top line chat on the matter of money.
Now go get ‘em!