Yesterday Nicky and I pitched for a nice piece of work. A proper pitch: four of them; 45 minutes including questions; specific areas to cover; other providers up after us; a scoring matrix (I think); winner takes all.
We had just the right amount of nervous energy throughout. You are never more alive than when it is win or lose and you can never guarantee a win, but you can control how well you pitch. I played Texas Hold Em poker for the first time last week and came out just worse than even with a second place in game three. The winner of two games and with a second place in the other was Brian: the most experienced player and a poker man with a plan. Luck had less to do with it than you might think.
So... Some thoughts on the pitch. All brought to you by the letter P.
- Plan. Know what you want to say, who will say it and how long it will take. I topped and tailed and Nicky did the bit in the middle. Simple. It is astonishing how many simply do not do this and end up all over the boardroom table as well as going over time. Don't go over time, they will hate that.
- Pick and Choose. Blurting out everything is always a temptation, especially when you are a lover of the granular and nerves kick in. Keep it broad, look to the big picture, think strategically unless you are told to do otherwise. If nothing else this allows the other side to ask a few clever questions.
- Partner. Planning is all very well but it counts for nowt if you are not familiar with your team mates and they with you. Did you see unstructured, passionless Arsenal against Monaco earlier this week? Nicky and I worked our plan out one day over lunch, cogitated and prepared our own stuff overnight and ran through it in the morning. And for a bigger pitch we would have done that a few more times, including some delivery to colleagues.
- PowerPoint. Do not use it.*
- Pitch Proposal Document. Do not open it.*
- Presentation. I wore a tie. It was the right decision as the Leviathan in the room came suited and booted. Nicky was suited and booted, the high pointy shoes going on in Pret and the trainers put in the big bag. A little more conservative than you would like; a little more expensive than you can afford. It's about respect as much as it is about anything else.*
- Personality. It is essential they see your personality, allied with the easy confidence of a team of people who know each other and it will be a pleasure to work with. We are all different in this regard but here's the thing: if you know your stuff inside out and have done proper preparation beforehand it buys you some headspace to show a bit of leg. As the amateurs at the card table were working out how many chips we had and whether three twos beat two aces and two queens (they do) Brian was playing the personalities and amassing more coloured plastic discs than the organisers of the World Tiddlywinks Championship. You need to afford yourself the chance to be you and maybe take the odd risk. That, after all, is what they are buying.
*Finally, I am aware that forbidding the use of PowerPoint, the opening of pitch books and not saying wear what you like is something that will have many cursing at the screen. Well, rant away. Use slides if you like, but know less is more; if you need something from the pitch book have a copy of it and hand it out; and dress as you please but remember, You're Not Bono.
PowerPoint: Pitching Enemy Number One
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