BY Russell Wardrop

DATE: 25 FEB 2016


You have a pitch next week. I know this, because everyone has.

There are six ways you can deliver this pitch. I know this, because I’ve spent 17 years listening to pitches and reflecting on how boring even 20 seconds can be.
That key intervention at a meeting, cutting to the chase; your introduction at the kick-off meeting; the networking event where someone asks what you do; the director stopping you at coffee break, asking for an update; bumping into someone you’ve wanted to meet for ages and being asked what you want. Even working from home you are likely to have a call and a point where everyone stops checking their Facebook to tune into your words.

This is not a pitch for the Beauty Parade Pitch down at the end of the Big Table, everyone scrubbed up nice. I will note, though, that The Gettysburg Address, one of the most important pitches ever, was delivered in its entirety in about three minutes. Four if you include pauses for possible gunfire and tending the wounded.

You have 20 seconds, maybe 30, for this pitch. If Lincoln can change the history of a continent in three minutes, half a minute is enough for you to grab attention over the canapés.  

First up most reach for the comfortable and safe with the factual.
We trot out statistics. This is fine but has the potential to bore, especially if you are the type who likes detail. Facts, important as they are, rarely include much about the benefit of what you are proposing. So be sure to include the benefits with the numbers by thinking “I am saying this because” after every piece of empirical evidence.

Next up we have the reveal, which has the advantage of the power of three in that you are making three points.
Done well it has cadence and a neat structure that can be easily remembered by the speaker. People like the reveal and sometimes even put numbers against the points as they deliver (You don’t need to do that.)

My experience is that most are comfortable delivering the factual and reveal, because that’s what they mostly do every day.
If that is you then know that there are four more. And now it gets more interesting. You need to know all of these and you need to be able to deliver them all.

What about the questioning pitch?
Asking a rhetorical question is a terrific way to get your prospect to reflect on just what you want them to; rather than telling and selling you are looking to have them stop and think. Consider their challenges and construct your pitch around a rhetorical question which you then answer, or leave out there for them to think about.

The creative imagination is a cool thing and that brings me to the oblique pitch, one that goes off at a tangent.
Being able to find the right sentence, with a metaphor in it, makes you memorable and demonstrates your mental agility. Nice, and having a way with words cuts through a lot of crap. Boris, on the eve of his step into the Brexit camp, said he was “veering all over the place like a shopping  trolley” and made the front pages. It’s not exactly Churchillian but it captured the mood of the man, and the man himself.

Now we have the two most challenging pitch styles, the humourous and the shocker.
These are without doubt more dangerous but hugely effective when done well. Tip: practise them so they eventually become spontaneous, no one need know they are not entirely “off the cuff”.

Being funny is a gift. But it is a double edged sword, in that it is always possible to fall flat on your face. Getting your message across with charm and wit in any scenario can make you properly memorable, but always bear in mind the context of your pitch and the relative importance of gravitas and authority as no one wants to be thought of as a comedian*.

Of course, if you obsess too much about things, you will never try humour. Sometimes you need to take a risk and see what happens which brings me nicely to the shocking pitch.

Now there is a pitch always worth listening to. Ever done one?

*unless you are, in fact, a comedian.


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about the author

Russell Wardrop is our Chief Executive and is an expert on pitching. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.

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