I was recently on a multiagency call in preparation for a new business pitch. One of our competitors didn’t speak up until the very end, at which point he asked, “Will a freight elevator be available?” Sure enough, as we walked into the pitch several days later, we passed that team removing from the freight elevator an enormous truck with tons of props, including banners, plants – even costumes.
Of course I don’t know what went on in the pitch, but certainly we have all been guilty of trying to standout by using prop-laden “pitch theater” that may distract from the power of an idea or worse, be totally unrelated to the ideas being presented. It is time for pitch theater to be recast.
Because as any successful businessperson knows, converting new business opportunities into new business wins is about way more than putting on a show.
In public relations, we win with breakthrough ideas that address an organization’s challenges and objectives.
While there may be no magic bullet in new business, a potential client’s reaction to anything but the ideas themselves is misleading. From more than 15 years of winning (and losing) new business pitches, I base the likelihood of a successful pitch on the participation and emotional response we get back from the decision makers in the room. After all, ideas are designed to elicit a human response. So, what did we make them feel? That’s the only measure of the ideas we present that matters.
In fact, pitches are the one time when it’s a good thing if your clients cry. It means we got to them emotionally. Ditto on laughter. Not just a polite chuckle as a result of witty banter, but full-on laughter that only a great idea can trigger.
Showing up differently can’t be about window dressing. Props – when used correctly – should be catalysts that further an idea, not a crutch in lieu of one.
Think about the most successful shows on Broadway. I especially loved the set design of “The Lion King,” one of my favorite shows. Its set designer even won a Tony Award for it. But what I remember most is crying when Simba loses his father and laughing when he meets up with his soon-to-be best friends Pumbaa and Timon. It’s those feelings that have driven me to see the show and movie more than once. They’re also why I love to take my friends and family to it – I not only want them to have that wonderful experience, but I want to share it with them.
A pitch must deliver that same impact. And most of the time, when it does, it won’t have taken a freight elevator to carry the load.
As executive creative director of the Edelman Strategic and Creative Guild, Caroline Dettman oversees development of strategy, insights and ideas grounded in an action-driven and engagement-based planning approach. Caroline has a long history of co-creating industry-leading business opportunities for Edelman, including Action Consumer™, which calls on us to evolve from building awareness to driving action among stakeholders who matter most, Project 8095™, dedicated to understanding the Millennial target and its relationship with brands and she has lead goodpurpose™, helping brands put social purpose to the heart of their brand proposition.