By Holly Ward, MD Euro RSCG London PR.
I recently pitched for a large piece of business, one that I would very much like to win, but after 17 years in this industry I will make no guesses about whether or not we got it. It's pointless and won't change the outcome.
I have done this so many times, some good, some brilliant, some catastrophic so at the risk of going all David Brent on you I thought I might share some of my top pitching tips.
1. Be a data diva
I used to think it was all about gut instinct and 'the way you sell it', but I've realised that there is something far more powerful. Data. I know, dull isn't it? But my God it's impressive if you can back up all your key points with some 3rd party data, or some verbatims from research groups. You can quite literally see the clients' eyes open up as they take in and process what you have said.
2. Be enthusiastic
Obvious one this, but you'd be amazed how many people can't convey their passion for something when they are pitching it. My golden rule is this: If I don't give a damn, why should they? You have to psyche yourself up to believe in what you are saying and really truly go for it in the enthusiasm stakes. You will naturally self-regulate so as not to sound like Dom Joly on speed but remember clients like enthusiasm for their brand.
3. Don't worry be happy
We are naturally inclined favourably toward people who have an open, friendly demeanour. It's just the human condition. I don't mean laugh your way through a pitch or try and do bad stand-up (or even good stand-up) but be human. It's easy to go into robot mode when you are in a business environment and it's easy to become too serious. As long as you make your serious points in a professional manner, lose the android look, it's scary.
4. Look at them, not the slides.
This is actually one of my pet hates. When I see people presenting off Powerpoint I want to shoot myself anyway, but when I see them reading the slides and turning their backs to the audience I lose all semblance of interest. We can all read, that's not clever.
The clever part is engaging your audience by TALKING TO THEM. It's what forms the human connection (see point.3) and what will make you memorable. If you are not a natural presenter the only way to do this is practice. Do it, it's well worth it.
5. Know your stuff
I know that I present way better when I have lived and breathed the whole process of putting the pitch together. When I have been there at the start, devised the strategy and brainstormed the creative ideas, I feel a little part of me is invested in the pitch.
You need to do this to be able to do point 2 with conviction. Many of us can blag it, but it's easier than you might think to see through that. By being actively involved in the whole process your emotional investment will shine through and lead back into all the above points.
The other thing, which isn't a tip as such but more a recommendation is to use something other than Powerpoint. I favour Prezi for PR pitches, since you don't ever need to present a lot of words, alternatively Keynote is quite intuitive. Or you could just use good old fashioned boards, or perhaps the medium of dance...
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