Monday, August 31, 2009

Play Within Structure: More on Giving a Successful Pitch

On the subject of practical tips on giving a pitch, here's anecdote about working with a very successful client.

This client is an advertising executive -- let's call her Lucy. Lucy had been effectively selling ideas to companies for years. But she felt that something was missing. (More on that here).

A Different Way of Depending Too Much on Content

Lucy is a strategist and excellent at what she does. However, when it comes to doing her pitch, there always seems to be too much information to relay in the time allotted.

Furthermore, Lucy has many slide decks to present every week. She would need a photographic memory to remember it all. So she compensates by looking quickly at a slide's headline and improvising on each topic. To remind herself of where she is, she uses industry jargon to get her from one subject to another rather than telling a story that could stand on its own for anyone.

The effect? Lucy hits a heading, wandered around a topic, hits yet another, and rambles again. All the information is there. But there seems to be no emphasis, either within or among the paths that lead between sign posts.

You can follow the plot line, but it isn't exactly gripping.

Creative Performance Depends on Structure

When in doubt, impose a structure.

In this case, I suggested Lucy should ask a Question (or State a Premise/Heading), explain step-by-step how to get from the question to the answer, and end with a So-What? Clause.

For those of us who are new to this blog, a So-What Clause is the content with which you should conclude all presentations -- written, or oral. Time and space is valuable real estate when selling an idea. You've already told them the WHAT. Now tell them why they should care.

It Worked

Lucy was thrilled with the results. She said she hadn't been able to reconcile her feeling of being lost with her thorough knowledge of the subject area and experience presenting. She had gotten bored and hadn't really addressed her audience. She felt she was focusing instead on her content.

Lucy concluded enthusiastically by saying she wished she had met me when she was 20.

I must admit I was chuffed.

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