I once sat on the other side of a pitch, with the client.
It was an eye opener. Partly because, when you're on the recipient's side, it's really easy to dislike the agencies.
The way many of them think they're swooping in to save the day, the sheer arrogance to think that in a few weeks they know your business better than you (in some cases they do, but making someone feel stupid will not win you business).
But the good ones, the really good ones are hard too.
They look like they've worked hard, they look like they care and they're hurling their best stuff at, hopefully stuff that makes you think a little bit.It was overewhelming.
Think of how it feels in a creative review. The way a sensible planner never gives feedback first.
So, not only will other's can tell creative's stuff they might not want to hear,rather than you it gives you time to think and not say something stupid, or plain wrong.
Internally, when people hit you with their best stuff, you want to find a way to positive about what they've done, but in any situation, great work that makes you think means you often have fuzzy feelings and gut impressions, but you can't articulate them.You need time.
So give yourself time to think, work out how you feel about the work and, if you've worked out it's great, or could be, watching the discussion gives the best chance of saving it if others are killing it because they haven't thought enough, or if it's off brief and great, helping everyone see how the idea could get through and work.
Now, in a pitch, it's x1000.
Imagine an avalanche of thinking pouring over you over at least an hour. Then imagine the expectant faces waiting for some sort of feedback or Q and A. When You really don't know what you think yet. You need time. This kind of goes for any presentation by the way. Every creative presentation is pitch really.
So when you present, don't force feedback, give folks time to think.
Because if you force someone to say something, they will.
But because they've said it in front of everyone, despite the fact they may well change their minds, or it will come out wrong because they need time to articulate what they'll feel, they will stick to it. Because no one wants to look indecisive.
Everyone goes on about Carousel, but few mention that they didn't ask for feedback. They let the client just leave.
Every pitch, by definition is about newnes, surprise and novelty. Humans are programmed to seek out newness, but we're also hardwired to feel threatened by it and hold on to the familiar for dear life.
So, rule number one, give people time to think.I've often thought that's actually why having budgets at the end of a pitch is effective. It provides a gap to help people work out their response.
It even means you can be positive about having procurement their. If you can engage them in a chat about costs and rates, it gives everyone breathing space.
Now, the more cunning bit.
The Pratfall Effect.
The occasional slip up tends to improve your likeability. But only if you're in danger of being seen as too perfect.
This is not a problem I have experienced that often.
But then again, planners tend to be introduced as the brain of the operation. People can intimidated by the idea of you before you've even spoken. A little self deprecation and the occasional mistake made on purpose can go a very long way.
Many planners are not likeable, because they visibly think others are not as clever as them. Which means, clients and internal folks will be expecting not to like you.
So, at the level of the brief, the briefing and any presentation you make, don't make it utterly faultless. Bury a mistake, an imperfection in there.
Something that really does'nt matter, but something others can correct. Not only will they feel they now own a bit of your work, and support it more, they won't be imtimidated and they'll like you a whole lot more.
At the level of the pitch, insert an inconsequential error in it, something the client will love to correct. Even some flaws or unfinished aspects in the actual work.
Again, the client will feel they're part of it when they correct you, it gives them more time to think, they won't be intimidated and they'll probably like you a whole lot more.
By the way, this also should make anyone not confident making presentations feel pretty good.
If your work is sound and you look like you care, a little bit of stammering, a few visible nerves and stuff are good, it makes you look human, It makes people like you because you don't intimidate them.
Think about that next time you want to flash bastard a presentation, pitch of briefing.
There's a great Howard Gossage quote about advertising, how work should leave space for people to work something out and get involved.
It also applies to how you sell work, or strategy.
"When baiting a mousetrap with cheese always leave room for the mouse".