How to pitch in any environment
Pitching is a fundamental part of any writer’s life, and there are countless books and articles about how to prepare the perfect pitch.
But, let’s assume that you’ve prepared a pitch and, in the words of Simon Harwood from W1A it’s “very strong”. You’re confident that it’s a good project and it’s got a persuasive and intriguing pitch. We’re not going to talk about any of the mechanics or techniques of getting to that stage. Great…
But I wanted to highlight an area of the pitch that perhaps isn’t given as much attention, and which could play a decisive part in how well things go. The environment.
Now, one thing we can’t always predict is what the environment will be like for that perfect pitch. Even if you’ve been to the company’s offices before, you may not be pitching in the same environment as last time. And the environment can have such a bearing on the success of your pitch – or rather the confidence you have in delivering it – that it’s worth running through a few less-than-perfect scenarios and working out ways to prepare for them. Here goes…
Meeting rooms. You may not have seen the meeting room before, so prepare in advance for a number of possibilities. It could be a small, intimate space or a long table affair out of a Bond movie. Can you make your presentation work in both spaces?
Number of people. There might be one person listening to your pitch or a roomful. Usually the company will tell you in advance who you will meet, but be prepared for late additions or substitutions to the meeting. If you’ve practised establishing a connection in your pitch to one person, prepare for the eventuality of pitching it to more than one.
Office spaces. Sometimes you’ll have to pitch in an office. It might be open-plan with other people present – people who aren’t involved in the meeting. You might be in the middle of the room, unable to see people behind you. Be prepared for these settings.
Elevators. I’ve never actually pitched in an elevator. I’m not sure it really ever happens. But the point is, it’s about brevity. You should prepare a number of variations on your pitch as the executive might have less time than you think to listen. So can you get across your idea in different time frames? You should prepare a three minute version for such eventualities.
Walk with me. Imagine meeting a busy executive and they ask you to pitch as they walk to their next appointment. It’s less than ideal, but you should be able to give it your best shot. So concentrate on working on short versions of your pitches for such tight situations. (This scenario shouldn’t happen so much in an office meeting, but it is fairly common at festivals).
The busy room. One of the hardest environments is a busy club or café. You have people all around you, unconnected to the meeting, who may or may not work in the same industry. In an industry club, this is less than ideal and irrespective of concerns about people ‘stealing your idea’, it is tough as you can feel your idea is being judged by everyone in that room. The reality is they won’t be listening (unless you’re very loud). But remember, ultimately it is your call as to whether you want to pitch and if the environment isn’t conducive, then you can always opt to give vague details and send a detailed pitch via email later.
The bottom line is – be prepared for any eventuality. The setting and the number of people present may differ from the ideal or from what you’re expecting. Work on how you might feel your confidence would be affected by each one, and implement strategies to make yourself comfortable. Be ready.