The thrill of the pitch

I have a secret confession. One that you don’t hear many people admit to; but I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I LOVE PITCHING

I love the energy and the passion, the drama and the teamwork, the late night pizza and the nervous rehearsals.

But most of all I love pitch day.

It hasn’t always been this way. My first few pitch presentations were gut wrenching affairs, full of second guessing and self-doubt. But over time I improved, picking up tips and tricks along the way, until one day (pitching for the Tatts account) I walked out of the presentation knowing that I’d nailed it.

It was an incredible feeling, I couldn’t take the smile off my face. I realised that I had actually enjoyed the presentation; not just enjoyed the fact that it was over but genuinely enjoyed it. And when the next day felt flat and boring, and I found myself looking forward to the next pitch – I realised that I was hooked.

So what is the secret? How do you go from fear and loathing in South Yarra, to loving the thrill of the pitch?

For me it was simple, once I had convinced myself that I’d actually enjoy it, then I did.

So here are a few things that helped. Not just the usual “know your material and keep eye contact” advice but some psychological tactics that trick me into enjoying the big day.

  1. Owning the room – spend some time in the pitch room before everyone else arrives in order to feel like it is ‘your house’ and that everyone else is just visiting (if you are playing away then try to visit the location in advance to ‘test the equipment’). I like to sit in every seat and view the room from the perspective of the audience, then stand at the front and hear what my voice sounds like in the room.
  2. Power posing. This is a simple technique that I do for 2-minutes before every big presentation. It is adopting the stances associated with confidence, power and achievement — chest lifted, head held high, hands on hips. Check out Amy Cuddy from Harvard Business School here explaining the power of power posing http://blog.ted.com/2012/10/01/10-examples-of-how-power-posing-can-work-to-boost-your-confidence/. Her team researched the effects and proved that just 2-mins of posing could increase testosterone by 8% and decrease cortisol levels (the hormone related to stress) by 25%; making you feel assertive, confident and comfortable.
  3. Panic time. There is a moment in every pitch process that scares the hell out of you – be ready for it! This is the moment when the initial thrill of a new project has worn off, but you are not yet close enough to the finish to believe it can all come together. Typically this is about 4-5 days from the end, but it can hit you at any time. I don’t have a solution for dealing with this. I have tried going for walk, locking myself in a room to write or even laying on my back staring at a wall of sticky notes and scribbles praying that the answer is in there somewhere (let’s be honest, its usually that last one). The trick here is to think of it as a normal part of the process and to remember all the other times when you have felt like this and survived.

The other thing that I love about pitching is that you always learn something new; whoever you are. Pitches typically bring disparate teams together, making them work so closely that you cannot help but learn from each other. Whether this is seeing how the best people use tools and processes properly, to hearing about how great work from around the agency really happened, to watching other people create charts and documents and the shortcuts they use. My latest eye opener was seeing someone combine the Windows and P buttons to switch between screen views – yes I am embarrassed about how exciting this was.

So my advice to anyone in agencyland is simple; get on a pitch team quick. Offer any help so that you can see one up close; yes it’s more work but believe me it’s worth it. Then practice presenting (using whatever tricks work for your brain) so that when your time comes you are ready; not just ready to present but ready to ENJOY IT.

 

This article was first published in AdNews: http://www.adnews.com.au/opinion/the-thrill-of-the-pitch

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