When was the last time you had a full, real-time rehearsal of a pitch before you delivered it? Do you set a deadline for the pitch to be ‘finished’ in order for there to be plenty of time for it to be rehearsed, out loud, before it is put in front of the client? If you’re an agency or team leader, do you make yourself available to either participate in rehearsals (if you’ll be part of the pitch) or to help critique and improve the pitch before it goes in front of the prospective client?
Or do you expect your staff to work late into the evening to pull it all together, then run over it hurriedly in the cab on the way to the client’s office the following morning if you’re lucky?
If you’re in the latter camp, you’re doing yourself, your agency and your prospective clients a disservice and it’s no surprise you’re not winning pitches you really ought to be winning.
Rehearsal is an important part of the pitch process. It allows you to spot mistakes, iron out problems and identify sections of the presentation that are weaker than they should be. Basically, it improves it, massively.
I know some pitches are incredibly last minute (believe me, I’ve been there) but if the client has only given you 24 hours to prepare a pitch, stop and ask yourself if you really want to work with a business that doesn’t value preparation, quality work and allowing people to do their job to the best of their ability. Sometimes saying no can save you from short term and long term stress and woe.
Ideally, when you’ve got at least a few days notice, you need to set a deadline 24 hours in advance of the pitch delivery time and that is the point at which ideas, content, slides, props etc need to be fixed and finished. Then follow this simple mantra: Rehearse. Critique. Hone. Repeat.
Bring the pitch team together and appoint a director who isn’t part of that team. Then run the pitch as it will appear in front of the client with the director noting anything that needs improving – someone fidgeting, a typo on a slide, poor handovers between presenters. Make any changes necessary – then repeat the process. Ideally keep repeating this process until everyone is feeling confident and fully prepared – and be aware that more experienced staff will reach this point before less experienced team members – but the rehearsals continue until the least experienced member is happy. This is also an investment in their – and your agency’s – future success.
Ideally, bring in someone from outside (and yes, that could be me) to bring the presentation elements of the pitch to a higher level. Someone who can give honest, actionable feedback to even the most senior person in the room, to improve the whole team and enhance the pitch to increase your chances of success. I’m often described as a ‘critical friend’ in this circumstances because I’m not criticising, I want to make it better for all concerned.
If you’re not factoring proper rehearsals for your pitches, with outside expertise to help raise everyone’s game, I’ve got news for you – your competitors ARE doing it, and when it comes to the pitch itself, it REALLY shows.