Albert Einstein once said that a problem could not be solved using the same approach that caused it. The game rules for pitches need a new dynamic.
A new dynamic can break through the vicious circle of the standard, bilateral pitch pattern when the pitch itself addresses the subject of the traditional pattern and doesn’t just deal with content. Ask the organiser of the pitch (hypothetically) what level of fairness he himself would attach to his pitch conditions and if he would accept them himself.
This process comes from modern behavioural psychology and is called “circular reasoning”: we look at an issue to a certain extent from outside, then take ourselves out of the dyadic relationship and observe it from a new perspective, that of a circling bird. The answer to this rhetorical question is – for understandable reasons – no. And it’s also a no to taking part in this pitch.
Pitch organisers are also known as “bully clients” – unless your client simply lacks the skills required to organise the pitch process, or more specifically, to define the conditions of participation. In this case, when bringing up the subject of the pitch’s game rules, you may then have the chance to create an opportunity out of this crisis and enter into a constructive and open dialogue with your client. The author Peter Handke came up with the aphorism: “You don’t have a chance, so this is your chance.” You are now well on the way.
Theatre, not information: how to win a pitch
So often, false conclusions are made by assuming that pitches are all about facts. This is wrong. Pitches are all about big ideas and about trust.
Stephen Bayley and Roger Mavity, two of England’s most successful entrepreneurs, say in “Life’s a Pitch. How to be Businesslike with your Emotional Life and Emotional with your Business Life”, how they are often struck by how easily people who work on pitches get obsessed with detail, “which, inevitably, means that they are not looking at the big picture – particularly whether there is a clear shape to their argument.”
They have had the experience that a customer is more likely to back a presentation which may not yet have a convincing solution – but where the presenter is inspiring – than a presentation where the solution to the problem is good but the presenter does not inspire trust and confidence. The authors say: a pitch does not take place in the library of the mind, it takes place in the theatre of the heart.
The same applies to the creative process of finding ideas for a pitch. It is not a collection of facts but rather a radically reduced message. Bayley/Mavity call it the “cornerstone message”. It is normally the reduction of a large idea down to a single sentence or slogan.
Pitches are situations where we don’t win by delivering data or facts but by applying a new dialogue-oriented, emotional, “chemical” reaction to the standard customer monologue (we want, you must…).
So: don‘t let your pitch become a mass of figures, data and facts. Persuade your client that you want the two of you to make the world a little bit better together. Then off you go.
P.S. In January 2014, the Smartville workshops “Pitches – chemistry, not maths” will begin. In order to take part, call me on: Tel. +41 44 240 41 50.
A new dynamic in pitches
Director, not actor Don’t see yourself as an actor in a pitch drama, but rather as the director. You control the action.
Cornerstone message What is your pitch’s unique message? Formulate it by imagining yourself saying to the client: “And if you forget everything we say here today, it will be enough if you remember this one thing …”
Circular reasoning Would the pitch organiser take part in his own pitch? Would he consider it fair? You give the answer. And act accordingly.
Heal the World: Michael Jackson Heal The World / Make It A Better Place / For You And For Me.
Urs Seiler / www.smartville.ch