When you’re in the business of pitting your best ideas against the ideas of others, anxiety is inescapable. Consider the stakes when pitching to a client: Just one new brand or project could amount to complete metamorphosis for your company, whether it be because of the size of the account or the invaluable opportunities that come with it. You and your entire team carry the weight of the brief on your shoulders for weeks leading up to the big presentation, losing sleep and sanity over what is really going to break through. And all the while, there are other teams of smart, creative people doing the exact… same… thing.
It’s easy to assume they are as hungry as you are, just as focused, and that they’ll be bringing their “A Game.” It feels like prepping for the Super Bowl as you try to outthink an opponent whose locker room conversations are a total mystery. Even when you finally hit the field, this opponent is still invisible. A pitch is a competition for sure, but it’s all offense. You can try to imagine what other agencies might present, and what the client already has in their head, but it will always be impossible to really know.
Add to this element of the unknown adversary the fact that even if you conjure up the most brilliant idea– one that you cannot wait to share with the world, A TESTAMENT TO YOUR TEAM’S COLLECTIVE GENIUS!… The client still might go in a different direction, for any number of reasons. And now your precious baby super-idea will never get its chance to shine.
At Spitball, I’m sorry to say, we haven’t found the antidote to this RFP anxiety, but we are always perfecting our formula for truly memorable pitches and pushing each other toward greatness. Naturally, intelligent and highly creative work that hits all of the clients objectives speaks for itself. But our philosophy is that extraordinary ideas should be presented, well, extraordinarily. A truly captivating pitch requires a great deal of performance. How do you leave your clients saying “What kind of sorcery just happened before my eyes?!”
Well, it’s not magic. It’s…
Here are just some of the ingredients we always throw into our Pitch’s Brew:
1) Elevate the Work
A fantastic idea works on multiple levels. Unless you know your client is looking for something on a specific tactical level, your key visual doesn’t need to look like an ad. Maybe it’s a short animation to build intrigue for a big reveal. Maybe it’s supplemented by audio or even something the client can smell. It could be the best way to sell the idea is to build a 3D object that brings the concept to life. The trick is to let the idea inspire the format of the presentation, and not the other way around.
2) Put on a Show
One unavoidable reality of advertising is that you often have just a few seconds to capture your audience’s attention and get your message across. The pitch may be the only time your idea actually has a captive audience. While it’s always important that your campaign is “a quick get,” take advantage of the time to tell a story. Use theatrics, music, comedy, visual aids, and even props where they make sense to immerse your client in the world your idea can create for them. If you can blend the insights that led your team to the idea with an entertaining narrative in your setup, then by the time you drop the big reveal, it’s likely no further explanation will be needed. Which brings me to the next ingredient…
3) Don’t Over-explain
If an idea is truly the right one for your client, it won’t be difficult to sell them on it. Long verbose slides in defense of the concept can potentially do damage in three big ways: 1) you lose steam after the initial excitement of the creative mockups, 2) you insult the intelligence of your audience, 3) you project a lack of confidence in the strength of the idea. Remember to take breaths and let things sink in for the client. If they are intrigued, they’ll ask great questions that you have even greater answers for, and they will likely be inspired to throw out some interesting ideas of their own. A well-presented concept invites collaboration. After all, should your idea win the day, the next step is to work with the client to bring it to life.
And finally, probably the closest you can get to overcoming the existential dread of pitching…
4) HAVE FUN.
There is so much to worry about in the precious hours leading up to Pitch Time. “Is our strategy clear and tailored to the client’s needs?” “Are we still missing that one Wow Factor idea?” But before you step into the room, take a moment to feel confident about your work and remind yourself and your team why you got into this masochistic line of work in the first place. Then, HAVE. A. BLAST. Enthusiasm is infectious and so is doubt. If you show the client how deeply and genuinely you love your ideas, they will be that much more likely to fall in love with them too. At Spitball, we can’t help but feel the rush of excitement that comes with every new idea, and we want our clients to feel that too. As intimidating as this bizarre idea-bakeoff is, you’re speaking to other human beings, and they want your ideas to blow them away just as much as you do.
So whether you’re presenting ideas to your own internal team or the CEO of your dream client, remember these tips for Practical Pitchcraft and give your ideas the best possible chance to shine. Or if you’re in the market for fresh ideas for your brand and wouldn’t mind a little magic show to boot, shoot a spitball our way.