Over the course of the last 12 months ID Comms has had the privilege of witnessing the media agency fraternity at its very best. We’ve been exposed to some exceptional talent and innovative media thinking, we’ve been mesmerized by some beautifully crafted and brilliantly delivered presentations and have been seduced by the sheer energy and passion of those on the pitch platform.
We know that these committed agency teams have spent countless weekends and late nights working extremely hard to make these meetings appear so effortless.
We have also been present at meetings that didn’t go quite as planned; where the awkward shifting on seats and the audible stifling of yawns betray the clients’ true feelings. We’ve sat in meetings where the mood and energy in the room has shifted in the wrong direction so quickly that the most merciful thing to do would have been for the agency to pack up their things and leave.
The reality is that most pitch meetings sit somewhere in the middle, neither brilliant nor disastrous. In the majority of cases, the differences between winning and losing are the small things, that if done well create a powerful positive reaction but, if ignored, can lead to premature elimination from the process.
I’ve jotted down my observations on what I felt worked well to identify six simple pointers to greater pitch success for agencies looking to win in 2016:
1. Opening and closing remarks are critical: Generally delivered by the agency CEO (or most senior agency stakeholder) at the start and end of the main strategic presentation, these can never be underestimated. They set the tone, establish the mood of the meeting, build the agency’s authority and convey its passion and commitment to the brand they will hopefully be working with.
All too often, however, they are poorly delivered, improvised and lacking in the fluency of the main body of the presentation. They need to be given the same focus and attention as the core presentation content. In many ways, they are more important so prepare and rehearse.
2. Get the timing right: I’m still amazed by how many presentations either finish abruptly or are rushed at the end because of poor time management. There’s simply no excuse. It indicates poor pitch preparation, lack of due consideration to the content and a failure to rehearse properly.
Remember that if you plan to allow questions to be asked and issues addressed during the presentation, you need to drop 20% of the content to accommodate for discussion.
3. Know your audience: Those agencies that have been successful in the reviews we have managed have been able to quickly establish chemistry with the client. They have created a cultural empathy that builds throughout process and at every face-to-face opportunity.
The most effective have a clear understanding of who on the client side will be in the room for any given presentation. They know their names, understand their roles and responsibilities and deliver the presentation to the relevant individual when it is most relevant and appropriate for them to understand the message.
4. Make technology relevant: Every presentation will invariably feature a dashboard visualization, often poorly displayed as a collection of screen grabs that nobody can follow or understand. The most important thing to remember if you’re going to use a video to illustrate a media management dashboard is to make sure it’s informative and relevant.
5. Try to avoid jargon: You could quite easily play buzzword bingo in most pitches… and some clients do. The overuse of such words can cause presentations to simply merge into one another, making them indistinct. Some of the more popular phrases used by every agency in every presentation this year include: “game-changer”, “best-in-class” and “technology agnostic.”
6. Smile: Delivering a pitch presentation can be a nerve-wracking experience. The truth is that the client is often as nervous as the presenting agency. There is a great deal at stake for everyone involved and this tension often manifests itself as an unforgiving scowl on the faces of those presenting. Smiling occasionally during delivery works wonders by not only diffusing the pressure cooker environment but it also invites the audience into the presentation.
If you’ve done your preparation properly, you should be able to enjoy your ability to wow and impress the audience. We have high hopes for agencies participating in another busy media pitch year in 2016.