The 20 dos and don'ts of pitching

Having worked in-house for three years now, it has been a while since I've attended an agency pitch.

I wasn’t expecting them to now be delivered by people on hover-boards via ESP, but I really thought some things would have changed.

Perhaps it’s my fault – one day, four pitches.

Why did I expect to leave feeling anything but jaded and cynical?

Don’t get me wrong, we met some engaging people and there were a handful of truly inspired ideas. However, certain tiresome tropes persist.

I’m sure I’ll feel better in the morning. Here are my dos and don’ts: 

1. You’d like to send your pitch – sorry, ‘new business’ – team. Great, in that case I’ll be sending Brenda from HR, along with the bloke who delivers the printer toner.

2. So you’re going to distribute those hard copies right at the start, are you? Weeks of hard work and you’re just going to throw them out there. Fine…*skips straight to the budget page*.

3. Know your tech. We all know laptops, projectors and TVs pretty much all hate one another. Hands up: who loves a false start?

4. That presentation of yours: get someone else to proof it. Then have them proof it again. And again.

5. Just explain how your ‘integrated marketing capabilities’ qualifies as your having slapped on a screenshot from a social channel at the bottom of each slide?

6. Are we all enjoying the irony that you just wasted six seconds of my life explaining what Vine is? If I don’t know, I really shouldn’t be here.

7. If you know what you’re talking about, then we will respect you when you tell us where we are going wrong.

8. Ooh, more redundant words, please: targeted; dynamic; proactive; utilise; focused; active…

9. Ideas that don’t live up to their fancy titles are like fast food that doesn’t look like the photo. 

10. The line between grammar Nazi and illiterate isn’t actually very fine. You will actually be communicating on our behalf, you know.

11. Contrary to popular belief, hipsters aren’t our overlords.

12. MDs and ADs – loving your work. Whatever you do, don’t allow your team to speak. Instead, perhaps invest your time in teaching them to feign interest for an entire hour. 

13. Consumer insight – do it well or don’t do it at all. 

14. We’re more than 20 minutes in and we’re still going through your creds. You realise that we invited you in because we already thought you could do the job, right?

15. I’m all for adding a sense of theatre to a pitch but really, there are some things only a qualified doctor should witness.

16. We’re not interested in an off-brand idea that is designed to win you awards. I’m fairly sure the last dozen or so potential clients you’ve tried to peddle that to felt the same.

17. Well, seeing as you’ve asked about it: yes, there is this pesky extra £100k in the budget that I was just being too polite to mention.

18. Stop talking, seriously, please stop.

19. Oh, you’re ‘strategic’. Why didn’t you say? Sold.

20. You realise if you say ‘pop-up’ I’m legally allowed to cull you for the good of humanity, right?

John Humphreys is comms manager at Shepherd Neame
 

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