Ever come an agonisingly close second in a pitch?
Despite the astute analysis and killer insights?
Despite the razor-sharp strategy and genius ideas?
Despite the beautiful graphics, vox pops and mood films?
Despite the detailed timeline, the procurement-friendly budget and the hours of rehearsal?
There could be many reasons for coming second and some will be out of your control. Like the MD of the pitch-winners being best friends with the client, the unforeseen need for an office in Budapest, or the client going for a team with more Sagittarians in it.
But there could be one reason that is very much within your control.
Which is that you might well have a ‘fifth columnist’ in your team, an enemy within.
You’ll know this undermining force because you, and your client prospects, spend a long time looking at it.
It’s probably fixed to your boardroom wall, measures anything from 48 to 72 inches and is good for hiding behind – or at least to the side of.
The screen is at the heart of the great pitch paradox.
For all that we live in a world dominated by screens, and much of the output you are presenting is intended to find its way on to the screen of any number of devices, what you put on the screen will not win you the pitch.
What goes on the screen is clearly important. It gets you in the running.
But it’s your people that get you over the line.
Chemistry is often cited a key reason in deciding the pitch outcome. And nothing helps the chemistry a room along better than regular, indeed habitual, eye-to-eye contact with the client.
The star of the show should be you and your team of presenters. You’ll find a high correlation between the amount of time a client actually looks at your people and pitch success.
Here are the five thoughts on how you can maximise engagement with pitch audiences:
- Think of the screen as your servant, not your master
- Only use the screen if spoken words alone are not enough to convey your meaning
- Be very clear in directing the audience about when you want them to look at the screen – and them bringing them back to look at you
- Take centre stage. When the audience has had chance to digest what’s on the screen, don’t be afraid of standing in front of it to ensure that they are looking at you and engaging with you. This breaks the golden rules of many a presentation training course. Good: the inherent boldness and confidence puts your firmly in control.
- Remember that it’s a big leap from life in front of a computer screen, head-phones on, to real-time interaction in a pitch. Coach your team to feel comfortable being looked at. By people. Using their eyes. In the same room as them.
This coaching approach will help your team to communicate with greater authenticity and to raise engagement levels. Get the screen in a supporting role and the client might well be spoiling someone else’s day with those ‘close second’ calls.