7 Habits of Highly Effective Pitchmen

Today let’s talk about a topic that nearly every ambitious, creative person wants to know about: How to pitch ideas successfully. Whether you’re an account manager, agency president, brand manager, vice president, fundraiser, venture capitalist, innovation specialist, product developer, you name it — sooner or later you’ll have the opportunity or the need to pitch ideas. So I asked some ridiculously successful pitch men what their secrets are. These guys include:

  • Len Gill, former chairman of Echo Advertising and the Chief Marketing Officer for Spiderman, the biggest musical in Broadway history
  • Brett Channer, former chairman of Saatchi and Saatchi Canada
  • Syd Kessler, my business partner and one of the most awarded people in the history of Canadian advertising

They all have different styles and histories, but here is an a summary of what they recommended:

1. Know your material inside and out. Reading slides and acting as though you’re just learning the content – is going to lose you the pitch.

2. Tell a good story. Stories are powerful ways to introduce ideas, and they stick in the minds/hearts of your listeners.

3. Say something original. No one wants to listen to a pitch they’ve heard before. Make sure you’re telling them something new.
4. Do something original. If it’s true that the medium is the message, then powerpoint generally says you’re boring. Try other ways to communicate your idea. Good old-fashioned boards? Whiteboard and flip chart? An interactive game or exercise? A video? A role play? If it’s well executed, it could stir the imagination.

5. Look me in the eye. Eye contact is important, and engage your mind directly with that of your audience, rather than droning.
6. Ask questions. Get to know your audience, ask them what they believe, want, know. Interact with them and show interest in who they are.
7. Remove the non-word “um” from your vocabulary. Every time you want to say “um” in a pitch meeting, replace it with silence. This takes practice, trust me.

Above all, enjoy yourself. If you’re having fun, even an imperfect pitch can win the business!