I must have done a million pitches in my life. Presentations at school, stand-up exams, asking girls out on dates, applying for jobs and professional pitches to prospects and customers.
Then there’s the competitive pitching when you are ushered in, one after another, to parade your ideas in front of a review panel. There’s the ‘over lunch’ variety when your client is assessing whether or not you’ll mess up their career.
Networking is a kind of pitching too. You’re out there making rapid fire hits (and misses) with a gaggle all vying for useful connections. And there are those life-long pitches that turn strangers into friends, lovers and partners, for as long as you can be trusted.
I’ve just spent a week in LA and San Francisco, training with pitch coaches, venture capitalists, lawyers, startup founders and entrepreneurs. What a workout! The advice has been brilliant, insightful and contradictory all at the same time.
Sure, there are some basics like doing your homework, knowing your audience and delivering your compelling value proposition with unapologetic confidence.
But what works so well for one person can be a disaster for another. One coach advised us that the best opening of all time was to say, “I promise not to waste your time” and then proceeded to repeat himself three times. A serial entrepreneur and big-time angel investor opened up his presentation by saying the next 45 minutes would be the best of my entire life. Talk about overpromising.
In pitch, styles and techniques are variable but values are constant. As you’re pitching your way through life, the most important thing to remember is stay true to yourself. Whatever the occasion, however high the stakes, always enter and leave with your integrity.
Craig Davis is the founder of Brandkarma and the former CCO of Publicis Mojo, Saatchi & Saatchi Asia and JWT Worldwide. He is on the board of Conscious Capitalism and blogs at craigdavisnow.com