Leaders

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The art of pitching in a pandemic

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A year of remote working has forced many to re-channel their resources to the online environment – including the pitching progress.

As pitching moved out of meeting rooms and into a virtual screen, agencies have found ways to perfect their approach to pitches. Mastering virtual pitches is an art – and one that some leaders in the industry are more than keen to share.

Five by Five’s UK creative directors Ravi Beeharry and Andy Mancuso reflect on how lockdowns have changed the culture of pitching, and share their tips and tricks for you below.

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Charisma, Poker Faces and Notes Off-Screen: The Art of Pitching in a Pandemic

A while ago, we were both asked to reflect on colleagues who’d inspired us. Top of the list was Rooney Carruthers, the living legend behind iconic work for O2 and Levi’s amongst countless others. What made Rooney so special was his ‘restaurant presence’, the way he could walk into a room and instantly become the centre of attention with onlookers hanging off his every word. When it came to pitching, it was the best possible quality a creative could have. If you have that kind of presence and charisma, it always feels like you’re playing with a home advantage. 

Pitching through a screen, however, can sometimes feel more like a tricky away fixture. It becomes instantly harder to tell if a cutting insight or joke has landed when you aren’t sharing the same energy in a room with your intended audience. The vibe is a little more uncertain. Similarly, maintaining a poker face is a lot easier when you have a screen in front of you - you immediately become harder to read, and savvy clients know this. 

Because of all that, it’s fair to say that the pandemic has changed the culture of pitching - and there’s every chance the effects will be permanent. Whilst lockdown restrictions are lifting and there’s a stream of people heading back to the office, remote working looks set to last and as a result more and more pitches will remain remote. 

With that in mind, there are a few lessons we’ve picked up from this strangest of years which will likely prove worth remembering in the near future: 

Keep Your Notes Just Off-Screen 

One advantage of the remote revolution has been the ability to keep your notes carefully positioned to the side of your screen of choice. There’s nothing worse than the white-hot flush of losing your train of thought in the middle of a key point, so having a couple of killer points to one side (or, if you’re like us, all around) your screen can be a useful saving grace. Even if they don’t end up being used, they can leave you feeling more confident. 

The Tissue Is Your Friend

A tissue meeting, during which you can get an early sense of where potential clients’ heads are at with regard to a project, has always been a useful part of the pitching process. But now, when remote communication can increase the risk of crossed wires, it’s all but essential for creatives. There’s little worse than sharing work which, through nobody’s fault, is a long way away from what a client was expecting. A short tissue meeting beforehand will nip any issues like that in the bud. 

Be Each Others’ Biggest Fans

As mentioned previously, remote pitches can be challenging when it comes to building momentum or rapport. One small way to improve that is to make sure everyone on your team has each other’s back when it comes to encouragement. The more you know each others’ slides, the more each member of your team can chip in and add value to what whoever is leading the pitch is saying. That way it becomes less robotic and more conversational - which can go a long way to ensuring a pitch flows naturally and engagingly. 

Finally, Embrace The Theatrical

Historically, creatives have sometimes gone to extreme lengths in order to leave an impression - as my colleague who acted out a game of hide and seek in a pitch will testify. As anyone who’s hosted a Zoom session will likely confirm, the inherent distance of remote conversations are not the easiest environment in which to showcase your personality. That being said, there are still ways for creatives to make their mark - you just need to be, well, creative about it. Consider ways to add a bit of life and theatre on-screen, even if it means hamming it up slightly.

The last year has been a learning experience for all of us. It also coincided with more pressure on pitches, as clients only want the best and agencies are understandably keen for growth. There’s no silver bullet for ensuring a smooth ride on remote pitching, but there are ways to make life easier. 

And, above all else, make sure your WiFi is in good working order! Get all that right, and you won’t go far wrong.


Ravi Beeharry and Andy Mancuso are the UK Creative Directors at Five By Five. Header image: Derek Bacon
 

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