‘…they called me back two hours after we presented, to say not only did they really want to work with us, but they had even decided to cancel the final stage of their own process, which would have been the staff vote, in order to make sure we would be their partner.’
I was listening to Tori, an excellent fundraising manager who I had met on the Win that Pitch course I had delivered three weeks previously. She was justifiably excited as she talked me through the techniques her pitch team had used to create such an intense WANTING in the minds of the pitch panel.
How did she ignite this desire?
So the Quarter of a Million Pound Question (for that is what the partnership is worth to the children’s charity she works for) is, what did she do?
She cited several techniques that helped, but here I’d like to mention one which I’ve found that few presenters try, and even fewer get right.
She made her pitch STAND OUT, by which I mean she took a risk and included something (usually, but not always, a prop) that is out of the ordinary, and which helps us feel the power of a key idea, like a trial lawyer producing an immensely powerful piece of evidence.
One of the key themes of her talk was that the shop she was presenting to was a happy, special place for children and families to visit, and this image would be further enhanced by a partnership with her children’s charity.
To bring this point to life, she produced from her pocket a lock of her own hair on a certificate which her mother had kept for 30 years, since taking Tori as a little girl for a special hair cut in the potential partner’s shop, in 1985. She told me that as she produced this precious possession, the panel looked absolutely astonished.
Why is it worth finding a way make your pitch stand out?
- GRAB ATTENTION. Whether your pitch is formal or informal, research shows that human attention wanders very quickly if the format of information does not vary. The Stand Out tactic will grab their attention, so they tune in to your message.
- BE REMEMBERED. If you are making a formal pitch, then the panel will probably hear from several other charities on the same day. Tori guaranteed that her central message would be remembered ahead of her more risk averse competitors.
- SHOW YOU’RE SPECIAL. One of the fundamental signals to send when talking to a potential partner or funder is not about content, but about your character. Whoever they choose they’ll probably have to work with for at least a year. By taking the trouble to produce something that very few people would bother to do (she brought the story with her), she sent a powerful signal that she was prepared to go the extra mile.
How to avoid gimmickry
In nine years coaching successful new business teams, I’ve heard of plenty of attempts to make presentations stand out that back-fire. To avoid this, ask yourself two questions.
- Does this prop / story / demonstration reinforce my key message that would cause the client to say ‘YES’? If it doesn’t add depth to a key message that your insight research suggested would make them likely to say yes, it will be seen as a gimmick.
- How could you deliver the tactic in such a way that it builds rapport (ie a sense that you have things in common with them), rather than reduces it. I have seen a number of demonstrations, especially those to do with the cause, that actually make the audience feel guilty (eg for having been inadvertently prejudiced, ignorant or apathetic about the plight of your beneficiaries in the past). This finger jabbing effect may have its place in some charity communication, but is rarely likely to work in a pitch or meeting because it smashes rapport.
The influence expert, Blair Warren, advises us that poor influencers attempt to correct and convince, whereas the most effective influencers seek to validate and intrigue. Done intelligently, The Smoking Gun tactic achieves both.
Assuming your pitch was based on sound insight research about what the panel really cares about, it will bring one of those key ideas to life. Creating a magic moment greatly increases your chances of hearing the partner say YES.