by Artwell Nwaila (@artwelln) Pitching is by far the most daunting practice for any new or seasoned creative. We do it when we apply for a job, when we share ideas with the CD and, most importantly, when we want to sell ideas to the almighty client.

the pitchIn this column I’ll focus on the latter, which in turn will help in every other form of pitching. I’m not saying I’m a pro; I’m merely sharing seven lessons that have made me less kak.

  1. Be vibrant and exciting

Clients are sold on confidence, knowledge and excitement. I’ve sat through intensely boring presentations where it felt like I was being taken through a tombstone catalogue; all I wanted to do was shoot someone and skip the border.

I always remind myself before a presentation that I’m not there just to sell a concept but to inspire the pants off the audience.

I refer to the client as the audience because I believe the selling process is a performance. The word ‘client’ makes them seem like soulless planks of wood. I can hear a CD somewhere out there giggling and whispering, “But they are…”

  1. Keep it short and to the point

As much as clients love your company, they have lots of work to do. Cover all angles quickly by telling a focused, detailed story.

The best pitch I ever witnessed was exactly five minutes long. I’m not saying they should all be this short but a 15-minute waffle about how excited you and your team are to have received the brief is not necessary.

  1. Speak it; don’t read it

There is a reason that your kids falls asleep when you read to them… It’s because it’s boring. Do not subject your audience to the same fate.

Monotone reading takes away from the magic of eye contact. It also shows a lack of confidence and uncertainty. I make it my goal to talk through 80% of the presentation and the rest I’ll read if I have to.

  1. Avoid buzzwords/jargon

Personally, if I have to hear words such as “low hanging fruit”, “golden thread”, “blue sky thinking” etc, I’m going to facilitate a citizen’s arrest.

Clients hear such terms daily. It may make you sound smart but definitely not original.

Keep the language simple at all times. Steve Jobs’ presentations were powerful purely because they were approachable. He used simple language and avoided jargon and buzzwords like the plague.

  1. Know the client

I try research whom I’m presenting to well before the meeting. As a creative-director friend of mine always says, “Most pitches that are lost are lost due to lack of connection.”

So, if you’re selling to an older, Barry-Manilo-listening marketing director, act accordingly and prep the performance to his or her tastes.

  1. Leave something behind

We creatives tend to forget that brand managers and marketers have probably sat through five pitches before you and they are exhausted. Leave them with the full presentation so they can fill in any missed gaps.

On that note, make sure your presentation is easy to digest, even when you’re not there.

And finally

We need to keep in mind that, when we pitch, we are proposing a new relationship.

I’ve found that when we win new business, the idea we initially presented isn’t what the client finally rolls out. This is because the client feels a connection and he or she is drawn to the style of creative thinking.

Artwell Nwaila

Artwell Nwaila (@artwelln) is a creative director at Offlimit Communications and publisher of the award-winning creative publication SA Creatives (@thesacreatives). His monthly column on MarkLives, “Creation”, is a humorous take on life in the creative world, seasoned with practical advice based on experience.


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