The Pitch: 5 Lessons for Every Planner


If you’ve ever presented an idea, concept, solution, proposal or credentials to a potential client, you’ve pitched. What’s unfortunate is that most pitches are mediocre at best. Enter the new AMC show The Pitch.


If you haven’t yet watched The Pitch, you’ve been missing out. Every event planner, wedding planner, event supplier and sales person can learn major lessons from this behind-the-scenes view into the world of advertising pitches. Having sat in on and delivered a number of agency pitches myself, I can attest that this is a pretty accurate depiction of what happens inside and out of the boardroom.


Becoming a great pitch person is a craft – honed over years of rejections, wins, flubs and ovations. What I love so much about this show is that you now get the ability to fast-track your learning by watching what works and what doesn’t for others. So, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of catching it, here are 5 lessons every planner can learn, inspired by The Pitch…


1. The pitch begins before the pitch

Most people believe that the pitch is the moment you present your ideas, but it actually begins from your very first interactions with your potential client. Every moment of contact you have before the presentation is an opportunity to create an emotional connection, build rapport and establish trust (not to mention give you valuable insight into your client – insights your competitors might not have). If your client hasn’t included a round for questions, ask for it. If they revert to talking over the phone, try to get a face to face. What most people miss is that your ideas are only part of the reason why someone chooses to do business with you.


2. The Tissue Session can be your best friend

A Tissue Session is an interim call that allows the agency to talk through partly-developed ideas with the client before the big presentation. Why the name? Every once in a while the ideas are so off they result in the agency passing out tissues to dry the eyes of the team. Given this, why on Earth would any company want to hold a Tissue Session? Without the session, the agency would be dead in the water on the day of the presentation. With the session, they have a chance to course correct. The tissue session is an opportunity to learn more about your client, their needs and their boundaries at a time when you’re still trying to get to know a virtual stranger.


3. Don’t just give them what they ask for, but never give them only what they didn’t want.

You are the expert at what you do. The client is the expert at what they want. Sometimes these two roads might not intersect – maybe you feel that the client’s direction is wrong. As an expert, it’s your job to share what, based on your experience, is in the best interest of the client – but this can come at a cost. Make a client feel stupid or that you haven’t listened to them and you’ve lost them forever. Help a client understand what will grow their business and you could earn a client for life.

The value you bring to your clients is helping them steer clear of pitfalls you’ve seen before, giving them ideas to get them to their goals faster and knowing where your industry is heading. Rather than simply give them what they asked for, you might want to show them a range of concepts (just ensure you’re prepared with valid reasons why your preferred concept should be considered).

At the end of the day, the work you produce is your legacy. No future client will look at your work and understand that your client wanted it that way, even if you didn’t.


4. Don’t leave the presentation to the last minute

In virtually every episode of The Pitch, the time is spent on creative development, leaving no time for preparing for the presentation to the client. I’m constantly amazed by how bad the presentations are.

Never expect your creative to do the talking for you. First, you clients aren’t experts at what you do which means although they might have a guttural reaction to your presentation, the reason why you chose that substrate, those colors, that technology might get lost in translation (and so will your innovative thinking). Second, great presentations create an emotional hook and tell a story that carve out a lasting spot in your customer’s memory. Start by framing the compelling problem or the setting (point a), defining the client’s dream (point b) and briefly how what you are presenting will get them from a to b. Be concise, be compelling and stick to what’s important.


5. Never, ever leave loose ends

One of the biggest mistakes companies make when pitching a new client is leaving the meeting not knowing where they stand. Ambiguity keeps you guessing – great for quiz shows but not so great for business. At the end of every pitch I delivered I would ask one thing: “Is there anything we’ve discussed today that would prevent us from doing business together?” This would lead to a yes or no answer, which gives you an opportunity to follow up with a ‘why’ or expand on something you might have left unresolved, unmentioned or unclear. Never leave a meeting with loose ends.


Author: Lara McCulloch