Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Life's A Pitch

Good morning
"And the beat goes on…………….."

Have a break from doctors this week, so am trying to get a couple of posts up.

Thoughts on the Pitch Meeting:
Hollywood long ago institutionalized the "pitch" meeting as a way of doing business.  Producers, writers and those with ideas for a project (movie or television) would get a brief (five / ten minute) opportunity with someone who could "green light" their idea.  Their job is to "pitch" their idea so convincingly - make it so attractive -  that they get a go-ahead.

While I'm sure today some tech guys could write an algorithm to enhance a "pitch", the Entertainment Industry relied pretty much on a pitch as an art form - just the right mix of excitement and temptation, an encapsulated plot, dropping a name or two of who might star in the vehicle (or at least a star "type" - "imagine, if you will, Meryl Streep in the part……."), all designed to appeal to the universal desire for box office success.  (The music industry version was a pitch accompanied by a "demo" tape - and so, while still selling a dream, had attached to it an actual example of the potential - both a plus and a huge minus in that it's sometimes easier to sell a dream if the particulars are left to the imagination).

The Hollywood version of the "pitch" was unlikely the first use of the tool, as "pitching" ideas or projects has probably forever been part of business, and really, of life itself. Today the idea of the "pitch meeting" was itself a "pitch" --  the result of which is the television program Shark Tank (which we in the arts have borrowed with the Art Tank concept done in Arizona - and more recently a version done in Silicon Valley).   The same concept of the Hollywood pitch is embodied in the idea of the "elevator pitch" - wherein you have a very limited time to get your idea and "ask" out.  

People have been "pitching" ideas, pleas for help, solicitation for support and participation for eons.  Twitter is largely built on one of the hallmarks of a pitch - expressing yourself and getting an idea across in a very brief period of time, with limited verbiage.

And pitches are hardly limited to ideas or projects.  We all pitch things both personal and professional all the time.  We're pitching when we apply for a job and when we try to recruit talent.  We're pitching when we invite people into our circles, and when we seek to be included in other's spheres.  We're pitching when we seek a raise or try to raise money - whatever the purpose.  In fact, while we don't necessarily think of it as "pitching", we are probably pitching things on a daily basis.  Recruiting a new board member is a pitch, courting donors is a pitch, negotiating an agreement on something is a pitch, selling audiences is a pitch, arguing for a marketing approach is a pitch..  Even your suggestion to your spouse of where to go to dinner, or what movie to see, is a pitch.  

Clearly, not all, and perhaps not even most, of our pitches are successful.  Sometimes that's because our pitch wasn't very good, or not good enough. As both art form and acquired skill, we can always improve our pitches. But more often than not, it has little to do with how artful the pitch itself was, or even, how we performed as pitchmen.  As often as not it's simply that what we are pitching isn't something aligned in a way that works for the person to whom we are pitching.  It isn't personal.  Rejection of pitches we make is just part of the reality of life - very likely the norm.

There are two simple rules of pitching I think.  One, where the pitch is unsuccessful, move on.  Time is the most precious commodity, and wasting time on a failed pitch makes no sense on any level.  Two, we can learn something from every pitch - large and small, successful and unsuccessful - and being aware of recognizing when we are pitching, and then learning from what worked and didn't work may well make us better pitchers in the long run.  

Because we are all pitching constantly, it might help if we pay attention to the phenomenon.  A good pitch has some identifiable threads:  1) Brevity - it gets the idea across quickly; 2) Substance - the idea has merit and legs and deserves consideration; 3) Realism - the idea is do-able on every level; 4) excitement - the pitch promises a valuable experience; and 5) Benefit - realization of the substance of the pitch is beneficial to both the pitcher and the pitchee.  But even if all the elements are top form, a pitch may fail. And as all pitches are, on many levels, personal - the benefit being pitched must be accepted as such by the person to whom it is being pitched.  

Even when we are not pitching something specific, thinking like a pitchman may have benefits.  Communicating with others in a concise, organized, and brief way is a good habit.  Making that communication interesting and appealing, as well as reasoned and realistic makes for increased success in getting across our thoughts.  A successful pitch is rarely an argument for or against something, it's rather a portrait of the benefits of embracing that which is being pitched.  That is usually the call of the person being pitched something.  Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we don't.  Such is life.  

Go through an entire day, and note how many pitches you make - small and large, intended and unintended.  And note too which ones were weak and why, and which ones worked better, and why.  And, at the same time, be aware of people pitching you.  Awareness ought to help you make better pitches, and thus more successful ones.

Have a good week.

Don't Quit
Barry

1 comment:

  1. Hi Barry - Here's the advice I give my students about pitching:
    Tell your audience why we should care about your work and what impact it is designed to have. Remember that a good pitch tells a story – it has a beginning, a middle, and an end – and culminates in asking the listener for something (attention, funding, partnership, etc). Richard Branson, billionaire creative industries entrepreneur, says a good pitch has five characteristics or elements. Paraphrased, these are: 1) What’s in it for the listener 2) Concrete and specific 3) Emphatically asserts value 4) Sustainability 5) People power (i.e., *connect*).
    Happy pitching,
    Linda

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