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If your pitch isn’t a story… you’re dreaming

For those of you who have worked with me, this will be only too familiar: A PowerPoint deck is not your pitch. We define “pitch” as the effort that goes into winning a piece of business, and a part of that effort is creating a well-structured and persuasive argument as to why you should be selected – let’s call that a story.

Here are three important points that support this:

1.    Interpretation – If you rely solely on your PowerPoint slides as your pitch, you will be throwing a whole lot of ‘stuff’ in the face of your audience. Think of it like a smorgasbord, where you are faced with numerous options from which you select what you like – it can be overwhelming. Just as options are left open for the diner at a smorgasbord, a pitch that relies on PowerPoint slides is left open for the audience to come to their own interpretation. If you don’t tell me why I should be listening, I will make my own assumptions.

2.    Entertainment – Now, compare a dinner party to a smorgasbord. Here, the chef organizes and presents the dinner around three distinct courses, paired with complementary wine and provides a description of each course. Think about how you interpret that – well… you don’t! You listen to the chef and follow the order and flow of the dinner and, if done well, you will be entertained; you will want to listen and, dare I say, that dinner will taste wonderful.

3.    Confidence – Just as with a carefully-planned dinner party, if you have a story to tell, you will tell it with pride, passion and confidence. You will look your audience in the eye and tell your story with a beginning, middle and end, and there’s a strong chance you will enjoy it. If the storytelling is done in an enjoyable way, the listening will follow suit.

In the interest of telling a good story, please read the following email which is quality evidence to support my case:

G’day Hamish, I have been meaning to email you about what happened after the half day perfect pitch session in Perth that I came along to. I couldn’t stay all day as I had prior commitments, but I stayed until about 12:30, just enough time to get the gist of your pitch approach. The next Sunday I was on a plane over to Sydney to speak at a National Allergy Strategy conference (my daughter is anaphylactic to nuts and had a reaction in our own restaurant – pretty unique situation). I had my presentation done already, but given the 6-hour plane flight I got stuck in and changed everything around to suit your pitch plan.  On the day of, there were lots of big names there like McDonalds, Compass Group, Sodexo, Qantas and many more, which adds to the excitement. The presentation was a hit! Everyone commented on the quality and simplicity of the message, and a few thought I was a pro speaker doing the rounds. The organisers told me that my presentation set the tone for the whole day and drove the second half strategy session. As it turns out, my three-point message has now been taken on board by the National Allergy Strategy and Anaphylaxis Australia as their whole national strategy! Also, the head of Foods Standards Australia for NSW asked if he could use the same message for his upcoming advertising campaign across NSW, and asked if I had intellectual property rights sown up over it. I was only doing it for my daughter and all the other kids suffering the same issues so I didn’t care about IP. So, in short, a pretty excellent result from just a half-day session that I didn’t even finish. Thought you may want to use this as an example of what is possible after your course, or just to pat yourself on the back. Hope that we can catch you over the weekend, I think I owe you a beer in any case. Cheers. Kind Regards, Malcolm

Bottom-line: storytelling in pitching is vital, so make sure that you have your story developed before you even worry about PowerPoint slides or visuals (which are “aids”, purely there to support your story). Otherwise, you’re dreaming.

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