An idea can move. An idea can inspire. An idea can make the difference. But that idea needs to be positioned, articulated and communicated in a way that will help an audience not only understand what makes the idea logically sound, it also needs to resonate emotionally. Understanding how to do that is at the core of the art of the pitch. And mastering this skill is what makes the difference between a good strategist, and a great one.
When we think about the pitch, we typically envision a stand up presentation with a series of slides. But we forget that we pitch everyday and with almost every interaction. Every human point of contact is a pitch of sorts. There is an element of persuasion, subtle or overt that is happening. It’s part of human nature. Anyone who says that they are not a salesperson misunderstands the nature of sales, that it is ingrained into our everyday relationships. Recognizing this truth makes it easier to understand the need for emotional resonance in pitching ideas. Think about this; how many everyday interactions with family, friends and colleagues are purely logical data driven conversations? That sounds like it would be insufferably boring. So why do we think it’s acceptable to do this in the context of pitching an idea? The first rule in the art of the pitch is to not forget that it is simply another human interaction, so don’t supplant the humanity with data.
We have previously explored the difference between selling a product and selling a solution. Strategy is firmly a solution sale since it is responding to a specific challenge, a need or a desire. But what is this need that we are building our pitch around? What is the challenge our idea is meant to address? Asking the right questions will help you not only come up with the right solution, the right idea, but also will help you understand how best to frame it in a way that will logically address the challenge while resonating emotionally. The second rule in the art of the pitch is to know exactly who you are pitching and why.
Developing the digital strategy, the details around the core idea comes next. In doing so, it’s critical to remember that what you are building is a story, and to apply the fundamentals of good story-telling. As Andrew Stanton said in his Ted Talk on the Clues to a Great Story, “Make me care…emotionally, intellectually, aesthetically…just…make me care”. This goes back to the original observation about making the human connection the core of the pitch. The third rule in the art of the pitch is to tell the right story.
In developing the story, think about the mechanics of it. Considerations that impact this are the amount of time you have, the complexity of the ideas, the size and makeup of the audience and the format of the delivery. How you organize these elements will determine how memorable, how emotionally resonant, and ultimately how persuasive your pitch is. For example, is there a handout, and if so, how closely does it align with the visuals used in the pitch? Does it fill in the details in such a way that the visual aids are image driven as opposed to text heavy? The fourth rule in the art of the pitch is to tell the right story well.
Finally, think about who is delivering the pitch. The subject matter expert is not necessarily the best person to articulate the idea. But for a pitch to be meaningful, the delivery must be done by someone who understands the fundamentals of the message. That is why the digital strategist is so well suited to this function, since they have at least a working first-hand knowledge with most of the areas of digital media. Remember that for the pitch to work, it requires team members who are knowledgeable, articulate, capable of thinking on their feet, and most of all, able to make human connections. The fifth rule in the art of the pitch is to put the right people in the room.
The idea can make the difference between success and failure. Make sure you give it the chance it deserves. Make sure you apply the art of the pitch.
Next week on octopus, we will continue to explore the role of the digital strategist. Please be sure to comment below. I’d love to hear from you. Please subscribe for alerts about new episodes and content. Thank you for listening to octopus. I’m Nasser Sahlool.