Last Christmas Eve, two good friends of mine, Fabrice and Manu of Wonderweb, asked me if I was interested to take part in a pitch for the redesign of a large local public transport website. As the call for bids was open to everyone, we suspected that a large number of web design agencies would be taking part. The presentation date was set for the end of January, so we needed to get cracking.
Over the years, I’ve grown use to preparing and delivering my pitches by myself, and have developed a string of good and no so good habits in doing so. This time was different, we were two web design studios pitching in concert, we needed to mix and match.
Be genuine about who you are […] and explain what you actually do
As we spent time together researching the project and bouncing ideas off each other, we agreed we needed to stand out in our tone of voice and presentation format to best convey our proposal.
Over the years, I learnt that the best way of approaching a pitch, a project or a client has always been to be myself. Don’t over do it, don’t pretend to be someone else or to know everything, just be your plain old self and do your best to lay the foundations of an honest relationship with the people you are meeting.
Be a good first date
We were scheduled to meet the board late Thursday afternoon. Chances were they had been sitting through proposals all week and we were closing their fourth day of presentations.
Rather than deliver a pitch that echoes the same format of multitudes of other presentations — one during which your audience is more likely to tune out simply because the format is so predictable — consider stepping up to a whiteboard for a different, more active sort of presentation.
We chose to ditch the presentation slide deck altogether, and to keep it short and sweet. After all, they might be developing presentation nausea. We left most of the technical stuff aside, and concentrated on a more engaging discussion turned towards the future. Instead of rattling on about our respective careers and portfolios, we briefly introduced ourselves, and presented our ideas and our understanding of the project in an informal story telling fashion.
The board members seemed taken aback at first, maybe by the lack of slides or handouts, or by our informal approach, but they eventually relaxed and seem to relate to the story we were telling them. After all, we were two people sitting around a table alongside with six others discussing a common project.
I always tell my clients that an initial investor meeting is like a first date. And much like a first date, if you start talking about your entire dating history and your philosophy on child rearing, you probably won’t make it to a second date.
— Donna Abraham on venture beat
For a little over half an hour, we shared views and thoughts, asked questions, explained what our core values were, laid out our processes and ways of working together in a friendly and straightforward way. Through a series of short examples, they got a feeling of what working with us would be like.
While covering most of the important aspects of the project, we outlined our views and emphasised what was important to us.
In retrospect, we talked more of the journey they could choose to embark on with us, than of the final product that would emerge. We were not selling them an existing solution, but showing them how together our respective expertises could help shape out the best solution, for them and all their stakeholders.
At the time of writing, I have no idea what the outcome will be, but we certainly left an emotional imprint. To know if it will weigh in our favour or not remains to be seen, but I bet we will be remembered more for our respective personalities and the relationship that emerged, than for our CVs.
It just felt good :)