Pitching Ideas: Who is at the meeting?

There are many different types of meetings. When you present a tweak or improvement to your colleague you are probably doing this in a ‘spontaneous’ moment at your desk. But in a lot of cases pitches take place in more organized meetings. And things don’t always go as expected.

Note: This is an excerpt from the book ‘Pitching Ideas: Make people fall in love with your ideas.’ More information: pitchingideas.com.

Some years ago I worked with my team on a pitch for a national newspaper. We worked very hard on the concept. The vibe was great and we completely felt we knew the subject. We felt very confident and created a pitch deck which showed the editor how his content would shine, and made sure commercial concerns were addressed for the publisher. We knew they’d be there, along with a few other stakeholders. So we went into the building, took the elevator to the third floor, and opened the door of the meeting room… We stopped dead in our tracks.

This was not just a meeting room. It was more like the UN Council room. No less than forty chairs were set up around a huge table. People started to walk into the room, introducing themselves: section editors, IT people, social media experts, PR people, sales people — probably even a stranger who’d got lost in the building. We gave our presentation, and afterwards everybody started firing questions at us. As you can imagine, we didn’t have all the answers, because this was supposed to be a high level pitch. And we didn’t manage to steer the conversation in the right direction either, and consequently lost the pitch.

The moral of the story is simple: always know who will be at a meeting! I can tell you many stories where things went completely different than expected, because of the people I didn’t expect to be at a meeting. In the previous chapter we covered tailoring your pitch individually to different stakeholders, and in order to do that effectively, you need to know who will be present.

Always call or email the organizers to check.

Questions you should ask:

  • Who will be at the meeting?
  • What is their role and where do they sit on the team? V If unclear: Why is this person invited to this meeting?
  • Who in your opinion are the most important decision makers at the meeting? What is important for them?
  • Where will we have the meeting?
  • What could the possible pitfalls be?

Knowing who will be at the meeting gives you the opportunity to prepare. Presenting to three people is completely different to presenting to 40. Having just board room members in the room is different to having 300 shop owners in front of you (yes, this happened to me).

If you have the names and job titles of people always take the time, even if it’s just five minutes, to look them up:

  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
  • Search in general: articles, blogs, interviews

What drives them? What do they love talking about? What are their hobbies besides work? What do they get enthusiastic about?

Note: This is an excerpt from the book ‘Pitching Ideas: Make people fall in love with your ideas.’ More information: pitchingideas.com.