If you work at a digital or advertising agency, there’s no doubt that you’ve been exposed in some way to pitching. In fact, anyone who faces the prospect of bringing an idea they have had into reality in a business context will end up pitching someone at some point, whether it’s their boss, coworkers or a potential client.
I recently attended a seminar delivered by the insightful Michael Reddington on a topic that should not be related to pitching but is often seen to be: detecting when someone else is being dishonest or untruthful. Although the seminar focused on using the tools it was teaching in the context of an investigation, I couldn’t help thinking about how the signs Michael pointed out as signs of dishonesty might hurt your chances of a successful pitch.
What can pitch-ers learn from the science of interrogation?
Make Eye Contact (with the decision maker)
Eye contact isn’t just a sign that you are focused in your presentation, it is also a sign of sincerity. In the context of an investigational interview, breaking eye contact is seen as an initial tell-tale sign that the speaker is being untruthful. (If you find it hard to make eye contact, just remember, the person you’re pitching to wants you to succeed)
If You’re Sitting, Keep Good Posture
If your pitch is delivered from your chair, imagine that you’re inside a traffic cone. Keep your feet in front of you with your knees at a 90˚ angle, and sit straight. Reclining in your chair can be seen as a sign of disinterest.
If Challenged, Stay Calm
There are distinctive differences in behaviours between individuals being questioned who are guilty, and those who are innocent. If, when questioned on your pitch, you quickly raise the tone, volume, or rate of speech, the feeling of anxiety you’re communicating won’t help your cause.
(Perhaps) Most Importantly, Be Prepared
Studies have shown that when you’re thinking in the context of a conversation, the direction your eyes go determines whether you’re accessing your memory recall or your creative capacities, (left for recall, right for creative.) (Note: I believe this is the case ~65% of the time. ~22% it’s the opposite.)
Even if you’re the best in the world at making up things on the spot, your body language will tell someone who knows that you’re making it up as you go along. I know that not everyone has had this training in reading people, but considering that the seminar I attended was for a room full of CEOs, why take the chance?