Plan and deliver ― your pitch

“Great stories succeed because they are able to capture the imagination of large or important audiences.” ― Seth Godin

In my previous post, I introduced the 3 P’s: Pitch, Preparation and Presentation. Over the next three weeks, I will go into further detail on each one of them and give tips, tricks and tools to ease your life as a professional (or non-professional) presenter.

ABC_blocks

The first P stands for Pitch. Some readers may know pitching as what advertising agencies do to promote their ideas to a potential customer. And that’s indeed what it’s all about: defining your value proposition, translating it into a few clear messages, and deciding on how you’re going to communicate them to your customers (or any other audience.)

  • Finding the right pitch often boils down to pinpointing a sticky story to tell. With the right mix of ethos, pathos and logos you can appeal to the hearts and the minds of those listening to you.
  • In my blog post of January 10, 2013 I talked about the 7 C’s of a good story: compelling, credible, concrete, clear, consistent, customized and conversational. If you remember these seven adjectives, you’re already one step closer to a great pitch.
  • When defining your value proposition, never forget that value is in the perception
    of the beholder. Adapt your pitch to address the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) concern(s) of your audience. And give them something in return for listening to you.
  • As mentioned in the previous bullet, it’s extremely important that you have a good understanding of who will be in the room. Doing some upfront research and power mapping will help you to tailor your pitch and (later) customize your presentation to their specific knowledge, needs and expectations.
  • Building a message house is a great and simple means for defining, simplifying and structuring your messages, and to make sure your audience will remember them.
  • You could also consider creating a mind map and/or drawing a storyboard. These tools will help you to sort out your thoughts and put your ideas in a sequence that easily translates into a presentation.
  • A good way to validate your pitch is putting it to the elevator test. Can you ‘sell’ your message(s) in 30 seconds? Can you summarize your story on the back of a napkin? Can it be understood by your mother in law?

Once your pitch is completed, you’re all set to start preparing your presentation. Don’t forget that HOW you tell things may be as important as (or sometimes even more important than) WHAT you actually tell. So stay tuned for next week’s post, in which I am going to write about the P of Preparation.

More reading about pitching, messaging and story building:

Simplicity always works

Yesterday I was confronted with a complex and technical topic to be presented to our customers. To be honest, it took me quite some time to fully grasp the full scope of the solution we offered, as well the associated business proposition.

Albert Einstein once said:

 “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself,”

so I decided to take a helicopter view, apply the KISS principle and build a message house. As such, I iterated both the problem and the solution, until I could fit everything into an overarching value statement (roof) and three simple key messages (pillars).

The final result, was –at least in my humble opinion– a good piece of work. A short, sweet and simple presentation, not obscured by technical details, that explained the big picture, the pains and the gains on a handful of slides. I’m not sure if my six-year-old niece will understand it (yet), but there aren’t that many little Einsteins after all.

albert_einstein

When driving back home last night, a composition by Charles Mingus played on my car radio, which made me remember another quote, attributed to this American jazz musician:

“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesome simple, that’s creative.”

Another creative day in the life of a business storyteller had passed. A day on which I look back with a simple feeling of satisfaction.

Master of the house

If you want to present in harmony with the seven C’s, then a message house is a great and simple tool for defining and structuring your messages, synchronizing them with others and making them remembered by your audience. A proper message house ensures that everyone in your company or community communicates with one single voice, tells the same story and emphasizes on the same key messages.

I am aware that there are different methods for building a house, such as the one promoted by messagehouse.org, but personally I stick to the Burson-Marsteller one.

message_house

It has a three-layered architecture, and looks more like an ancient Greek temple than the homes in the street where I live.

  • The roof of the house contains your overarching message (also called the “umbrella statement”) or the big picture of what the whole story is about.
  • The pillars of the temple stand for your key messages that support the umbrella message (following the rule of three, there should be no more than 3 key messages to push for).
  • The foundation of the building contains value statements and proof points that may be useful for justifying your key messages: market trends, statistics, facts & figures, quotes, anecdotes, best practices, customer references, …

When properly constructed, it is almost straightforward to transform this message house into a skeleton for your presentation. The umbrella statement translates to an opening statement that will trigger interest for your key messages. Use the foundation to add evidence to your story or and prepare for Q&A.

If you don’t like visualizing your message map as a house: a tree-like or a matrix-like representation with a similar, three-layered structure will also do the job. Have a look at Carmine Gallo’s video on “how to pitch anything in 15 seconds.”

Here’s an example of a message house I built for a communication campaign that was promoting an “Economic Response Services Package” (ERSP), which bundled a set of professional services to provide a response to the financial crisis that started hitting telecom operators in 2008.

ERSP_message_house

  • Umbrella statement:

“Our services package lets telecom operators RESPOND to the global financial crisis and PREPARE for new business after the economy recovers.”

  • Key messages:

“We ASSESS your current operations and ADVISE you on how to optimize your network assets, services portfolio and related costs”.

“We ADDRESS your challenges, through a comprehensive offer of network & system integration services.”

“We ANTICIPATE economic recovery, and let you strike the right balance between saving costs, satisfying market demand and preparing for new business.”

  • Foundation (examples):

“The global economic picture remains bleak. Many operators have reduced spending. While new devices and applications push network capacity constraints.”

“We’re all trying to conserve cash, and I think now is a perfect time to look at energy costs.” – quote by a VP of Operator X

“We have already carried out more than 3,000 network optimization and design projects for over 100 service providers and 1,000 for enterprises.”

Operator Y had low budget and no dedicated team to address their network issues. We provided them services to assess their network quality and gave them implementation advice. Our implementation lead to a %% capacity gain and a bottom-line increase of $$$.”

Finally, we made the ERSP messaging different by presenting our services as a set of instruments, medicines and remedies that we put at our customers’ disposal for the purpose of treating these exceptional market conditions. And consequently, we built our visual campaign around medical metaphors …

ERSP_message_metaphors