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Russell Wardrop, co-founder and chief executive of training specialist Kissing With Confidence, which recently helped Mace to win £175m of contracts, offers top tips on high-stakes pitching.
As an architect consulting to the construction industry on pitching, I know how much is at stake in the biggest pitches. Pitch teams win huge contracts through a good performance on the day. You get that chance through proper preparation.
Analysis paralysis stops progress. Fear freezes pitch teams and leads to daft discussions about minutiae or obsession with the perfect visual (ditch the slides, all of them).
To overcome paralysis, pick your line: how brave do you need to be? Working with a team which was in last place on cost we agreed to be nine out of 10 on fearlessness, and that’s what won the day. Sort your line early then get everyone behind the strategy.
Concentrate on what you are going to say and how you are going to say it.
Scoring systems do not make the emotional connection. There are five ways to make the emotional connection and none involve worrying about the 20 marks for teamwork. Make the emotional connection by finding your storyline, opening and closing, because this is where you can be remembered.
Scoring systems and technology do not make the emotional connection. Work on your narrative, how you start and finish.
Video will make your day. When the stakes are highest, accept that everyone will be nervous.
Many of the team will not be experienced presenters and may not like video feedback but need to suck it up.
Prepare as a team and practise as a team: practise, practise, practise. There can be no exceptions – get the top talent to turn up along with the truly terrified.
Run-throughs must include the Q&A and cover all the bases. Some will need lots of hand-holding and their confidence upped, others advice on how to make their story soar to the heights needed for a win.
Nobody gets a pass from pitch preparation, no matter how senior or busy they are. You measure the success of pitch preparation by how many you win, but you never win them all. If you prepare better, you pitch better, you win more.