Hire a consultant with some ‘specialised industry knowledge’ to do your talking for you, then agree with whatever he or she says. (Make sure you only hire freelance though. You definitely won’t want him or her hanging around afterwards. These people are really annoying.)
Agree an agenda. Then make sure your senior player ignores it completely. And just for good measure, point this out now and then, with a mix of weak humour and desperation. (I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen this succeed.)
Bring along at least three people to say nothing in the presentation. But do make sure they nod a lot, and smile a lot, and make really energetic notes whenever a client makes a comment.
Make sure your team can laugh knowingly when you mention some self-indulgent aspect of your ‘agency culture’. Wacky photos of your ‘amazing’ agency parties are great for this. You’ll be out of there in no time.
Talk about how ‘unique’ your agency is. Mention your ‘results focus’, or your ‘collaborative approach’, or your ‘digital yet full service ethic’ – any of these should do nicely.
Build a jokey, superficial ‘rapport’. (Very big in the eighties, now sadly underrated as a chemistry destroyer.) Vigorous handshakes, loud laughter, weak jokes – these are all fantastically, utterly transparent. A real pitch killer.
Wheel out the clichés. A few ‘death by Powerpoint’ jokes can help keep things on track. And saying ‘without further ado’ a few times is always brilliant. Brilliant. Oh – and don’t forget ‘marketplace’. Oh yes. We all love that one.
Case studies. Lots of them. None of them relevant, of course. Preferably told in painful, forensic detail by someone personally involved. And with commercial results which are – of course – confidential. (Ah. That ‘confidential’ line. Gets ’em every time.)
Spend at least ten minutes messing around unsuccessfully with the presentation equipment. Preferably over a laptop in a huddle of two or three with puzzled expressions. Failing that, disappear under the table and try to re-connect stuff with your backside in the air. Great for destroying confidence. If you can’t show a simple presentation, they’re not going to trust you with a million bucks of production budget are they? (This is gold, you know. Gold.)
Just lose interest halfway through. If everything else is going far too well, and it looks like you might even go through to the next stage, this is your ace in the hole. Look around, glaze over, play with your phone, or just go quiet. Works instantly if you’re the pitch leader. And if you can come across as slightly arrogant when you pull this one, then even better.
There. Use any of these in your next new business meeting and you’ll save everyone a lot of time this year.
Have I missed any great pitch killers? Let me know with a comment.