Remote pitching during a pandemic

By Natasha Hill, Managing Director of Bottle.

Our new remote world has thrown all sorts of new challenges at us. The physical and practical stuff was quite seemless… we are a cloud-based business so our tools worked the way they always have, just from the home office/kitchen/bedroom.

Our biggest challenge, therefore, was helping the creative team set up a home studio. But even that was fairly simple as they are, well, creative.

Then there was the matter of advising clients on how to pivot stories to things the audience want to read and journalists want to cover. Any live activations, shoots etc have all been pushed back with a “TBC” label that is looking ever more permanent. And after a great run at new business at the beginning of the year (we were benefiting from the post BREXIT uptick) the opportunities aren’t as frequent, but we count our blessings that we’re still being approached with some peachy new briefs.

So how is lockdown pitching?

There’s usually nothing better than that pre-pitch feeling – that familiar yet curious mix of a lack of sleep, an overdose of caffeine. As a seasoned pitcher, the butterflies never go away, and nor should they as it’s a sign of desire. I still think pitching is still one of the best bits of the job.

So, what’s different in the remote world? Well, some things are obviously still true – the casting, the need to rehearse, the stage managing – but everything is, let’s say, paired-back.

For good reason. With five video pitches under our belt since 5th March, three of which we’ve won, and the other two, haven’t been awarded yet (can a proposal be furloughed?) we’re adjusting okay.

However, we did realise there was an important step that was missing in the virtual processes we’d had.

The chemistry stage.

The opportunity to get a feel for the client, what makes them tick – without doubt this helps to shape the pitch. And it goes both ways. Having been a client myself, it is important for them to get a sense of our culture, what we’d be like to work with, in advance of seeing our thinking and ideas on their brief.

So, whilst the remote pitching process is paired back, we’re now requesting a chemistry video call before every formal pitch so we’re not total strangers when the live presentation takes place.

Some things we’ve learnt for the video presentations:

Tech check BEFORE the start, with at least one member on the client side. Screen sharing is essential, so you remain in control and no ‘flicking ahead’ by the clients. This puts everyone at ease.

Less is more: fewer presenters (so less people gagged with the mute button), less transitions, which makes it more likely to have dialogue throughout with the clients. And less video/stage drama because a client with poor wifi can make this soul-destroying.

Set up with these rules of engagement at the start emphasising the above points, and that there’ll be multiple points to check in and ask questions throughout…

Mute yourselves & come off video unless you’re the one presenting so it’s just the presenter and the clients who are visible. No-one wants to be distracted by a lay-presenter scratching their head – we’ve found out the hard way.

Unmute yourselves. in the ‘points of feedback intervals’ to avoid the 7 second delays when someone’s realised no-one can hear their pertinent point

Ask the clients NOT to mute themselves. In fact, encourage the clients to get involved – acknowledge that the screen isn’t conducive to ‘chemistry’ so you’d welcome active listening (nods, smiles, ‘mmms’) along the way.

These new tricks are helping us through, seemingly quite well – so far. Would we like to replicate them when the lock-down is over? No. Please no.  Nothing beats the outfit checks (tone right, no dupes?), the stressful run through in the coffee shop before, the glimpse of the visitor book, the pitch fever, the less-polished-but-more-natural talking over each other.

And ABSOLUTELY NOTHING beats the finishing line feeling with the real-life PPP (post pitch pint). I can’t wait to be back in the real world, even if we’re still two feet apart.

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

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