Pitch n Putz
Posted by David Polakoff on March 9, 2011
The Windmills of My Immediate Mind
Media Business Strategies – David Polakoff
“Pitch n Putz”
A brilliant speech, delivered by King George VI, before his terrible stammer was cured by speech therapist, Lionel Logue (as depicted in the 2010 Academy Award, best picture winning The King’s Speech), would have been lost in translation; that is how important are both the elements of content and delivery. Too often entrepreneurs or company executives are too close to their projects to articulate the value proposition and/or are poor presenters to effectively prepare and deliver their own pitches.
The message of your pitch has to readily and easily: define your good/service; explain what customer need it serves; specify the potential for its market demand, along with success obstacles; differentiate the good/service from like/similar competitors; characterize the state of your progress in offering the good/service to the market; describe the team who will execute the plan; and quantify the dollars and list the relevant metrics involved. It is important to be candid about the good, the bad, and the ugly; any savvy listener will discern these and you will lose credibility if you do not acknowledge all relevant elements. While essential details need to be included in each component, it is just as critical to focus on the form and content in which they are presented.
In the Odd Couple television series episode, A Barnacle Adventure, a barnacle glue product, developed by Oscar’s dentist, is pitched to a glue company. After Felix orchestrates the story of glue demonstration, the company’s patriarch leaves the room and the real decision maker instructs Felix, “What does your glue do? I’ll give you two minutes.” Any decision maker wants to hear, succinctly and deftly, the relevant value propositions of your good/service. In other words, you have two minutes (if not less) to, “Tell me why I should listen to you and continue to pay attention?” I’m not necessarily saying that you have to have your pitch to 140 characters, but a worthy exercise is to develop the effectiveness and the efficiency of your opening sentence and follow-on supporting statements. Practice the pitch to an uninformed friend/contact to appreciate the gaps and the overlaps in their attaining a quick understanding of your good/service.
In Jonathan Demme’s 1993 feature film, Philadelphia, attorney Joe Miller (as played by Denzel Washington) often remarks, Now, explain it to me like I’m a four-year old. The attorney wants to be sure that he understands the situation, he wants to be sure that the judge and jury will have maximum comprehension in short attention spans (get the point across; quickly), and he wants to gauge the speaker’s articulateness. I recently reviewed the draft re-launch of a business colleague’s web’s home page. One of his goals is to attract clients who may not have made use of licensing/branding in their business. Licensing/branding can be a complex endeavor and not every client realizes the relevance and the potential that licensing/branding may have. As part of the review process, I suggested he ask a friend of one of his teenage sons to read the page; if that friend understands the value proposition; then the content is effectively presented.
People are very close to their own projects; they’re in the trenches day-to-day. It is hard, then, to provide the proper (big picture) perspective to describe and explain your project for the uninformed. It is critical to assure your pitch is objective, non-technical, and pretends your audience knows absolutely nothing about your good/service and the context in which it adds value (even if they do have such knowledge and familiarity). As your audience asks questions, first be respectful and understanding; they likely do not share your intimate knowledge of your good/service and market, and; second, consider whether your pitch needs honing, to better address the nature of the initial questions you receive, for your subsequent presentations. Do not get defensive by questions and comments; assume your audience is your customer and has to be convinced of your value proposition to convert the sales pitch into a “buy.”
In addition to the content, the form in which it is delivered is a crucial element to connecting with the audience. I was provided a deck to read which I thought was a “test” of my professional acuity as a media/entertainment industry, financial, operational, and strategic consultant. In my usual candor, I told my contact that while I am in the industry and I think I know what this product does, I can’t be sure; and I asked, “Was it written by an engineer?” In fact, it was written by an engineer (no disrespect; but in this case, that engineer wrote in too technical a format and was too close to his own product that he failed to provide a perspective other than that equivalent to his own). When I later heard the engineer pitch his product to an investor panel, they had the same reaction – the presentation was too foreign and the value proposition was far from clear. Sometimes, the founder or inventor is not the best presenter, either because s/he is too close to their product; or they are just bad public speakers. A good founder, entrepreneur, or company executive should know his/her strengths and if need be, yield the microphone to the colleague who can mix the right amount of fact, passion, brevity, alacrity, and Q score.
Pitch and putt is an amateur version of golf. When pitching, in writing and in person, it is PGA (Professional Golfers Association) time; do not end up as the putz with the pitch.
Media Business Strategies is the blog/website of David Polakoff, a New York based, Media & Entertainment Industry Financial Executive.
David Polakoff’s media/entertainment industry experience and expertise results from his tenures in senior financial and development roles with Ernst & Young, HBO/Time Warner, Granada America/itv plc, and independent consulting. Currently, David provides financial, operational, and strategic services to media/entertainment companies. Read more in About.