The creative presentation, or pitch, is something that everyone in a creative department has to master. The ability to sell your own work, and sell it well, is vital to your success as a copywriter, art director or designer. The following tips will help you to make memorable presentations that give your best ideas a fighting chance.
1: NEVER Bring Anything To The Presentation That You Dislike
I'm starting with this one because it's something that happens so often. A creative team will have three solid ideas and one weak idea that they know is safe, under-budget and vanilla…who doesn't like vanilla? The problem is, that's exactly the kind of work that clients like to buy, for the same reasons. And those cool ideas never stand a chance. If you're lukewarm on the idea, kill it before the meeting. You always have it for round two, if the first meeting goes poorly. Remember, give the client what they need, not what they want.
2: Get All Your Ducks In A Row
That means practice. It means being on the same page as the copywriter, art director, account manager and creative director. If you all have slightly different opinions on the work, how is the client going to know what you're presenting as an agency? You should know how you came up with the work, why you did what you did, what the benefits of the campaign are, how much it will cost and how long it will take to produce. The moment you stutter or falter in a meeting, you tell the client you don't know. And that makes you look unprofessional and unprepared.
3: Walk The Room You'll Be Presenting In
People get nervous when they face the unknown. The easiest way to remedy that is to eliminate as many of the unknowns as possible from the equation. If it's your own agency's conference room, do a rehearsal in it in front of real people. If it's at the client's office, ask for photos of the room, a layout, or something to help you set up. You'll have equipment to bring, boards to set out, you'll need to know all of this to make sure it will all go according to plan.
4: Know Your Audience Well
A good agency will engage the client look before the presentation of the work. They may even involve them in early tissue sessions or brainstorms with the creative department. Many people, creatives in particular, fear the idea of the big bad CEO, but it's just a person. If you've already met him or her, and know them, you know how to speak to them in a way that they like and respect. You may even have a good professional working relationship before the big presentation or pitch, and that drastically eases the tension.
5: Get Ready To Fight For Your Ideas
That doesn't mean you throw your arms up in the air, have a temper tantrum and refuse to see anyone else's point of view. But, clients are notoriously hesitant. They don't like big new ideas, they're scary and represent the unknown that we talked about earlier. In effect, it's easier for them to kill a brilliant but risky idea than it is to go through with it and have several months of indigestion and sleepless nights. So, alleviate their fears. "Yes, it's risky, but being safe in this economy is even riskier. Be seen. Get noticed. Stand out. Do something that your competitors wish they had done first. Lead, don't follow." But whatever you do, keep it controlled and respectful or you'll be looking for a job.
6: Don't Over-Explain Your Campaigns
It's not enough to simply hold up the boards, say "that's what I've got" and sit down waiting for questions. You clearly need to introduce the idea or campaign and explain the pieces that are not apparent. However, do not start gushing verbal diarrhea. I've seen creatives explain everything that was happening in a visual, which is just redundant and irritating. The client can see what's going on. They have eyes. And the consumer won't have you there to explain the ad, either. Let the campaign do the work, you need to support it without suffocating it.
7: Don't Tell Anyone They'll Love The Work
Talk about presumptive and arrogant. If a comedian comes on stage and says "man, I have some jokes that will make you cry with laughter, so sit down and strap in" then he or she is in for a tough set. The challenge is out there, the audience is now adamant to prove that comic wrong. "Oh yeah, you're funny, we'll see about that." It's the same with creative work. Tell people they'll love it and they'll probably start out hating it. Why give yourself that handicap. It's fine to say that you, yourself, love the work. But leave it at that. It's all just someone's opinion anyway.
8: Be Prepared For Tough Questions
There will be at least one or two questions coming that are not the softballs you've answered already in your internal meetings. Someone is going to throw one out of left field. Anticipate the tough questions ahead of time. Ask other creative teams in the agency to review the work and be very critical. You can then formulate solid answers before the actual presentation.
9: If You're Not Ready, Don't Present
If the work isn't good enough, buy yourself some more time. It's far better to ask for a few extra days to prepare, than showing up with poor work and red faces. You don't need to tell the client you're struggling, simply say that you'd like more time to explore some ideas that you think could be really exciting. Big ideas, brave ideas, are the only ones worth presenting.
10: Don't Fight In Front Of The Client
If there are disagreements between members of the agency, they should be left at the office. If someone says something you really don't agree with, deal with it later. No client wants to see infighting or dirty laundry, it fills them with insecurity. And don't try and solve problems in the actual presentation, it never works.