Don’t Forget the Details
So, you’ve spent weeks crafting the perfect structure for your pitch and have complete confidence in your material. You know each part of your pitch backwards and the reasoning behind it all. You’ve employed the services of a graphic design agency to create the slides. They were listening to Moby and drank plenty of Lapsang Souchong tea so you’re sure that what they handed back to you is in fact a work of art that will woo the audience into a state of dreamy-eyed receptiveness*. You’ve rehearsed the deck so many times that you’ve managed to streamline your delivery and trim the deck down to a lean 20 minutes – the optimum length for a presentation, well done!
It’s at this point that you should take a break. Detach yourself as much as possible from the presentation for an afternoon or an evening and then come back to it with fresh eyes.
Now, have you really included everything that’s required to back up your pitch’s story, or have you just assumed it’s all there? I’m not talking about the big stuff – whatever you do, don’t start second guessing the structure of your deck at this point. I’m referring to the inner workings of the bid. The important, easily overlooked, details.
When working on a high stakes pitch, it’s all too easy to focus on the endgame and lose track of the finer points. If you and your team have spent months preparing a bid, you could be forgiven for assuming that the essential detail has been included from the start. However, when you’ve been committed to a project for a length of time, it’s tempting to see what you think you’re producing rather than what’s actually being brought together. Combine this with the high pressure atmosphere involved in planning and executing a bid and it becomes easy for essential points to get overlooked entirely. Even in a large team, where you may think that large numbers mean that somebody would spot an omission, if everyone is equally familiar with the presentation, the details are still at risk of getting lost in the big picture. Taking a break once in a while will enable you to step back and make sure the presentation touches all the points it needs to.
Once you’re certain all the necessary points have been included in the foundations of your presentation, it’s important to ensure you don’t overlook them in your enthusiasm to deliver a winning bid. The success of a pitch relies in a large part on the ability to maintain a healthy perspective on the content. You’ve grown to know the story and details behind your bid intimately during your preparation; the audience won’t have the same familiarity. As much as possible when rehearsing, be mindful that your audience may need you to demonstrate and explain things that, at this stage, you could easily take for granted. Try to see the content with fresh eyes – is your delivery actually demonstrating all the information it needs to be?
Relentless practice without perspective eventually becomes rote, counter-productive, and ultimately risks the success of the bid. When you’re in the final stages of your preparation, assume nothing; don’t ignore key components of your bid story because you’re familiar with them – they will likely need to be demonstrated – and pay attention to how the presentation really flows rather than how you think it’s flowing.
*For the record, agency slides probably won’t do much more than look pretty, but that’s another article.
Even in a large team, where you may think somebody would spot an omission, if you’re all equally familiar with the subject matter, the details are at risk of getting swept up in the excitement and lost amidst supporting facts and figures.