Capturing hearts first, then minds can boost your agency’s pitch-win ratio.

Capturing hearts first, then minds can boost your agency’s pitch-win ratio.

Think of the last agency presentation you pulled together. Perhaps it was a formal pitch presentation, perhaps a creds deck, or maybe a first stage response to a creative brief. How did it land? Was the client ‘wowed’ from the start? Did it take the client on a journey of emotions? Or did it simply do what many bog-standard agency presentations do – regurgitate the brief, tell the client what they already know, take an age to get to the idea, all while monologuing about how bloody brilliant your agency is.

These are all common client complaints about agency presentations so why do we continue to make these faux pas?  The latest ‘What Clients Think’ report states that:

“55% of clients commented that the winning agency’s presentation grabbed their attention early.”

Regurgitating the brief, talking too much about the agency and taking too long to get to the idea is more likely to send the client to sleep than grab their attention early. So how can we ensure our agency presentations engage our audience right from the start, take them on a journey of emotions and avoid a ‘vomiting out of slides’?

 Here are three things to consider when pulling together your next presentation:

 1.    Focus on capturing hearts first, then minds

Even if we’re not aware of it, we all make decisions quickly and emotionally and then grab at almost any proffered reason to justify them. In an agency context, this means that in order to get your audience to think, feel or act differently you have to connect with them emotionally. Only once you’ve won them emotionally should you then provide reasons why what you’re presenting is the winning idea. Remember – hearts first, then minds – always in that order.

 2.    Open with the fire

As David Ogilvy said:

“When you advertise fire extinguishers, open with the fire”.

Starting with the drama of a fire is more emotionally engaging than waxing lyrical about the technical specifications of the fire extinguisher. On a similar vein, it can be helpful to heed the advice that many journalists have received from professors and editors:

 “If you’re writing about seeing a bear while waking in the woods, get to the bear. Don’t start with shopping for a pair of hiking boots.”

Don’t start at the beginning of the story, but in the middle, where there’s action and drama. Avoid sending your clients to sleep with long-winded details about how you developed an idea. Start with content that captures attention instead.  

 3.    Don’t be afraid of showmanship

The Collins Dictionary describes showmanship as:

“A person’s skill at performing or presenting things in an entertaining and dramatic way.”

Showmanship helps provide strong starts. Sometimes this may simply be a remarkable sentence or a provocative quote, at other times it may involve audience appropriate theatrics. One pitch success story tells how the owner of a power tool business entered the presentation room with a power drill in each hand. One was made by his company, the other by a competitor. He placed the drills on the table, picked up a screwdriver and began taking the drills apart. He instantly grabbed the attention of the clients and they followed him as he pointed out the differences in construction and design.

I always encourage agencies to make that extra bit of effort to ensure a strong start to their presentations; encouraging them to use quotes, pictures, stories and metaphors to capture hearts first, then minds – always in that order. The trick is to connect emotionally with your audience from the start, then use facts and figures to justify your concept. If you work hard to capture your clients’ attention early, it might just pay off…

If you're eager to elevate your pitching, captivate your audiences, and learn new communication skills to grow and succeed, let's talk.