Greg ‘Sparrow’ Graham: Pitching In The New World Of Zoom

Bangkok, Thailand - April 1, 2020 : iPhone 7 showing its screen with popular online meeting applications which are Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Hangouts Meet by Google.

In this guest post, Greg “Sparrow” Graham” (pictured) discusses how the pitch process has changed in the new world of Zoom, and how you can use it to your advantage…

There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has and will change our lives for many years to come. Across the world, in many different industries, we are all searching for new ways of doing things as working from home continues and meeting in person remains off limits.

Not surprisingly, the way we pitch is not immune to reinvention in the current climate. Clients and agencies are adapting to pitching virtually, with several big pitches currently being carried out on Zoom.

And this covid-trend is one I believe will persist, even after we return to regular programming. It certainly makes the logistics of assembling large teams from various locations, sometimes from across the country, a hell of a lot easier.

Getting it right

There are, of course, some challenges to virtual pitching. For starers, how do you build chemistry and rapport when you’re not meeting face to face? Similarly, it’s a lot harder – if not impossible – to read the “room” and gauge body language and levels of engagement through tiny Brady Bunch screenshots.

Another challenging aspect of Zoom pitches is how to convey a sense of your agency culture when all your employees are socially distant from each other. Teamwork and collaboration are vital elements of what we do – how do you showcase this through the screen when everyone is waiting their turn to speak?

The answer is rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Yes, pitch rehearsing is important at all times, but it’s going to take a bit longer to finesse the delivery and experience of a virtual pitch. It’s not going to happen instantly.

Having an MC or moderator to steer the agenda and storyline is vital. Don’t talk over each other – LISTEN and consider interactivity and engagement more than ever.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that virtual pitching is easy. If you think it means less effort with fewer materials, then you’ll end up doing less prepping. That false sense of security would be catastrophic.

Substance over theatre

One of the positives of pitching over Zoom is that pitch theatre and other staging elements take a back seat.

Agencies have spent decades perfecting the drama of pitch theatre – remember Don Draper’s Kodak Carousel presentation? – so this is a return to the basics. It’s now all about valuing substance more than show. The focus is the quality of the work and you have nowhere to hide. That’s definitely not a bad thing.

Pitching from home brings a human element into the pitch – we get to see each other’s personal space. However, we still need to think about branding, storytelling, casting, the locations, lighting and sound.

The aim is to immerse clients into the story – seeing the strategist pitch from a messy living room or the MD having to rifle through a pile of papers to recall relevant statistics can be more distracting than you believe. If all your prospective clients remember at the end of the presentation is the messy backdrops and forget the story and agency brands… well, you know that’s not good.

Consider using a specific Zoom background to improve your overall perception and professionalism. Used correctly, these backgrounds can be strategic and support or evolve your storyline, theme or brand.   

Zoom fatigue?

Let’s face it, most things are better in person. I believe engagement levels on Zoom are not as high as face-to-face meetings and we’ll no doubt start experiencing ‘Zoom fatigue’ soon enough.

That makes it even more important to focus on delivering the desired levels of engagement and interactivity, as well as active listening and check-ins. At the end, don’t forget to allow time for a quality question time and present a summary of benefits to the client.

Remember, it’s a return to basics – focus on the substance, put your best people forward and let the work shine. That’s the only way to make sure your pitch is a Zoom Boom not a Zoom Bust!



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