'Life's a pitch - and then you buy'.* How to Promote Yourself and Get What You Want in Business and Life. A Blog by Pádraic Ó Máille. The Smacht Guy.



What have Michael O'Leary, Bono and the doughnut salesperson in the Galway market all got in common?


How did Paul Kenny, a 27 year old Galwegian, succeed in building the biggest Internet business in North Africa, when only 4 short years ago he hadn't one word of Arabic and knew only one person on that continent?


They all realise that pitching is power and they make it their business to excel at it.


Roger Mavity, in his outstanding book 'Life is a Pitch' argues that 'The pitch moments, those crucial moments which give the opportunity for big change, all have one thing in common. You are trying to get someone else to do what you want them to do - to hire you, to sleep with you, to lend you a million pounds to start your own business'.


These 'crucial moments' in business may be an interview for a new job; a pitch to a prospective business partner to enthuse them of your idea; or a presentation before a group of disparate people.


In life they may be a meeting with a bank manager to secure the loan for your dream home; a dinner party with your family to show them how much they mean to you; or a casual dalliance with someone exciting that explodes into a passionate affair.


As Mavity puts it 'the pitch is the hinge on which the door opens'.


It behoves us therefore to put Smacht on our 'pitching'. Interestingly, most MBAs will only be superficially familiar with the intricacies of the pitch. Recently, I asked my son Shane, an honours MSC in Marketing, his views on pitching. His reply is telling.


'Pitching is where most golfers screw up worst'!


As in business, as in life and as in sport - pitching is power. Here are 10 techniques to improve your pitching:




1. Great pitching begins in your diary.


Mavity begs the question 'What do business people put in their diaries'? The answer is 'business meetings'. For 25 years I've been reviewing the diaries of business people and only a small minority ever allocate time to prepare and plan and reflect on their pitch. This is veritably the kiss of death for your pitch. As the old adage goes 'How do you get to Carnegie Hall? 'Practice. Practice. Practice'. So it is with pitching.


2. Develop the art of the  'Prepared Impromptu'.


Mary Comer was, and still is, an outstanding presentation skills specialist. I was privileged to debate and speak publicly for Junior Chamber Galway, and subsequently internationally, as a result of her insight and wisdom. One of her favourites was to anticipate a topic that would arise of an event and to prepare intensively for it. This is so possible to do in advance of many presentations and pitches.


The single quickest and most effective method to scope your 'Prepared Impromptu' is via a mind map. Simply brainstorm everything that occurs to you regarding the topic and allow your subconscious mind to structure the map. For more information on mind mapping visit www.tonybuzan.com who gave the world a wonderful gift when he created them.



3. Mingle with the audience prior to your presentation.


I deliver upwards of 100 keynotes annually and it always uplifts me to identify a few friendly faces in the audience prior to delivery. I gave the keynote at New Ireland Assurance's national conference in May and I made it my business to sit in on the opening session. I met a number of people who'd heard me before and liked me. I heard the MD speak. I heard three of the star performers in the organisation speak. This armed me with both the comfort of friends and also excellent 'in-house' content on which to embellish my own material. It came across that I had really put time into preparing in advance.


4. Ask for a small room with natural daylight.


I'm sometimes criticised for shouting but most of my worst pitches have been precipitated by large ballrooms and function rooms. If possible get as small a room as possible, eliminate barriers such as tables and desks and MOST IMPORTANTLY insist on day light. There is no energy vampire as draining as fluorescent lighting against the backdrop of a stark brick wall.


5. Dress appropriately but err on the formal side.


I once asked a group what would they think if they went for an operation and the surgeon arrived in a pair of shorts.


'It would very much depend on how nice his legs were' answered a gamey girl from the back!


Legs apart, the rule is to dress similar to your audience but to err on the formal side. Different industries have different dress morés. The financial services industry favour navy suits and ties. The manufacturing industry dress infinitely less formally.


The bottom line is that accessories still maketh the image. Good shoes, belts, cuff links, bags and briefcases make bold statements for the better and the worse. (For more details read my article 'Anatomy of a Sale' on www.omaille.ie)




6. Make a glue like connection in the first 30 seconds.


You speak an average of 300 words per minute. Your audience process an average of 3000 words per minute. That's a lot of dissonance. And it means getting their attention is a challenge.


If you fail to engage them utterly in the first 30 seconds your chances of getting what you want are massively compromised.


And yet how many pitches begin with long salutations, sleep inducing statistics and painful death by PowerPoint?


Cut to the chase. Connect by whatever means it takes to engage with your audience.


Kevin Dever, one of my longest friends, is one of the most consummate pitchers I know. He is also a massive fan of Dominic West who played the role of Jimmy McNulty in the hit series 'The Wire'. Dominic also happens to be my cousin.


In any event, last March, Kevin happened to see Dominic alighting from the bathroom of a trendy restaurant in London. With literally a split second to make contact, Kevin delivered a veritable coup de grace.


'I know you' he says to Dominic.


Dominic had played Fred West in the highly acclaimed TV series 'Appropriate Adult' which had just been screened all over England and was suffering a fair amount of misdirected but inevitable abuse as a result. Needless to say, Dominic was polite but understandably defensive and reserved.


'Who am I then?' he asked in his best Etonian accent.


'You're Pádraic Ó Máille's cousin' replies Kevin.


Dominic cracked up. It was absolutely the last thing he expected to hear in the middle of a crowded restaurant in the West End of London.


I subsequently met Dominic at a family funeral and his first words to me were 'I met a mate of yours in London and you'll never guess what he said to me'.


Pitchers like Dever anticipate the chance encounter and they execute their opening salvo with precision and panache.


7. Tell stories.


Steve jobs was by no means a Billy Connolly when it came to storytelling yet he realised the implicit power of a simple story. Recall his address to the graduating class in Stanford. 'Today I want to tell you three stories from my life'. The first was about connecting the dots; the second about getting fired; and the third about coping with cancer. Stories are at first engaging and secondly eminently memorable. Young kids are capable of remembering vast swathes of detail contained within stories and then struggle to retain only a fraction of the information taught to them at school.


It doesn't just apply to spoken pitches. Shane McGowan may not be the most edifying of eye candy, and at times he may not be entirely sober, but the message in 'Fairytale of New York' will endure long beyond the prognostications of a bevy load of priests, politicians and professors that I've had the misfortune of listening to.


The message is simple - entertain, don't expostulate.


8. Talk about kids.


Maybe I'm naive to fall for it but women tell me they talk far more about their children than their men.


In his book 'The Art of the Start' Guy Kawasaki asserts that 'If there's a surefire way to endear yourself to a audience, it's to talk about your kids. If you don't have kids, talk about your relative's kids, your friend's kids, or when you were a kid. I've never seen an audience that doesn't appreciate a good kid story.'


8. Dramatise the pain and the problem.


People only ever buy two things - solutions to problems and good feelings.


This is so crucially important that I'll repeat it again.


People only ever buy two things - solutions to problems and good feelings.


Incidentally, repetition is another critical skill of the master pitcher.


In this respect, cut to the problem as soon and as painfully as possible. State it. Elaborate on it. Dramatise it. Provide facts, statistics, quotes and visual evidence as to the scale and severity of it.


Roger Mavity states that in showcasing a problem you need to make your audience 'gut-wrenchingly, suicidally miserable about the scale of their problem'.


Then empathise with your audience on the nature of their problem. Nothing is as nurturing when you're miserably sick as a doctor who can chat to you about your malaise as accurately as you're experiencing it.


In order to do this it may be necessary to experience in detail the pain of your audiences problem. I am currently developing the pitch for a wonderful new non-drug solution to migraine suffering called 'Migraine Manager'. And even though I thankfully have never experienced a migraine I've interviewed hundreds who have and I can totally get their pain and distress and despair.


Only when you've painted the problem in all it's gory detail is it time to present the solution. As Mavity sums it up 'When you construct your pitch, construct it as a story - not just any story, but a story of problem and resolution'.


When you think about it, isn't that what all the memorable stories have in common - 'Little Red Riding Hood', 'Jack and the Beanstalk' and '50 Shades of Grey'. I don't know about the latter but I've now provided you with the perfect excuse to buy it.


9. Educate. Educate. Educate.


When I did my B.Comm in 1981 the buzz phrase was 'Customer Based Marketing'. This underwent a makeover in the noughties and became referred to in all the right places as 'Relationship Based Marketing'.


The next revolution destined to hit the marketing industry will be called 'Education Based Marketing' and you better be ready for it. This is because the Internet has facilitated the transfer of information and content on a massive scale. Content and information are not the unique and exclusive resources they once were. They're virtually free on line.


The opportunity for you is to educate your customers for free and then luxuriate in the relationship that this will inevitably create.


And it's not just on line. Sid Malone is a third generation retailer in Geraghty's Manshop in Galway. Recently, while deliberating on whether to buy an expensive pair of shoes there Sid explained to me that 'Pádraic, did you realise that you have 200,000 nerve endings on the bottom of each foot, each connected to an organ in your body, and that this has a huge impact on your energy levels? Do you know that you perspire 2 ounces of sweat in each foot per day?'


I did not, but I did then. I had been educated. And I was having those shoes.


And as he was packing those shoes for me he did what all suave pitchers do - he made me feel good for buying them. 'Pádraic, Gloria Hunniford once said that the two most important things you buy in life are a good bed and a good pair of shoes because you're always getting into one or the other'.


I was gone before he educated me on beds. To get educated on Sid's pitching prowess read my article 'Anatomy of a Sale' on www.omaille.ie


10. Avoid murder by PowerPoint.


Microsoft boast of millions of presentations delivered by PowerPoint each day. I shudder at the murder that this is perpetrating on our planet.


You know the scene - long sentences, boring facts, bullet points and an insipid wallpaper background.


Never, ever, ever tolerate a sentence on a PowerPoint slide. The purpose of the slide is not to assist you - but your audience. Most average pitchers rely totally on the slides to prompt them. This is pitching carnage.


Get 10 great images and use them as your PowerPoint arsenal. Specifically get images of attractive women, children and animals. This is neither sexist or sensationalist - its simply what grabs attention and sustains it. If you must, use a word or two to embellish the image but never a sentence. The only exception is a quote that lands a punch.


Pádraic Ó Céidigh, founder of Aer Arann, and a pristine pitcher performs a wonderful presentation that I call 'The PowerPoint'. He keeps referring to a series of imaginary PowerPoint slides all over the auditorium. You can't see them to begin with, but upon conclusion of his pitch you remember every one. It's ironic isn't it - the best PowerPoint presentations are the ones without the slides.


Get the Power Point?








11. Follow up with a connection to the pitch.


A former boss of mine, Sandy Dunlop - another master pitcher - always said that 'what happens after the pitch is as important as what happens during it'.


Follow up promptly with a summary of the salient points of your pitch.


In conclusion, life's a pitch and then you buy.


If pitching is important to you join me for an elite workshop on 'Life's a Pitch and Then You Buy' on August 23rd in Galway. The workshop will present all this content and lots more. In addition I will programme your subconscious with the deep messages necessary to become a master pitcher. The fee is 100 and the session is limited to the first 15 responses to this email.





No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Already Registered? Login Here
Sunday, 18 August 2019
If you'd like to register, please fill in the username, password and name fields.

Member Login

Business Insights & Tips


Jill Holtz
1925 Points
Tena Glaser
1391 Points
Michael Lane
802 Points
Ron Immink
732 Points
Fionan Murray
720 Points
View Leaderboard