How we won a million-& pitch, yet lost USD 500.000 presenting our work 😳

Unspoken Insights — Edition 2 — April 21st, 2024

Here's how not to make the same mistake:
"WTF just happened?! A schoolboy would have done a better job presenting."

That's what my client yelled at me in 2011.
I felt awful.
I could have thrown up—it was that bad.
He was right, though.
We had just left a meeting with the network chairman
The week before, we flew in first class after unofficially winning the pitch.
But we still had to present to the board.

Back then, I was purely a designer, believing that great work sells itself.
What I didn’t realize was how quickly this mindset would cost us a huge chunk of our budget and make executing our vision difficult.
I thought I knew how to present.
But this ignorance would soon cost us a fortune.
We had won a major international pitch against the top five agencies to rebrand 50 TV stations for a massive network in Asia.

As a small studio, we won because:
1. Our idea was good.
2. Our TV station branding expertise stood out against traditional agencies.
3. We had an insider who trusted us.

Yet, we lost the chairman's trust due to our poor presentation.He hired a local strategy agency to help, and we lost $500,000 and control of the project for three years.

Here’s why knowing how to present to top executives is crucial:
To secure bigger budgets, show you can lead the client through the process.
This unlocks bigger budgets.
Not mastering this keeps you stuck at the vendor level, replaceable.
But learning to present to top executives wins their trust, leading to bigger budgets and a client that follows your lead.

Now I'll tell you how to avoid such losses:
#1. Lead the presentation
To be trusted with bigger budgets, you need to show you can lead the client through the process.
I didn't understand the commercial value of our work, so the chairman led the questioning.
That’s when I lost control and half a million dollars.

Here's what to do:
1. Prepare by understanding the board's presentation expectations—they're not what you think.
2. Ask about the board’s concerns—they have them.
3. Align your pitch with their internal strategies by consulting your contacts—they’ll help since their reputation is on the line.

We failed to do this, so the chairman doubted we understood his situation and hired a local strategy agency we had to report to.

#2. Know why you are there
Use no more than 15 slides.
Executives won’t spend more than 30 minutes with you.
Focus on building relationships and answering questions.
You are not there to just present your work, but to demonstrate that you can lead the presentation.
If you can lead them through the presentation, they will trust you to lead their team through the process too.
Now they don't have to hire an external agency to micromanage you. ;) 

#3. Use the right framework to structure your presentation:
Because time is short, know the executives' questions.
Here’s a simple framework I'll explain in more depth in the coming weeks:
1. WHY — Set a new standard to outpitch any competition.
2. WHAT — Show how your approach benefits them.
3. WHO — Position yourself as the expert.
4. HOW — Demonstrate how it works.
5. WHATFOR — Highlight the stakes.

Mastering presentations to executives is about reducing their risk and convincing them to invest in you.
This leads to bigger budgets and more control in the creative process.

Over the next weeks, I will go into more details on how to use this framework to build a million-$ pitch deck.
The very pitch deck framework that helped me and my clients to outpitch even big agencies.


Have a pitch coming up? Reach out >
p.s: Please share this newsletter with your friends and rivals. I'm committed to raising the bar in the creative industry so everyone can earn more, produce exceptional work, and find deep satisfaction in what they do.
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