By Robin Boehler & Stephen Boehler
 (Founding Partners of 
Mercer Island Group
)

Covid-19 has changed our lives and our work. Business as usual has been interrupted, yet your clients and prospects are trying to remain truly operational. Agencies may find themselves in a pitch process that has become a virtual exercise.

To capitalize on these opportunities, agencies need to adapt – and adapt quickly. How do you pitch your agency without a face to face meeting? The pitch will likely be a virtual meeting which requires different planning and approaches for your agency to stand out and win.

To help agencies during this difficult time, we have put together a practical guide on how to pitch effectively via virtual presentations.

1) Ensure you have the right technology in place, and expertise using the technology

Use a professional web conferencing platform for your presentation. These platforms enable the agency team and the prospects to see each – a much more personal experience than a conference call. You are also able to control the slides that your prospect sees, enhancing the communication.

There are many fine web conference platforms like Zoom, GoToMeeting and BlueJeans. Choose one and master it. The presentation is not the time to explore the rich capabilities of these platforms.

Also, keep in mind that your agency may need to use the prospect’s platform of choice. Some client firewalls prevent other platforms. Be sure all agency presenters have hands-on experience managing the intricacies of the selected platform.

2) Prepare materials with the medium in mind

Online presentations are very different than in-person presentations. For example, the screen sizes of the participants can vary dramatically. You need to be sure your presentation is clear and legible on a wide range of devices – everything from a 13” laptop to a 7” tablet or even a smartphone.

These screens are very different from a conference room screen – and that has a direct impact on how you design a slide for optimal communication. Your slides must be optimized for smaller screen experiences. No eye chart slides!

3) Rehearse differently

Start by pre-planning key elements including each presenter’s content, the presenters’ hand-offs, how to manage Q&A, the opening and closing. Use a workable draft of your slides; they don’t need to be visually perfect quite yet – but the content should be ready to go.

Next, rehearse using the technology platform that will be used in the actual presentation. Consider this a formal dress rehearsal. The dress rehearsal should also be attended by agency team members that play the role of the prospect.

They should participate just as your prospect will – remotely via the online presentation platform. Run through the entire presentation before getting their “notes”. Time each section and the entire presentation.

Refine your pitch based on your team’s feedback. Rehearse again.

4) Build in intentional opportunities for interaction

Interaction does not happen as spontaneously in a virtual environment; the agency must ask for reactions and input along the way. Plan engaging questions to ask at the end of each section. Some sample questions that work well include:

  • “How does this jive with your thinking?”
  • “Given that we have prepared with limited data and access to your information, what else should we have considered based on your experience?”
  • “How does our insight about your customer feel based on your knowledge of the business?”

The key to these questions is to avoid yes/no questions. Instead, frame the prompts in an active manner: phrases like “how” and “what else” can trigger more thoughtful responses.

5) Use the “Mercer Island Group Method” pitch format

As you may know, Mercer Island Group has developed an “interaction presentation” pitch process. The same principles apply to virtual presentations! Let us know if you need more details of a refresher – just email us at stev[email protected] or [email protected].

Virtual presentations and pitches are the order of the day during this time and may be with us more frequently in the future. You can master these pitches and help differentiate your agency. To summarize:

1. Technical Readiness: Readiness means mastering the selected web conferencing platform.
2. Medium-Centric Materials: Optimize your presentation materials for the platform and likely devices.
3. Rehearse Differently: Full dress rehearsals, with an audience that participates via the web platform.
4. Planned Interaction: Use questions to prompt opportunities for additional interaction.
5. Mercer Island Group Method: Most agency pitches look the same. Use the MIG Method to differentiate your agency.