How to refine your pitching etiquette: Ashfield's Andrew Winterburn

Following C&IT's pitching survey, which found agencies are spending an average of £10,000 on pitches, Andrew Winterburn of Ashfield Meetings & Events shares his tips for perfecting the process.

Ashfield Meetings & Events' Andrew Winterburn
Ashfield Meetings & Events' Andrew Winterburn

Whether you are competing to win new business or looking to retain existing clients, it is very rare that contracts are awarded in the modern events world without the involvement of a pitch of some description. As a result, mastering pitching etiquette has become critical for event agencies. It has become ingrained in how they work and the infrastructure and resourcing of the business. What was previously seen as the domain of the business development departments now filters through the whole business.

To some, this continual need to pitch may seem counter-intuitive to developing long-term partnerships with clients. However, when the pitch process is carried out correctly, it helps to drive innovation and fresh thinking from agencies, which ultimately is the lifeblood of successful events. The pitch process helps remind agencies that we can never rest on our laurels and that we are only ever as good as our last event; the next one has to be even better. Here are a few simple steps that can help you on your way to pitch perfection:

1. Pick up the phone. Too many agencies avoid picking up the phone as part of the pitch process. It is essential to establish relationships, interrogate the brief and ask questions. Opening communication channels in this way will help sell your story and solution.

2. Research like a journalist. Understand the client and their external influences thoroughly. Know your angle and know their audience inside out. This will help give you the confidence you need in your ideas.

3. Constructing content. Ensure you are developing a story that is relevant to the client and their delegates.

4. Be concise. Keep text to a minimum, be straightforward and avoid 'buzzwords'. If you need to provide detailed, text-based information consider appendices and other means to present key supporting information that will substantiate your story.

5. Paint the picture. Bring the story to life using delegate journeys and focus on the what the audience will feel and how you will change their behaviour and mindsets. You need to show you can evoke their senses throughout the event and that will drive actions and results.  

6. Be flexible. If you want to win the business you have to be accommodating to the process. You have to be in it to win it as they say.

7. Be prepared. Rehearse your pitch – would an actor go on stage not knowing their lines? You are, after all, telling a story that needs to inspire belief, but you don’t want to be so rigid in this approach that your individual personality and business culture is not coming across. You also need astute answers prepared to likely questions you may receive.

8. Don’t be disheartened by a knockback. Make it relevant. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Keep on going.

Andrew Winterburn is global business development director at Ashfield Meetings & Events

More:

87% of agencies have declined pitches in past year

Agencies share top-five pitching challenges

Average pitch is costing agencies £10,000

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