Pitching makes a huge difference

The intern hack-a-thon taught me a lot about the importance of constantly growing the skill of pitching.

Learning how to pitch can make a huge difference in your career.

You can use pitching skills to:

  • Drive customers to open emails, click on buttons and place orders
  • Get approval for, and excitement about, your ideas
  • Persuade others that your project or request deserves more focus or a higher priority (or that it should be canceled)
  • Recruit awesome people to join our team
  • Convince a publisher to let us put their books into our format
  • Ask for  a promotion and/or a raise

The intern hack-a-thon: pitching skills can make or break it

As a marketing mentor for the intern hack-a-thon I had the opportunity to to hear three versions of almost every team’s pitches:

1. Friday at lunch they gave pitches to recruit team members

  • As I watched groups formed I realized that convincing the right team member to join a team could make or break the team’s success.
  • The max team size was five members. There was a team that started with two members and didn’t recruit anyone else through their initial pitch. They ended up being the only team that was not able to demonstrate a working prototype.

2. Saturday morning I met with most of the teams about their product pitches

  • Two of the teams sent me stuff to review ahead of time. One team sent me an email the night before asking for data to quantify the potential revenue their product could produce. Another team sent me a written pitch that showed they had really thought through the business and marketing implications of their product.
  • Both of the teams that prepared in advance ended up winning.
  • One team I met with had “something” missing from their product. As we talked we realized it was that the presenter wasn’t passionate about the product.
  • During my meetings it was interesting to see that some teams joined together in crafting their pitches while others delegated it to a single member.

3. Saturday after lunch the interns presented their pitches and demos for the judges

  • It was stressful! The main conference room was filled with tension and excitement.
  • The pitches/demos were timed (4 minutes) with a 1-minute warning. No additional time was given for technical malfunctions.
  • The judges asked questions for 5-6 minutes. The questions were intense and topics included: revenue implications, how revenue estimates were determined, why a specific coding language was used, why an app wasn’t integrated into Faithlife, how long it would take to get the code ready to ship, etc.

Some take aways

  • If others don’t buy-in or join in, you probably need to refine your pitch or come up with a different idea.
  • If you don’t feel passionately about your idea or products others probably won’t either.
  • You can give an excellent pitch and still not win.
  • Pitches don’t have to be perfect to be successful.
  • Presenting pitches with a team is useful because they can answer questions that you can’t.
  • Planning the “go-to-market” pitch with the entire team led to greater insights and better presentations then when the marketers worked on their pitches separately from their teams.

Here’s a few articles I thought were interesting on this subject:

You may also want to check out this video that Jim shared with the interns: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=mB5VVxWre2M

I’m currently reading Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In and getting ready to start Spin Selling. If anyone wants to do a book discussion group on either one, let me know.

Do you have any other articles (or books) you would recommend?


  1. kentsanner says

    One thing I learned from the event: When your live pitch relies on any sort of technology, have a back-up plan! My team had to change the format of our pitch several times within hours (and even minutes) of our pitch. Plan for disasters so you know how to handle them if they occur.

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