As our teams run into the last week of the NABS Fast Forward course, the pressure is on. They have all been working tirelessly doing their research, finding insights and coming up with strategies, creative ideas and media activation. But, if they fail to wow the judges on the day and bring these ideas to life in the room they could find themselves losing the business, a scary prospect that these delegates are going to face in their careers.
So who could NABS call upon to help share their years of experience and top tips on Storytelling? John Steel of course.
Who doesn’t love John Steel?
He is the master, the perfector of the ultimate Pitch!
We were very privileged at NABS Fast Forward to hear the maestro speak, not only was he massive inspiration for our delegates it’s fair to say the mentors were busy scirbbling a few of his top tips down too.
We could see him in a little box via video conference from New York, and you could hear a pin drop as the whole audience (especially us Mentors) sat in awed, mesmerised silence to hear his words of wisdom.
It was his 30th Anniversary of coming into our business, he started at BMP (now DDB) in Paddington, and is now the Strategy right arm for Martin Sorrell’s WPP Group.
So, what were his top 10 tips?
1. Have small teams and make sure you’ve got a leader that is making the final decision – dithering wastes time!
2. First impressions are very important, particularly at the chemistry stage. Don’t tell the client a load of stuff they already know about their own business and category, go prepared but find a way to get the client talking about what they want to talk about.
3. Be brave and push back, don’t just take a brief at face value. If you think it is the wrong, say so and have the debate.
4. Get the entire agency involved in some way, create that wonderful sense of anticipation and team spirit for everyone.
5. Don’t present more than one idea.
6. Plan your time carefully – it’s all in the preparation. Divide the preparation time into 3 equal parts; Spend the first third coming up with an idea, spend the second third pulling that idea apart and stress test it works and then spend the final third bringing the idea to life – and trust your instincts.
7. Show them you want it more than the next agency to come through the door. Confidence, enthusiasm and hunger will be infectious. Remove yourself from the bubble of the pitch and take it back to the day to day – what would it be like to meet your Agency at 8am on a dreary Monday morning in January. Would it be enjoyable? Would you be the sort of people they want to spend time with?
8. Make your message personal. Try and talk to everyone in the room.
9. Facts are not enough. John cited the example of the OJ Simpson trial – scientific data presented in such a dry way bored the jury and they felt talked down to. Counter this with a well-crafted story from the defence that planted a small seed of doubt in the mind of jurors and the outcome was somewhat different to what everyone expected.
10. Finally, one size doesn’t fit all. You don’t always need to use slides, try to tell the story, they are there as a prompt, the focus should be on the presenter. Top tip – use visual aids and always remember the most powerful slide of all; the blank one (If we don’t see a blank slide in every presentation next week I will be very disappointed).
His final tips were about speaking and a lesson for us all is to just write the way you talk, just be yourself and be natural. People want to hear who you are and will see through jargon and fancy language. To quote David Ogilvy ‘Never use jargon words, they are the hallmark of a pretentious ass’.
Needless to say John so eloquently peppered his talk with anecdotes from his years in the industry, emotional clips from the hey-days of advertising using Mad Men to make his points, sharing pictures of his dog and inappropriate stories left, right and centre; taking on board all of his own top tips. If we’re honest we fell in love with him a little bit and would love to be able to pitch alongside him one day – we can but dream.
So good luck to all the teams this week; massive plug for Team Freud who of course have it in the bag, let battle commence.
By Stephanie Marks, head of client services at Maxus and Tish Mousell , training consultant at Tish Mousell Training