Recently, I asked an intern to help me assemble a presentation for a Pitch. The young man was ever so helpful and extremely resourceful. His assistance was of great value and helped us meet our deadline with a little more ease than usual; an extra pair of hands is always appreciated. Later on in the week, he posed a question: what makes a good pitch?

Having been in this business for more than 20 years I can safely say that, as with so many things in the universe of marketing and design, there is no one recipe to guarantee perfect results. However, there are a few things I always do.

First and foremost, I ensure I get a full and comprehensive brief from my prospective client; I cannot stress just how important this is. If you are ever in doubt or need more information, do not be afraid to reach out to the client. It is better to feel a bit silly for asking at an early stage, than to get to the presentation and discover you have missed key points or misinterpreted part of the brief. In my experience, clients appreciate questions providing they are well thought out. If you could have found the answer doing some light research, you will come across as lazy and not serious about the project. However, an insightful question will show them you are truly invested in the project and are doing your research properly.

Always try to get a budget indication from the client as part of the brief; this is something I have learned the hard way. There is nothing worse than putting in endless hours of work because the client has said ‘the sky is the limit’ when it comes to the budget, only to find out that his perception of where the sky is located is very different from mine. Working without any financial parameters could lose you the project, because what you propose could actually be perceived to be completely unrealistic and therefore makes you look amateur and unable to deliver. Don’t believe it if someone ever tells you money is no object, because trust me, it always is.

Once I have all the information from my client, I do some further research (because you can never have too much information!) and try to identify and understand the market and the target audience. Failure to properly understand your market or audience can stop an idea dead in its tracks.

When I have gleaned enough of an insight into the sector I’m dealing with, things get a little less structured. This is when I let my imagination run free. I believe it is easier to scale back a good idea than to make a weak idea work. Think outside the box and try to approach it from a completely unique angle. Once in the project, your idea may well morph into a more conventional form of communication, but it is the original, out-there ideas that will win you the pitch. At this stage in the process, there is no set formula; your ideas can take a million forms expressed in a million different ways. You might want to present from a laptop, or perhaps it is more fitting for the campaign, drive it from a tablet instead, or maybe you want to print it into a magazine or newspaper format. If you’re talking about a Direct Mailer you might decide to present it as a 3D illustration or you might decide to build a prototype. The point is, you are the only one who can decide the most effective and memorable way to showcase your ideas.

A couple of more things; I am always ready for nay-sayers. I make sure that for every idea I have, I have data ready to support it. If you decide to wrap an entire building in graphics to promote a home insulation company, you should be able to explain to the client why an out of home (OOH) approach is the best option for your target market. I also provide my clients with a detailed budget based on their initial indications, and include all relevant costs so they can be compared with potential results, demonstrate ROI and value for money. You should also be prepared to address impact and reach and how you plan to measure them.

The final thing I do is present a provisional schedule and reiterate quite succinctly (and hopefully eloquently!) exactly why my proposal is a perfect fit for the task at hand.

Whilst your presentation is expected to include elements such as credentials and key team members, ultimately these are only formalities. The bulk of the presentation should be your idea, as this is what will win you the gig.

So back to the initial question; what makes a pitch a good pitch? I think if there was a recipe, it would have to include a full and robust idea, two parts surprise elements, a good portion of showmanship and a pinch of pizzazz.