Pitching is a skill worth improving.

DIY Talent Development

We all give pitches at work. Meetings. Proposals. Interviews(!). Pitching is a skill worth improving.

"When you make a pitch, it's often not the idea that leads to rejection, it's how you present it," says Adam Grant. So he offers some research-backed advice to maximize your chances of a yes in a recent episode of WorkLife.

Lead with the problem before the solution.

The audience doesn't care about the future until you can convince them there's something wrong with the right now ... so highlight the important problem (with some proof!). (PS: It's easy to forget that people don't understand the problem nearly as well as you.)

Signal preparedness over passion.

Think: thoughtful, logical, and fact-based over excitement/passion/energy. Know your stuff about your stuff. And be open to admitting the stuff you don't know—people care just as much about whether you're collaborative as you are capable.

Show receptivity along with confidence.

Reid Hoffman: "Confidence in your ability to learn." Signal receptivity (asking questions, admitting uncertainty, acknowledging mistakes) ... and it's okay to admit that you haven't figured everything out in the pitch ... if there are things that you don't know yet.


For those pitches that are more of an ongoing interaction—a dialogue with your boss or a group over time, Grant, along with film executive Franklin Leonard, have some more advice ...

Think of each opportunity to pitch as a data gathering opportunity. You'll learn what resonates with people and what doesn't. Improve your pitch with what you learn.

Think of your audience. Identify their interests, experiences, and backgrounds. Then tailor the pitch accordingly.

Think of your pitch as a story. It should have a protagonist, a confrontation, and a resolution. Make unfamiliar ideas familiar with analogies. Titanic could be pitched as: Romeo and Juliet on a sinking ship.

Turn your pitch into a conversation. Think of yourself as a pitcher ... throwing a ball to a catcher ... and you want them to throw the ball back. "People support what they help to create."


And related to Dan Pink's buoyancy: it's not a no, it's just a no right now. Some tips for reviving pitches ... because not everyone "gets" our great ideas the first time around ...

Reconceive -- Rework a pitch with a new way of looking at the idea.

Recontextualize -- Things change. And when they do, bring back the pitch. Show why something is doable now because of a context change. Data and evidence helps!

Amplify -- Get help from others who believe in the idea (or at least in trying the idea)—this helps to legitimize the idea with your audience. More people supporting the idea = more credibility for the idea. And be a team player: amplify the ideas of others when you believe in their idea.

Through The Work is a talent development studio for healthcare leadership embracing The Transforming—the always-happening, always-unfolding state of change in your job ... and using it to make more of the change you know should be happening, happen.

The Transforming is the most important professional opportunity of our careers—one that will lead to new job opportunities, real change, and a transformed industry for all of us and everyone else.

My name is Drew Weilage and I work in healthcare, too. At Through The Work, I assist people like you with the skills, attitudes, and points-of-view to propel your professional success. It's personal training for a transforming world of work.

Oh, and pep talks! Get a pep talk when you need one: big day, bad day, or any day at all. Text me at 646-450-2465 or send me a note.

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