Pitching By Conversation

conversation-sm

Pitching is a common way of trying to garner interest and hopefully, eventually, funding and support. However, in casual situations, it can come over as quite mechnical and forced. I’ve done this myself and also had it done to me! Could there be, on occasion, a better way?

There’s a nice story by Kevin Starr, who is a Foundation Director, in the Stanford Social Innovation Review that gives a very honest example which lead him to consider this problem further. The points made are quite general.

Some extracts from the article:

It’s because a pitch is a really weird way to communicate. Its basic premise is that time is scarce and power is unequal. Even if concise and well-organized, the information comes in a one-way rush that forces the listener into an uncomfortable, passive role. The listener starts to fidget and look around, and the talker slides into the role of the supplicant who knows her time is slipping away. Anxiety and/or annoyance ensue, and it takes great social skills on the part of somebody for it to end well…

These days, when I work with social entrepreneurs, I suggest that they dump the whole “elevator pitch” thing in favor of a “hallway conversation” approach that more closely approximates how human beings communicate. I’m not saying you should wing it: You can and should prepare. There are some common patterns in funder-doer interactions that, if anticipated, will lead to productive, comfortable, and authentic conversations…

Here’s the thing: If you want funders to go down the road with you, you need to make them feel: 1) smart, and 2) comfortable. Make that your mantra. Make it easy for them to grasp what you’re up to, and master your own anxiety so you don’t trigger it in them. We are talking about an encounter between good people who want the same things. A pitch turns it into an ordeal; a conversation makes it real. Choose the conversation.

He also gives some concrete suggestions about how to carry this out, it’s a helpful and illuminating read.

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