It could be a sales meeting, a VC meeting, a product innovation session but it’s a meeting where you need to influence the attendees in the room. How do you influence that audience? How do you pitch your idea?
Social science research is always interesting. When it’s about how to influence people then it becomes compelling.
Thanks to the latest book by Daniel Pink, I’m now aware of recent social science research that supports my experience. First the research. Hollywood is the center of the universe when it comes to pitching an idea. Kimberly Elsbach of the University of California and Roderick Kramer of Stanford University conducted research from the fall of 1996 to the summer of 2001. Interviewing 36 informants, and immersing themselves in the Hollywood pitching process over those 5 years, they reached some interesting conclusions! Using the terms pitcher for the writer and catcher for the power brokers/money men they draw these conclusions:
The tactics of the pitcher and their ability to involve the catcher is key. In a nutshell the pitcher’s success was often determined by his ability to engage the catcher in the forming of the idea. As one writer or pitcher stated: “You wanna get them in a mode of them asking you questions as quickly as possible. Because then you’re controlling the meeting. Now you did the pitch, now they’re asking the questions and you’re filling the gaps with more good stuff. You want to get their curiosity going. And then you want them to be a team player with you.”
In today’s business environment we have evolved from an interruption based persuasion model to an attention based trust model. Therefore ensuring your audience, your prospect, your boss, your team, your sponsor is engaged in the conversation and is actually showing signs of trusting you are key.
This team effort, this engagement and trust that you achieve between you and your audience will dramatically improve your odds of influencing that audience. For example at the start of a workshop I always ask my audience their top 3 questions they need answered before I get started for that reason. In sales conversations if the sponsor does not feel involved you get disengagement and missed opportunities.
In summary the research points to an important lesson. As Daniel Pink puts it so well, “The purpose of a pitch isn’t necessarily to move others immediately to adopt your idea. The purpose is to offer something so compelling that it begins a conversation, brings the other person in as a participant, and eventually arrives at an outcome that appeals to both of you.”
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