Let’s go, on with the show!

I must admit to loving Consultant Robb High’s lengthy list of agency marketing mistakes. His latestSpeech
missive homes in on the need for strong agency ‘performers’ in new business pitches.

Robb writes, and I agree, that 90 percent of all new business decisions come down to chemistry. You either ‘connect’ with the prospect or, as Peppercom’s Deb Brown likes to say, ‘…pack up your tent and go home.’

High suggests that top agency pitch people should enroll in acting classes to improve their skills. He’s absolutely right. Having taken two Upright Citizens Brigade improvisation workshops and a week long American Comedy Institute course, I can tell you the training makes a huge, if subtle, difference.

Improv teaches one to react spontaneously to word and phrase prompts and work as a team to help one another construct a skit. Stand-up comedy trains one in pacing, eye contact, reading non-verbals and interacting with hostile or passive audiences (give me a hostile audience anytime, btw. There’s nothing worse than staring at a roomful of blank stares).

All that said, I do disagree with High’s assertion that only the ‘A’ team should attend new business pitches. Such a strategy leads to the classic big agency bait-and-switch complaint we hear so often from disgruntled prospects (i.e. ‘We were pitched by the stars, but ended up getting 22-year-old juniors working on our business.’). The far better course of action is to enroll agency fast trackers in acting, improv and comedy classes.

The deeper the talent pool, the more flexibility senior management has in selecting the best pitch team. And, who knows, maybe there’s a budding Marlon Brando or Eva Marie Saint somewhere within your agency. All they (and you) need is to recognize the enormous personal, professional and organizational benefits of acting classes. Now then, has anyone seen my make-up case?

4 thoughts on “Let’s go, on with the show!

  1. All good honest stuff, Rep. But must you abuse our fine language with abbreviations? I mean, ‘improv’ tut tut I expect better from you ;o)

  2. Couldn’t agree more about the benefit of performance classes to prepare folks for business pitches and presentations. Not only does it teach you to think on your feet and read an audience, but there is also something to be said about learning how to be “on” when you are exhausted, ill or in any other way not feeling it. Performance also gives great training in picking yourself up and moving on after (sometimes literally) falling flat on your face. Improv especially is helpful in learning how to react in a measured, calm way to whatever is thrown at you.
    I use performance more broadly than acting, comedy and improv, though, because I think any endeavor where you have to get up and perform in front of an audience provides valuable skills, even dance or other performance arts like mime. However, I would argue that acting class might not be the best of all options for someone looking to improve presentation skills. Sure, you learn how to be in front of an audience, and maybe even “play a character” who loves to present, but at the end of the day, acting is all about tapping into emotions to create believable scenes of conflict. Training someone to put their emotions completely on the floor in search of a conflict may not, at the end of the day, be the best thing for a new business meeting.