Have you ever been to a Prom? Not the 16 year old rite-of-passage that seems to have swept in from America – I mean the BBC type at the Royal Albert Hall. If you haven’t, do go. Mainly for the wonderful music and the ambience, which is terrific. But also to see a brilliant, live example of what teamwork looks and sounds like when it brings together diverse talents under purposeful direction. The disciplines on display – these orchestral manoeuvres in the dark – have direct parallels for anyone who puts on a performance in a business environment and for anyone who pitches for a living. And at Caffeine, as you know, we’re rather obsessed with helping people put on pitch winning performances. So here’s a little musical reminder of what works. For the full lesson, go see a Prom.
LESSON 1 – REHEARSE
In a concert – as in any professional performance – there is a script (the score) which everyone knows. The score is played over and over again both individually and ensemble until every last imperfection has been ironed out. So you get a polished, faultless delivery that is awe inspiring to experience for the audience and enjoyable to perform for the players. The orchestra enjoys it because they know it works, which makes them relax. The audience know that the orchestra has practiced over and over again, so the audience knows the performance will be brilliant. Which helps them relax too. Any impediment to performing at their very best has been removed, which leaves everyone free to enjoy the music. Now contrast that with your last pitch “performance” and tell me honestly if it bears any resemblance to the professionalism of an orchestra? Your “music” is the message you want to convey. Do you remove every impediment to getting your message across? Most pitches are a chaotic shambles cobbled together at the last minute – no script to speak of and no practice of delivery.
Result: a confused message, an embarrassment to watch and a nightmare to participate in. A very uncomfortable experience all round.
Lesson 1: have a script and rehearse it. Again and again. It’s just plain rude not to.
LESSON 2 – IF EVERYONE DOES THEIR JOB BRILLIANTLY, WE ALL LOOK BRILLIANT
In an orchestra, everyone knows their specific role and has the humility to do that role without any “mission creep”. At the concert I attended, the bass drum operative sat still for 99.9% of the performance – she hit her drum seven times only (I know, I know: I should have just been enjoying the music not counting the drum “booms”, and I am sure she has a much better title that ‘operative’ – but I am that way not built). She did her job on cue. With a smile. And continued to play a supportive role even though she was only sitting there for most of the time. Result: everyone looks great because each person works selflessly for the greater good.
In most business pitches, lots of people do their bit half-heartedly, at the last minute, interfere with everyone else’s roles and content and disengage from the process once they have delivered their bit of the presentation.
Result: selfish anarchy – similar to a bunch of 5 year olds running around a field in a scrum of chaos all trying to kick the football rather than passing it between them.
Lesson 2: take full responsibility for your role. When you’re not in the spotlight, sit and act supportively to those who are.
LESSON 3 – LET THE LEADER LEAD & REMEMBER TO SAY THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HAS HELPED
For an orchestra, there is only one leader – the conductor. This leader has lieutenants who have very defined and specific roles: first and second violin, lead violinist and soprano (specialists brought in when required). Everyone knows who is in charge.
And because everyone knows their part in the orchestra and trusts in the skills of everyone else playing alongside them, they are all extremely polite and cordial to everyone else. Everyone acknowledges each other’s effort and skill.
Result: people feel recognised and valued and are thus motivated to do even better. The leader looks brilliant. So does the whole team.
In most pitches, the appointed leader often isn’t the real leader and gets over-ruled at the last minute. She also gets a call from her boss the night before the pitch to say ” this is a must win”, thus piling on the pressure without adding anything to the performance. Demoralising not motivating.
Lesson 3: If you’ve appointed a leader, let that leader lead. Remember to say thank you and make everyone feel valued. Because (a) they have worked very hard and they deserve that courtesy and (b) they made you, the leader, look brilliant (if you’ve led them correctly).
If you have a big new business pitch coming up, take your team to a BBC Prom concert. Show them what teamwork looks and sounds like. When it works well and you heed the three lessons above, you will be pitch perfect – the best sound in the world. Happy pitching.
Image (c) HasnainDattu[starbox]