Learn The Script - Then Forget It
In any pitch - whether it’s to make a sale, get a job, get a promotion, or fund an initiative - the story you tell is all-important. It has to inform, educate and (many times) entertain and inspire the audience, so that they ultimately say yes, and agree to whatever your “ask” is.
So how you craft that story is absolutely critical. From the key themes, to the overall flow/structure, to the specific messages/story points, to the facts and anecdotes that illustrate those messages, it’s essential to flesh out all of those elements.
Which means, (no surprise) that all of these elements can and should be scripted. They should be identified, detailed, debated, iterated with real world experience, data points, feedback, customer knowledge, etc. - whatever is necessary to get the messages right.
In fact, the time spent crafting these elements and the resulting story is time extremely well spent. Not only because it will help you, but because it will then be useful - especially in the case of repeatable events e.g. the sales pitch - for the rest of your current and future team to be able to pick it up and replicate it, so that making the successful pitch isn’t a mysterious activity. Rather it’s something that can be repeated so that the organization can learn and grow.
But here’s the thing. The script itself, and all its accompanying elements, all the case examples, and evidence points, is just one half of the equation. No matter how detailed, no matter how complete.
The other half - and many might argue, the more important half - is your ability to take those script elements and interpret and apply them such that they are in your voice, in your style and catering to the needs and nuances of your audience.
It doesn’t make sense to simply parrot out the points - I’ve seen far too many sales folks try this. It doesn’t work, because it doesn’t resonate.
People don’t buy on pure facts - not consumers and not even business professionals. Sure, they want an underlying fact basis for their choices (usually), but at the end of the day, they want to buy on trust, on the feeling of security, on the basis of completion (real or perceived) that it brings to them. And reciting a script and a set of facts - no matter how strong - won’t do it.
Which is why you need to learn the script, and then forget it.
Meaning you learn all the story elements, the best flow, the best facts and anecdotes, and then when you walk into the meeting, you size up the situation and you adjust, react, and pivot as necessary - such that you get the point across, you sell the value and the message - maybe as the script originally outlined, but maybe not.
The point is to learn the script elements to such an extent that it becomes second nature. It’s ingrained in you. At that point, you should understand the fundamentals of the message, so that you can apply your own humanity, your own style, while customizing it to the nuances of the specific audience you’re speaking to. Same end goal but a flexible path to get there.
That’s what it means to bring your A game - it means to be ready, intellectually but also emotionally. To bring your personality. To inform and educate while entertaining and inspiring.
And when you do bring your A game, and it works, you’ll know it. You’ll see it in the body language, you’ll hear it in the tones, the excited conversation.
It won’t happen all the time (because nobody bats a thousand), but it’ll happen enough. Enough to make a difference. And all because you learnt the script, so that you could forget it.