(Note: This post originally appeared on the Jack’s Garage blog)
It is a universal truth that, in certain situations and for certain reasons, you can become a version of yourself that is almost completely unlike who you are on a daily basis. Drinking, for example, is one of those situations; physical duress, another (and far less fun) one. But the situation that affects everybody without exception is the imminence, and indeed performance, of a pitch. Each of us develops a wholly misleading pitch personality, a range of which we’ve listed below. So what’s yours?
The Humourless Hardnose
It’s not surprising that, after stressful days and long nights, people momentarily misplace their sense of humour, but the Humourless Hardnose appears to have murdered hers at midnight and buried it in a shallow grave. Not only does she not laugh or joke; she glares at you stonily if you try to lighten the mood, mutters snide little remarks as she stalks out of rooms and resorts often to the phrase: “Listen, can we please just focus for a minute? Jesus Christ.” After the pitch she’ll get straight on her phone, either to bitch at a poor beleaguered friend or loved one, or else to speak to her recruitment consultant. The latter, we all hope.
The Fragile Joker
Having a laugh and a joke in the throes of pitch prep or the pitch itself is a good idea and should be encouraged at all times. But there’s a limit and the Fragile Joker will not just cross that line – he won’t even look back to see how far he’s strayed over it. It’s the nerves, of course, so we can’t judge him too harshly. But we can give him the metaphorical equivalent of a wet fish-slap around the face when he informs the potential client that his mum’s just died before laughing too much at his own witticism. This is the kind of person who’ll soon have a meltdown, followed by a potentially messy divorce. Poor thing.
The Gameshow Host
While not being a pitch-loser, the Gameshow Host can upset that all-important chemistry by adopting, for reasons known only to himself, the persona of a particularly low-rent TV presenter. He doesn’t introduce himself: he announces his arrival. He doesn’t converse; he follows some cheesy inner script. He has no nuance or light and shade; he is entirely bombastic, even when passing on some seemingly minute detail about budgets. He talks Continually with Capital Letters. Unlike a TV presenter, however, you can’t put him on mute or, better still, turn the TV off and find a good book instead. Shame.
The Rambling Rabbit
The Rambling Rabbit manages to fall into two different but often connected pitch pitfalls – and worse still, you can see it coming, because she did it in the final rehearsal. And the rehearsal before that. And the one before that. Like Napoleon, she won’t learn from experience (or indeed become Emperor of France). You’ll watch as she stalls in the early stages of her first ‘bit’. She’ll say nothing for a ten-second period that feels like ten minutes. Then she’ll start rambling – absolute rubbish, usually, that’s full of mistakes, contradictions and deviations, and which leaves the would-be clients scratching several large, black crosses of doom on their pads.
The Last-ditch Desperado
There’s little more embarrassing than witnessing a pitcher clearly throwing herself on the mercy of the client before the pitch is even over. In her head, it has all gone horribly wrong (and of course, it might have done, but she’ll do this either way) and it is up to her to put it right. She tries too hard, throwing the last vestiges of her forced energy and jollity into a straw-grasping performance that makes those present want to lay a cool flannel across her forehead and bring her a cup of really milky tea. Her smiles are like grimaces, her hand movements beseeching, as if she’s pleading for her life in front of some cruel despot. Her eyes brim with glistening tears. And yes, it really is enough to make you cry.
These are just a handful of the pitch personalities we observe on a monthly basis, but please share others that you’ve witnessed. And never forget that you’ll have one too.