The feeling of play – how to pitch with fun?

From Philip Fricker


Monday, June 17th, 11:00. My second lecture in Cannes and one of my personal highlights. The topic: pitching.

Why actually?

The ability of pitching is not only one of the most important soft skills of successful creative people here at the Cannes Lions Festival. At the beginning of all projects is the idea. This becomes more than clear here in Cannes in various lectures and discussions. And the idea should be communicated as comprehensibly as possible so that its value can be recognised. When it comes to pitching, many people think of agency pitches or long-prepared presentations in the context of a pitching event. But is that all?

Isn’t the spontaneous presentation, the exchange of ideas at an early stage already a first short pitch? At lunch with colleagues, in discussions with customers, in meetings or during networking at parties – as is always the case here in Cannes? There are certainly differences in setting and length. The goal remains the same: to communicate rough diamonds in such a way that they are later filed together into precious stones. The core of the story has to be clear, creative and above all relevant.

You have to tell the Story!

That’s what pitching is all about. And so introduces Julia Robertson, top 500 American pitch trainer and book author, after a brief welcome to her inspiring pitching workshop here at Cannes Lions. Why is clarity so important?

The way we present ideas or concepts is critical to whether they can be understood and sparked. If the shot backfire, the idea is thoughtfully buried before it is even born. And exactly this scenario puts many into stress and the adrenaline level rises, if a presentation before decision makers lines up. So how do we learn to keep calm while presenting infront of customers and approach the topic in a playful way?

First: Banish your emotional ballast and awaken the play instinct in you.

A practical method, which Robertson also demonstrates in the workshop in Cannes, is the imaginary trash can. This technique is about consciously perceiving disturbing thoughts and emotional ballast and appreciating them for a moment. In the next step, everything that is disturbing is pulled into a box outside the current room by imaginary drag & drop and securely locked into it. Only the mental act of this ritual frees and loosens up.

And this creates more scope for the actual task of pitching: To convey the story comprehensibly, authentically and with passion.

Second: Communicate the impact and mood of your idea.

The context of the story, the genre or the type of campaign contribute to how we pitch stories. Is the topic easy, difficult, sad or funny? What feelings do we want the audience to have? How do we create the emotional connection to the target group? We pitch a challenging social topic in a different tone than something funny.

If we are talking about a comedy topic, our audience should also feel the funny mood when pitching. But beware: Whether someone finds something funny is very subjective and gags or funny passages should be tried out with different people beforehand. Hollywood director and author Jonathyn Lynn and his son, Teddy Lynn, internationally renowned marketer and advertiser, demonstrated this impressively during their lecture “Comedy Rules” at Cannes Lyons.

Third: If you want to pitch successfully, don’t pretend. And you have to be ready to fail again and again.

I beg your pardon?

Read correctly. A pitch is always a snapshot and we can only learn to pitch through one thing: practice, practice, practice. If we free ourselves from the idea of having to do something perfect, we automatically become more relaxed. And inner peace promotes creativity. This awakens the childlike carelessness and the play instinct in us. And that in turn awakens the joy of pitching. Ok, understood. But how are we supposed to present when it’s a pitch in front of important decision makers and there’s a lot of money involved? Understandable, sovereign, but never artificial. Because the audience recognizes whether we are deliberately presenting too casually or like a bloated salesman. Only if we remain true to ourselves, communicate our story honestly and with fun can we win the game. And who knows, maybe even a lion in Cannes. In this game everything is possible. Just do it!