As for what to take, this depends largely on the agency’s design discipline. Because Pie Communications specializes in creating blue-chip graphics presentations, “We’re very comfortable with projectors, screens and the intelligent, informed talk-through”, says Howard.
“An engaging slide presentation works better than shuffling through print portfolios, though you can use these for backup if you need print examples.”
“We take in sheets of card, because we are a print design agency,” says Bakowski. “We took the intentional decision not to do anything high-tech; we find [cards] feel warmer than having everyone huddled around a laptop screen or in front of a projector.”
Some agencies prefer boards, even if their primary discipline is not print. “Even though we are a creative digital agency, we still often present our work on boards,” says Andy Holden.
“They are tangible and everyone can refer back to them during the presentation – and they can be left behind.”
But even the most thorough preparation is no guarantee of success; any pitch can fall unexpectedly flat, and having a contingency for this can sometimes rescue the situation.
We always take two people with us to everything, whether it’s new business or a client meeting, because it can happen that one person just doesn’t hit it off with them,” says Bakowski.
“This way, the other person is always there to pick up and do most of the talking.” Recognizing the early warning signs of a pitch going bad can help rescue the situation.
“As in any social situation, discreetly monitor eye movements,” advises Patricia Howard. ”If they’re flicking looks at colleagues it’s a bad sign, but smiling eye-contact with you means they’re engaged.
“Again, this is where preparation comes in. If you prepare beforehand and are genuinely enthusiastic about what you’re showing them, your enthusiasm will communicate itself.”
But for many in the design industry, the reasons why pitches fail remain a mystery. “Unfortunately, there is a lack of manners in the whole process,” says Bakowski. “You invest a lot of time and effort in a pitch, and if you don’t win it’s very rare to get any feedback or response about what’s happened.
"You almost have to cajole the prospective client into telling you they’ve decided not to go with you. It’s a dialogue once you’re in there and a mystery once you’ve left.”