4 Mistakes Holding Back Your Art Pitch
Solid pitches are a key ingredient for success in any creative profession. If you can’t communicate or sell your ideas well enough, you will miss out on precious opportunities and your killer ideas will be cast aside, regardless of how well you’re able to execute them.
In this article, I’ll be sharing my observations and lessons learned over the years from my own failed pitches. (… As well as the times I’ve been pitched to poorly!)
1) Lack of Objective and Direction
This is probably the fastest way to bungle a pitch. Presenting work that disregards project objectives or stakeholders’ directions usually leads to wasting precious time and reflects poorly on you as a professional.
Common examples include:
- Poor understanding of the target audience – e.g. pitching a highly detailed and complex logo for a kid’s TV show, or using colourful and rounded fonts for a luxury hotel’s promotional banner.
- Not being aware of the state of the project – e.g. presenting only 1 polished concept when you are still at the early R&D stage, or presenting multiple new and different concepts when the project is about to wrap.
- Not taking into consideration previous comments or feedback.
- Not being clear on the stakeholder’s direction. The right way is often NOT the only way. Always make sure you take the stakeholder’s preference into consideration.
How do we keep ourselves from going off track?
- Communicate often and early – never assume. Always confirm with stakeholders whenever there’s a doubt or before you dive deep into development. A minute of conversation can sometime save days of wasted effort.
- Take notes and never rely on memory alone. If more than one of you are taking notes in an important feedback session, don’t be afraid to cross-reference your notes to further improve their accuracy. Refer to your notes periodically while you work on the task, too.
2) No Solid Justification
Not putting enough thought behind your decisions reflects a lack of maturity in your decisions, and usually leads to a huge waste of time and resources. If you often find yourself unable to provide follow ups to the ‘why’s, your concepts and ideas will most probably never be taken seriously.
Here are some examples of solid justification:
- “More aligned with product vision”
- “Resonates well with our target audience”
- “Has the highest potential to stand out from existing competitors”
- “There is evidence from market research that this is more effective.”
Examples of weak justification:
- “Just trying it out”
- “Just wanted to do something different”
- “My friends told me they prefer designs like these.”
- “No idea” / “Had not thought about that.”
How do we make sure our decisions are justified?
- Challenge every decision you make. Do this from the beginning of your task and not just for the sake of your pitch. Be it the choice of font colour, character poses, or gathering of reference materials, ask yourself why. What has inspired you? Is there any additional support for your approach in articles by experts, market reports, or research?
- Be prepared to drop your idea. If you can’t even convince yourself you’ve made the right decision, don’t expect others to get on board.
- Never dig for support materials simply to justify a decision you’ve already made. Instead, let your research and findings guide your reflections. Try to be as unbiased as you can be, especially toward your own ideas.
3) Losing Momentum
Momentum is vital when it comes to pitching and is often overlooked. While momentum does not directly determine the quality of your pitch’s content, it plays a critical role in reducing the odds of your audience losing focus. (And interest!)
Maintaining momentum also prevents your audience dwelling on unnecessary details that could skew their impression of your pitch before you even get to the important part.
How do we prevent momentum loss?
- Avoid diving into unnecessary details before you deliver your idea. A pitch is NOT supposed to be a conversation – at least not before you’ve made your point clear. Further discussion and justification can always come after.
- Avoid indulgence in small talk (even if it’s relevant). Do it only after you are done with your pitch, or during planned breaks. In fact…
- Avoid and discourage ALL off-topic small talk/questions. Nobody wants to hear about someone’s nephew’s favourite comic that has a character that remotely reminds them of one of your character concepts, and neither should you.
- Avoid answering questions that could potentially take too long to answer. Politely ask to get back to them after the pitch or during planned breaks/a Q&A session.
- General crowd control. Discourage any form of distraction, and strongly enforce the ‘One voice at a time’ rule.
4) Being Unprepared
Nothing is more disrespectful to me than a pitch which has not been fully prepared. Lack of preparation directly affects the quality of your pitch, hurts the momentum, and reflects unprofessionalism.
Weak preparation comes in many forms, including but not limited to:
- Everything covered in points 1, 2 and 3.
- Not including important references or support materials. Be it a concept art reference that inspired your design, or screenshots of games/ movies that support your visual development decisions, include them in your pitch or have them readily available.
- Not knowing what to say or taking a long time to recall something. Constant stuttering contributes to loss of momentum and may give the impression that you are unsure of what you are presenting (even if you actually aren’t).
- Poor content flow. Not ordering your content in a way that makes sense contributes to confusion. For example, showing reference materials too many slides away from your final concept may lead to your audience not being able to make the connection.
What do we need to do to be prepared?
- Run through your presentation slides a few times. If necessary, seek help from someone: have them sit through your mock presentation or simply read through your slides. Gather feedback to further improve your materials.
- Plan and write down your key points. Unless you have a photographic memory, taking some time off before the pitch to prepare a few short key points helps with your delivery tremendously. There’s no shame in referring to your notes during a pitch.
- Plan your content. Most people wouldn’t want their desserts served before the main course. Likewise, think about what would make the most sense when planning the order of your content.
Improving your pitch as a creative professional has a direct impact on how you think, how you design, and how you approach your challenges – be it just another daily task or your next million-dollar idea.
As you train yourself to look beyond the purely technical aspect of your tasks, making sure your work consistently makes the right impression becomes second nature.
Good luck on your next pitch!
Related good reads:
- Meeting & Presentation Tips
- Why Game Artists Fail Their Interviews
- Applying to be a Game Artist: Things You Should Know