Do You Give Your Pitch Teams a Pep Talk?

Bob Wiesner | November 7, 2017

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I admit I haven’t thought much about pep talks.  A team has worked its collective asses off, putting together a high stakes presentation or pitch.  They might be exhausted, but they ought to be psyched and ready to kill it.  I always want to see my teams walk into the board room with a great deal of confidence. Maybe even a hint of swagger.

Only recently have I appreciated the potential value of a strong pre-event pep talk.  And I get it because the qualities that make a pep talk effective are the same as those that make any strong leadership or persuasive communication effective.

This article in HBR makes the case clearly.  An excellent pep talk – one that increases the likelihood of strong performance – has the right combination of three elements: Empathy, purpose (or meaning-making) and clarity (or uncertainty-reducing).

These elements have been identified as critical to leadership communications.  They’ve also been associated with communications from people who are described by others as “charismatic.”  So of course they would combine to make an effective pre-event or pre-pitch pep talk.

Those who about to go to the front lines to deliver a high-stakes presentation in front of a touch client want to know that you, as leader or stakeholder, appreciate the effort they’ve given, and the degree of difficulty they’re about to face.

They might need a reminder of where their efforts, and the pitch, fit within the broader picture of purpose and success.

And they might appreciate a gentle reminder of what they’ll need to do well to win.  I would always make sure this is indeed a reminder of areas already covered and practiced.  No new news here about different approaches to try.

I’d add a fourth element.  A reflection on strengths.  Remind the team of all the things they do well, and enjoy doing.  Remind them as well about how important those strengths will be in delivering and winning the pitch.  Focusing on strengths is always a great way to boost confidence and energy.

One obvious thing is missing, and for good reason.  It’s remediation for things the team hasn’t yet mastered.  At the point of the pep talk, it’s too late to try to change behavior.  Reminding the team of things they’re not doing well is only going to reduce morale.  At best, it might cause an unnecessary focus on behaviors that need to be changed, increasing the chances that solid behaviors will slip.

The balance among the four elements will vary from team to team.  Just be sure to consider, and address, whichever of the four will have the best impact.


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