The Professional Guide to Crashing and Burning in a pitch…


There goes my pitch!


Earlier this week we had a pitch that we’ve been looking forward to for a while. Unfortunately, as you might imagine from the title and picture, it didn’t go as planned.

The main reason this week’s posts have been slow is that I’ve been (a) working on bouncing back and (b) trying to decide how to blog about this.

Let’s start with an analogy…  Picture the guy or girl that you had a crush on in High School.  The one that “if only they knew you” would be your perfect date.  Now imagine that one day you said “Hey” and they actually said “Hey” back.  Next thing you know, you have a get-to-know-you date set up at a friend’s house.

It was that kind of meeting.  And we were that kind of excited about it.

Sticking with the analogy, at the last minute the day and venue change.  Now you’re meeting Mr/Ms Perfect with two of his/her friends somewhere you’ve never been before.

And so it begins.

Back to real life.  We had a fireside-chat kind of thing set up at a local office.  But due to circumstances beyond either party’s control the meeting had to be moved to a hotel some distance from here.  Our date was very apologetic for the change and offered to do the meeting by phone or reschedule it.  We took option #3 – driving down to the new location to take the meeting. 

Note #1:  There is a lot of truth in the proverb “Fools rush in”

Naturally, the change in venue causes some issues.  Where will we meet? Is there a good network connection???  Oh, and as a result of the reschedule, we’re now meeting with our guy plus two of his co-workers.

Note #2:  A meeting with 3 people is NEVER going to be the same as a meeting with 1 person.

As you may know, I’ve done a lot of pitches in my time, from this kind of fundraising pitch to tradeshows and product demos.  I’ve logged hundreds of hours doing this, and generally have some clue as to what I’m doing and how things can go wrong.

So naturally, we had a backup plan to run the product locally on a laptop in the event that Wi-Fi failed us.  But as I mentioned, the change was pretty last minute.  Come to find out that we have more data in the system than can easily be downloaded in the time we have before the meeting.

So now we don’t have a good fallback if the network connection drops out.  Not good.

Note #3:  When you start to feel a breeze blowing on body parts that don’t appreciate that sort of thing, take notice.

But there’s a Starbucks with wi-fi down the road.  Fine.  We’ll just shuffle down there if we need to.  But let’s get to the Hotel well in advance and make sure the wi-fi is good.

Meanwhile, we’ve been working on the “Grand Enchilada” view of what we’re up to and why.  As I mentioned earlier, our date seems perfectly primed to get what we do and really wants to talk about the tech and the product, so this is not our usual funding presentation.

Fast-forward to the day of the date.

I’m not a believer in omens, but the day starts badly. 

Now that I look at the pants I ever so carefully ironed last night, I can see that they have some kind of feeding-a-two-year-old related stain.  Bugger.  Need to iron another pair, but I’m back on track soon enough.

Time to get in the car and go.  I put the key in and get a “Low Pressure” alert for one of the tires.  The low pressure sensor is a nifty idea in principle.  If a tire needs 36psi and a slow leak has taken that down to 25psi, it’s a good thing to have.  Unfortunately, the thing also triggers if there’s a drop to 35.9999psi.  You have no way of knowing what’s going on without reaching for a pressure gauge.

So I check the tires.  Sure enough, one is pretty low.  Break out the air-pump, connect it and off we go.  Or not.  I check the pressure and it’s lower.  There’s a hole in the tube on the air-pump.  Crap crappety crap crap.  Off to the garage.

Finally Logan and I get on the road and we’re making good time.

We get to the hotel and I talk the restaurant into letting us camp out.  The wi-fi signal is “strong like ox” and all is well.  We test, retest and test again.  Sweet.

All your base belong to us.  We are prepared.

Note #4:  It’s called a false sense of security for a reason…

Our guy arrives and we exchange pleasantries.  The other two datees arrive to.  We’re ready.

I jump in to our 100,000 ft overview presentation.  As I go through the slides, I have that vague nagging feeling that I’m not bringing all the audience members with me.

We get to the demo.  “Let me show you the basics”


The wi-fi falls down dead.  Shit.  It comes back.  But we’re in a hotel, so I have to re-login to their gateway before I can get back to Unifyr.  In an effort to help, one of the other dates starts asking some questions.  We try and answer those while getting back online.

We’re back online.  Our guy asks another question, one so basic to what we do that we have been able to demonstrate it for MONTHS.  Click click, here we go.


WTF!  It’s down again.

More interim questions, but now we’re off in three different directions at once.

Back up.  Logged in.  Click click…works.  But now the back end engine that has run for WEEKS without any glitches falls down dead.  Stuff is no longer getting tagged.


And so the whole thing descends into chaos.  I don’t think we made or demonstrated a single point clearly without a screw-up.

At the same time, we’re focused on a high level big picture.  Really big (like this)…  The stuff we never usually talk about for fear of scaring people.  And there’s the rub – after early pitches we were told we weren’t broad enough.  After this one, we were told we were too broad.  Doh.

Note #5:  Once you’ve been pitching for a few months, your pitch gets “polluted” with all the feedback you get.  While feedback can be invaluable, the process of avoiding potential landmines can leave you with something so muddied that it offends no-one, but no-one buys it either…

So as you can gather from all of this, the pitch was a dud.  With the benefit of hindsight, I think it was one of my worst…  Ever… 

Our dates were nice enough to be polite, but we knew we’d blown it and blown it good.

Looking back at things, there are a million things we’d like to have done differently.  But I think #1 would have been to pass on the meeting face to face until we could control the environment. 

In our eagerness to have our perfect date we left too many variables to chance.  The result benefited no one, least of all us.

It’s all very well to get a date with "that girl" (or guy) but if it ends like this, you’re really no better off.

And with that thought (and sincere apologies to our dates), here’s an appropriate ending…