One Book A Day

The Art of The Pitch by Peter Coughter: Summary and Notes 

One sentence summary: The Art of the Pitch, by Peter Coughter is filled with tips and tricks on becoming a better presenter and pitcher.

One paragraph summary: Peter Coughter has spent over three decades in the advertising industry, where he learnt how to make winning pitches. His bestseller, The Art of the Pitch: Persuasion and Presentation Skills that Win Business is a testament of his vast experience in the area. But Coughter doesn’t just teach you how to make quality pitches; he also talks about strategy, teamwork, action plans, and offers countless examples that have worked for him.

Favorite quote from the author:

“Make a choice about what's important and let everything else go”

A few years back, when I was the lead presenter in a project at my workplace, I bought a book I had seen on a shelf somewhere, and it turned out to be one of my best decisions ever. The Art of the Pitch by Peter Coughter changed my perspective on many things. Before my interactions with the book, I believed it was okay to be all sweaty, shy, and miss a few presentation details. Silly, I know, but it was my way of showing the client that I was human, that I could make mistakes, and people should find it funny and endearing.

But Coughter showed me how terrible the assumption was. His first big idea is that a presentation is never about you and if you want to gain the audience’s respect, make a killer presentation, not a flimsy attempt aimed at winning sympathy. Coughter showed me how it is done, and while I have not won over every audience since, my pitches have been better because I know the rules.

Who is Peter Coughter? Peter Coughter is the founder of Coughter & Company, a consultancy and advertising agency that has helped dozens of companies win millions of dollars in new business. His clients include the NBA, Hill Holiday, Mckinney, IPG, and many more. Coughter has been in the business of winning minds and hearts for over three decades now. This is to say the man knows his stuff, and in this article, I will share my top 7 takeaways from the wonderful The Art of the Pitch,

Top 7 Takeaways from the Art of The Pitch by Peter Coughter

Here are the lessons that resonated with me the most from the book:

  1. There are two psychological approaches to finding a way to lead a full and positive life

  2. Everything in life is a presentation

  3. A presentation is not about you

  4. Tell stories

  5. Master your content

  6. Seek simplicity in the visual and oral expression of your ideas

  7. Know why you are there

Lesson 1: Everything in life is a presentation

Everything you do in life is a presentation of yourself to others. Most of the things we engage in, from talking to friends to meeting our partners’ parents, are presentations. This suggests that even if you don’t do high profile pitches to corporations and businesses, you still need to learn how to present yourself

Coughter lists the following as the qualities of a great presentation

  • It’s a conversation: A presentation is a conversation, and your goal is to pass information

  • Be authentic:Authenticity sells. Don’t insist on being perfect no one is

  • Tell stories:These documents will set your priorities for as long as they exist

  • Know your stuff:Overprepare for every presentation. Part of showing that you care about what you are talking about is knowing the fine details of your topic

  • Relax and be reasonable:Take a deep breath if you have to, but don’t be too hard or harsh on yourself. Keep in mind that the audience is human too

  • Teamwork counts:When working as a team, remain cohesive; otherwise the audience will realize that something is off

  • Make it personal:Find a way to make the presentation about the audience. After all, they are there for a reason

  • Know your audience:Knowing your audience, and their interests makes it easier to persuade them

  • Show no fear:The audience is not interested in you, just what you have to say focus on that

  • Rehearse:Be conversant with your material. Don't memorize. Know enough to handle any questions that come your way

  • Know why you are there:Your presentation should foreshadow the conclusion

Lesson 2:Be yourself

Be yourself everyone else is taken.

Coughter says that one of the biggest reasons so many pitches fail is because presenters want to pitch in someone else’s style. This cannot work, at least not for long, because at some point, your personality — the one you are trying to hide — will take over, and the audience will see you as phony. Try different presentation styles and settle for the one that is most comfortable for you.

No one else can play you the way you can, and trying to be someone else is like abandoning your best actor One way to build authenticity is to share a human connection with the audience. Show them that you care about their concerns and that you really want to offer a solution to their problems. Coughter says that most people make the mistake of reading from their slides. That is boring. Anyone can do that. Look the audience straight in the eye and hammer the point home.

Lesson 3: A presentation is not about you

No matter who’s doing the talking, even if it's the damn president, the presentation’s contents matter more than the presenter. The goal is always to pass information. Coughter says that most people are worried about what others will think of them instead of concentrating on what the audience is actually there to do, which is to get informed.

Coughter advises that while presenting, it is essential to put yourself in the audience’s shoes and ask the following questions:

  • What do I like about the presentation?

  • What do I hate?

  • What sort of thing would I find exciting and entertaining?

  • What do I find boring?

By answering these questions, you will perform a better job of wooing the audience.

Lesson 4: Tell Stories

People love stories because stories are memorable and pack a punch when delivering messages. Coughter says that a good presentation should involve stories as much as possible, especially at the beginning when you are trying to catch an audience’s attention.

Try telling stories that cast the audience as heroes. If the story you are telling is relevant to the pitch you are making, the client will start to imagine themselves in the heroes shoes and associate their success with you. One way to increase the impact of your stories is to understand your audience. For instance, when presenting to generals, Coughter and his partners used the Art of War as a reference, and while presenting to a German company, they used a well known German folklore to seduce them.

Stories also stir the audience’s emotions, which is great because it gets hard to sell without making an emotional connection.

Lesson 5: Master your content

According to Coughter, it is absolutely essential to know everything about your presentation. That doesn’t mean that you should memorize things, but you should be in a position to answer any off-hand questions that come your way. If you are presenting as a team, you still have to know the entire content matter because think about it, what happens when one of your team members bails out at the last minute? The presentation has to happen.

Knowing your stuff will come in handy, especially if the audience is responsive and constantly asks questions and tells stories of their own. A presentation is a conversation, and what makes conservations great is because often people are sure of what they are talking about.

Lesson 6: Seek simplicity in the visual and oral expression of your ideas

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” — Albert Einstein.

Coughter says you are the star of the presentation, meaning no amount of graphics or other fancy things can take away the audience’s focus on you. You still have to say something, and you still have to be impressive.

The way to stay on point is to be simple. Never allow some complexity to interfere with the message you are trying to pass along. Coughter says that what the audience remembers are novel experiences and the emotional impact your presentation has. Simplicity is your friend here..

When you implement a keystone habit, you will often find that forming other habits becomes easier.

Lesson 7: Know why you are there

When making a presentation, it is essential to have a clear picture of the goals and objectives. A good presentation is prepared with the end in mind. In other words, everything foreshadows what’s to come.

Coughter offers the following strategy called the ACTION format for organizing your presentation:

  • Attention: Your presentation should begin with an attention-grabbing device

  • Capsule:Create a summary for your presentation

  • Theme:A theme is what holds the different pieces of your presentation together

  • Information:This is the content of your presentation

  • Open:Look at the audience’s responses during the presentation

  • Next steps:What do you hope to accomplish after the presentation?

Wrap Up

One sentence summary: If you have read up to this point, you see why the The Art of the Pitch, is a great book. Coughter does a fantastic job convincing us that we all need to be better pitchers, and if you think about it, what is the most important and overreaching goal in life if not to pass information? Coughter’s book will get you started on becoming a better communicator.

Who Would I recommend the Book To?

If you are looking to have more people taking your ideas seriously, this is book for you. I would also recommend this book to anyone who has interacted with the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, as the two books are bout increasing your level of influence. .


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