This week I was presented with two different adventure project pitches, soliciting my help. In both cases I like the people, I like the projects and I want to help. But with both, I was frustrated by the way the adventure was presented.
If you've ever wondered why someone sounded interested when you reached out, but never followed through, it may be because your pitch was poorly organised. You were leaving them to do too much work on your behalf.
What matters to someone at the receiving end of your adventure project pitch?
- Why the way you present the pitch matters
- 7 things you should not do
- 14 essentials to include in your pitch
Why Your Pitch Presentation Matters
You may be making a pitch to journalists, or brand partners, or potential sponsors, or possible patrons. Or you may be reaching out to people with connections, hoping they'll provide introductions for you, or become a project advocate.
In all cases you hope they'll do something for you. In the long run it may benefit them. But right now, they are doing you a favour, carving time out of their busy day to look at your project, and act on your request.
An ill-prepared, poorly organised pitch harms you in three important ways:
1. It disrespects the person who might help you
Both the adventurers who reached out to me did so on a day when I had over 100 emails in my inbox, logistics to arrange for paid speaking bookings, a climbing training session coming up and a kitchen re-design to complete.
Much as I liked their ideas, I was annoyed by how vague the pitches were, how much information was missing, how many questions I had to ask to understand the project.
I was frustrated by how much work they expected me to do, work that they should have done before approaching me.
Your project will never matter to anyone else as much as it matters to you. You need to have put in the hours of work and planning, so that the person you are contacting can help you, while losing as little of their own time as possible.
You never get a second chance to make that first impression. Even if I send you away to do a better job with your pitch, I'm still annoyed that I had to do that.
2. If you can't plan a pitch, can you plan a project?
You may feel your project is unique, and must happen!! But someone like me hears from dozens of people with unique! must-happen! ideas. And knows that most of them will never come to fruition. It can be a lot more fun to dream and plan in hazy big-picture ways, that to confront the hours of work needed to product a detailed project pitch.
I, and anyone I introduce you to, is looking for some kind of evidence that you can do what you say - that you can walk your talk. A well-planned pitch, where you have clearly put in hours of thought and work, is a hopeful sign of a possible successful project.
3. If I do the pitch for you, I may get it wrong
In these two cases, the adventurers wanted me to do the work of understanding their project, so that I could then present it to my contacts. If I had agreed to do so, and waded through their messages / interviews / websites, I could easily have ended up mis-understanding what they hoped to achieve. Or what they were capable to doing.
At some point in the future, that is likely to lead to an embarrassing mix-up between the adventurer, myself and the sponsors or media contacts.
In almost all the interviews I have done for this website, whether with outdoor publication editors, providers of adventure grants, or corporate sponsors, they make the point that they don't like vague pitches and they do like signs of competent planning.
Abigail Wise, online managing editor for Outside magazine: "I get so many emails that say “Hey, are you guys accepting content, and what are you looking for?”. To me that's the freelancers' job. It’s their job to get to really know the publication, read it, know what we are looking for, and then bring an idea to me."
[Read the full interview with her: Breaking In As A Freelance Outdoor Writer.]
Jack Wright, who is in charge of the Captain Scott Society Adventure Awards: "A good application tells you quickly what its objectives are. It’s been well researched, maps are involved, they understand the terrain and topography. They’ve researched the transport, thought about the hazards. They are working to some sort of programme.”
[Read the full interview with him: The Captain Scott Society Adventure Awards.]
7 Things you should not Do
- Don't tell me to browse your website for the information - unless your website is only about this project.
If you have other things on your website, I'm going to get confused and frustrated.
- Don't tell me to just google you, or to google some set of keywords.
Google results differ by country, among many other metrics. There is no guarantee I will arrive at the link you want me to find.
- Don't tell me I'll find the information in that email you sent me six months ago.
That email is long since deleted, and even if it isn't, I'm not going looking for it.
- Don't tell me I'll find the information on your Facebook page.
Social media is a way to share current news. It is not a way to present an information overview - websites do that. I don't have the time to scroll back through your posts looking for the key facts.
- Don't tell me to listen to a podcast interview you did, or watch a video.
That may be a useful addition in time, but right now I need a summary of key facts written down in one place. I'm not going to make notes from your podcast interview.
- Don't send me the information spread across 17 WhatsApp or Messenger messages.
I'm not going to hunt back through those in future to find the key facts, or copy and paste from them to create a project summary.
- Don't tell me the project can be whatever I want it to be.
It's your project. It's up to you to set the parameters. Those may change as the project develops but to start with, you need to have created a structure.
14 Elements Your Project Pitch Should Include
Your pitch should be available to me as either
- a single-page webpage.
(Either a stand-alone website, or a dedicated page on your current website)
- a PDF file, of maximum two pages.
(Not a Word document - not everyone uses Word. PDF is universal, and means your layout won't be corrupted when the file is opened.)
Preferably you should have it in both forms. Send me the webpage link, and send me the PDF.
I want to be able to read this pitch in 5 minutes and I want to be able to easily share it with my contacts who may be able to help you.
That pitch document should include:
- Who you are and what you've done before.
Include your full name, and a short summary of what you've achieved to date. Previous adventure experience, and/or business expertise that will help you make this new project happen. Highlight your biggest achievements and most relevant (to this project) experience. Don't let the best details be lost in a sea of less important information.
Even if we are friends, don't assume I remember your life history. And don't forget that I may need to pass this on strangers who have never heard of you.
- A current photo of you.
Not a googles and polar fur-hood photo, not an adventure photo from 15 years ago. Something that would let me recognise you if we had a business meeting.
- A project name.
This may well change, but right now you want a snappy way for us to refer to this project.
- A one-liner explanation of what the project is about.
Or maximum two lines. If you can't do that - if you need a multi-paragraph waffle to explain all the aspects - you haven't yet done enough work in focusing the pitch.
If there is a record involved, put it here.
- A couple of paragraphs expanding on the project.
Don't assume I will understand why something is significant. Maybe we all know Everest is the world's highest mountain, but beyond that, explain what 'Aconcagua' or 'the Seven Summits' are.
- A summary of any social / community outcomes from the project.
Whether you are supporting a charity, or doing environmental eduction, explain in a few sentences and include links to the organisations involved. Briefly mention if you've successfully done something like this before.
- Dates - month and year when it will happen.
You may not know for sure, you may have to push it back for lack of funding etc, but start with dates in mind.
- A basic map of where you are going, or the route you are taking.
Maybe you can assume we all know where Everest is, but for anything else, what is obvious to you to likely to be a mystery to me. Show me where in the world this will happen.
- A summary of how you expect to fund this.
Sponsors, adventure grants, team members paying in - however you hope to do it, explain it in one sentence. And list any sponsors or grants you already have on board.
- Who else is on your team.
Either tell me who is on your team, or if that's not yet decided, how you will be find your team members, and/or support crew.
- Your best media coverage to date.
If you have media coverage of this project, list (with links) just the most recent and/or most impressive. Keep this updated. If you don't have any yet, pick your best three pieces of media coverage from your last project.
- Your primary social media feed for this project (or for yourself if you don't have a project feed).
Make sure that you have it up and running, and you are updating it at least once a week. Don't send me to a feed of echoing emptiness.
- Contact information - an email address!
You may prefer WhatsApp or whatever, but the busy professionals you are trying to reach are still likely to prefer email, so make that possible.
- Where I can go to find out more.
Now you can direct me to a more detailed website, or other background information
Listen to the questions people ask you when you talk about this project. If certain things keep recurring, add them to your pitch document, or revisit the document to explain them more clearly.
Once you've created the written document, create and practise a spoken equivalent. The one sentence headline explanation, and the two-minute executive summary.
So much of your success will come from spreading the word about your adventure - make sure you do so in ways that are brief, clear and memorable.