Lessons in personal pitching

Cornerhouse Digital Reporter Kevin Danson gets a lesson in personal pitching…

A couple of weeks ago I found myself sat in Cinema 2 before one of the best-known authorities on design and popular culture, Stephen Bayley. As founding director of the design museum, a former creative director of the Millennium Dome and contributor to a number of national and international papers and magazines, we had our notepads on our laps and pens poised in position for his Life’s A Pitch talk.

Stephen introduced himself as a complete fraud and imposter despite contradicting himself with his frequent phrase ‘without sounding Machiavellian’. Nonetheless, we took pride in his homage to the late Steve Jobs as most of us had succumbed to at least one of his divinely presented instruments over his technological reign. Lesson one of the night comes early; presentation is key to success.

With his self-invented persona, Stephen gave us another handy tip, that even though every single person is made up of 96.2% of organic elements, the difference we possess is intangible individuality; the personality and style we create for ourselves. ‘Dress is the style of thoughts’ he quoted from the philosophical Lord Chesterfield, and indeed it is. So, lesson two; ‘You will not be judged by your accent, but you will be judged by your shoes’ again, Stephen quoted.

Lesson three; confidence. Stephen Bayley exuded confidence from the stage, which portrayed him initially as a charming gentleman though now I perceive the flaws of what too much confidence can do. We got briefly distracted by lesson number four; the craft of handwriting. A letter has much more effect, he said, for certain things as it shows you have spent time writing it, spent money sending it and made an all-round effort with the recipient (my gran?).

The fifth lesson is indeed a great lesson; a good memory to record names, dates and quotes he advises us, gives a fantastic persuasive simulacrum of high intelligence. As spectators, we can see how his lessons, bar the fourth, have coalesced, leading us to accept Stephen Bayley as a well-versed crowd pleaser, slipping in several quotes per discarded speech card.

In spite of the fact that my notepad hadn’t filled up with the pitching wizardry I anticipated, in addition to finding myself a few times getting lost in my own rambling thoughts as per the speaker, I’ve been bestowed with some excellent tips on how to create a persona (if I choose), maybe some new shoes and study more quotes. I leave you with a few of Stephen Bayley’s quotes of the night for you to consider:

Trying is just the first step to failure’ – Homer Simpson

Getting things wrong is just an opportunity to start again more intelligently’ – Henry Ford

Aut tace aut loquere meliora silentio’ or ‘Either be silent or say something better than silence’ – Salvator Rosa’s ‘self portrait’

Stephen Bayley: Life’s A Pitch was our latest keynote event. Next in the spotlight is writer, thinker and consultant Charles Leadbeater. Tickets and more information for this event can be found here.