Book: Pitch Anything – Oren Klaff

I’m not sure that everything in this book is based on actual science, but the author creates a good-enough framework to talk about his main idea: “There is a fundamental disconnect between the way we pitch anything and the way it is received by our audience.”

Some parts are autobiographical, and as some reviewers at Amazon — who claim to know him in person —  has pointed out, the descriptions of the events are not always accurate, slight exaggerations are present. Despite of that, I think he writes about his own experiences in a friendly manner and I didn’t feel at any point that he was bragging about his achievements. The examples are used to illustrate his ideas, not show how great he is (or might be).

Another reviewer went as far as seeing a connection between his pitching techniques and the techniques used to seduce women. A connection which, I must admit, also come into my mind. And that shouldn’t surprise anyone: smooth social dynamics is essential to every kind of human relationship, be it with a friend, a business partner, a family member, or basically any other human being. This can be called small talk, chit-chat, flirting, etc. based on the participants of the situation (the author calls it push-pull), but the fundamentals are very much the same.

It’s a relatively short read (~65,000 words), but it took me a bit more time than usual. I had to continuously stop and evaluate what he says. Sometimes I wholeheartedly agreed with him, sometimes the exact opposite: the discrepancy between his and my experience is so big that I had to quit reading for some time to recover. I guarantee that will happen to you as well, but be skeptical: there’s no absolute truth to find here.

Some quotes from the book:

“Our thought process exactly matches our evolution: First, survival. Then, social relationships. Finally, problem solving.”

“Imagine looking at the world through a window frame that you hold in your hands. As you move the frame around, the sounds and images you encounter are interpreted by your brain in ways that are consistent with your intelligence, values, and ethics. This is your point of view. Another person can look at the same thing through his own frame, and what he hears and sees may differ—by a little or a lot.”

“Your palate is very sophisticated.” This comment absolutely melted her, and her eyes were sparkling with emotional pyrotechnics. The table was smiling, and again, I was ignored.”  (You must know the context to fully appreciate this, put the words are quite poetic here!)

“In 1953, molecular biologists James Watson and Francis Crick introduced the world to the double-helix DNA structure, the so-called secret of life, widely considered the most important scientific discovery of the twentieth century. The presentation earned Watson and Crick the Nobel Prize. And what is most striking about this accomplishment is that the full presentation takes just five minutes to read aloud. That’s the complete presentation—introducing the secret of life, explaining it in detail, and showing how it works. Pause and consider this for a moment: The most important scientific discovery of the twentieth century can be pitched in five minutes. Yet nearly every pitch that I’ve seen—and I see hundreds every year—takes at least 45 minutes and usually an hour, a ridiculous amount of time!”

“Simplicity can make you seem naive or unsophisticated. You can underwhelm the target with too little information just as easily as you can overwhelm him with too much information.”

“When you have a strong theory of mind, you recognize how other people have different perspectives—and that they know different things about the situation, and that their desires are not always the same as your desires.”

“People enjoy some intermediate level of intellectual complexity. It has been argued that people are curious about things they cannot explain but that seem explainable—mystery stories work this way.”

“There’s no reason for the target to pay attention when there are no stakes—when tension is absent.”

“Consider […] the actor Jerry Seinfeld. […] He is one of the most recognized personalities anywhere in the world. Probably the best-known comedian on the planet. […] When he decides to go on the road to test new material, Jerry says that it’s not as easy as you might think. He can walk on the stage anywhere, even a small town, and it’s clear that the audience knows he’s one of the most accomplished performers of modern times, with over $1 billion of television revenues. They’re thrilled to be in the presence of a man so popular and funny. But the thrill doesn’t last long. “I have about three minutes where they will just listen to whatever I have to say,” Seinfeld says. “But after that—it can fall apart fast. I get no credit. After three minutes, I have to be just as funny as any other comedian. That’s it—three minutes.” And there’s more to the story. Seinfeld became aware of the three minute mark because it takes him as long as a month of full-time work to build up just three minutes of quality content.”

“Most of the time, the data we have collected about choices and alternatives and options aren’t used to make a decision anyway. They are used to justify decisions after the fact. […] Even when we try the rational approach—making lists of pros and cons—if it does not come out how we like, we go back and redo the list until it does.” (I’m sure that it has happened to you as well many times.)

“Maybe the best way to define hot versus cold cognition is to compare it to chocolate and spinach. You know the cold, hard facts. Spinach is good for you, it has lots of nutrients, and you should be eating more of it. But when offered a piece of chocolate instead, you go for it.”

“The disturbing thing about rejection is that you never really get used to it. It’s natural and even unavoidable to feel disappointment when you get a “No.””

And many other great parts, go and read to book if these sounded interesting to you!