Tag Archives: Michael

“The aggregation of marginal gains”

As a one-time track athlete it is tough to acknowledge that cycling will now be the number one Olympic sport and much of that is down to one man, Dave Brailsford, Director of Team GB’s cyclists. The tenet of his philosophy is the “aggregation of marginal gains”, a simple desire to seek tiny improvements in many areas that add up to a significant gain.


It is a philosophy that should apply to the competitive pitch where winning margins are also often by inches and not the proverbial mile and it starts with an attitude, in his case “We are driven by not wanting to lose more than wanting to win. We’re not bad losers, we just hate it.”


For Brailsford selecting the right team and then fostering team spirit was a key. He spent some three years identifying the perfect team to support, protect and deliver Bradley Wiggins to the Yellow jersey,while managing highly competitive egos, like Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome. The resulting teamwork won the day. How often in the business pitch do the egos stumble over each other?


When it came to preparation Brailsford took nothing for granted. Wiggins was already a proven Gold medal cyclist and fit beyond normal doubt. This was not enough and no other team approached the Tour so clinically and this included bringing innovative training regimes from outside cycling, notably the GB swimming team. 


It was Brailsford’s ‘aggregation of marginal gains’  that was the platform for success  but it was the genius of Bradley Wiggins that delivered. Trying to explain what makes him so special Shane Sutton, his coach, said “he digs deep”. But said the interviewer “don’t all these cyclists dig deep?” A pause, then, “He digs deeper than the rest. When he shoves his hand in the coals of a fire, he holds it there longer!”

Thoughts on staging and content.

These thoughts were developed from the Best Practice guide and are now on www.gorkanapr.com

It’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it.

Pitching calls for performance. You’re putting on a show that is scripted to highlight key points, lifting and reinforcing your proposition. People are the heroes not the charts!

The document you submit should contain the detailed answer to the brief and satisfy the rational evaluation. Pitching is about the emotional response.

Be aware of the relative effect of purely verbal (content) versus non-verbal communication. Only 8% is verbal, 92% is tone and body language.


“Tell’em what you’re going to tell’em. Tell’em. Tell’em what you’ve told’em!”

Listening to a presentation is hard work so you owe it to your audience to make it easy.

This means being highly selective in what you say, not just condensing the document. What must they remember? What are the differentiating elements of your proposal?

To decide, read and re-read the brief. Then review against your insight into the decision takers. Who influences them? How will they judge? What are their issues?

Structuring your content.

Think of the pitch as a play or opera. Start with a surprise opening or overture (“you never get a second chance to make a first impression”) before setting up your theme.

‘Signpost’ the way you will develop this theme under three main sections, or ‘acts’. Then develop each act with three/four supporting strands (scenes) clearly signposted.

Summarise each act before moving to the next, arriving at a your conclusion or proposed action. Finish on emotional, from the heart, no charts, call for the business.

Dramatis personae.

The people on stage are the heroes. Good rehearsal time is your best investment and is never wasted. In first rehearsal check content for clarity. Are signposts working? Are visuals aids not crutches? Are you a team not a sequence?

In the second rehearsal, work on tone and body language. Who sits where? Look for movement, energy and interaction within the team and with the prospect.

In the final rehearsal, aim for more naturalness and ease. Foster a genuine sense of team. You are no longer’ talking at’ but listening and engaging one on one . With confidence!!

Pitch an experience.

At its best staging a pitch is theatre. It calls for an idea that creates an experience, not a predictable presentation sequence. It calls for story-telling not death by PowerPoint.

It calls for a decision early in the process to do something special, leaving time to be imaginative, time to prepare and time to rehearse.

It calls for an emotional connection.

The Best Practice Guide titled Content and Staging covers this subject in more detail together with what I find to be a useful diagram for ‘visualising’ the shape and content of the pitch.