The 3 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid During Interview Prep

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Preparing for an interview is both a fine art and a science. There are a whole host of considerations that you’re balancing: the personalities on the pitch team, the needs and wants of the client, the unique aspects of the project, among many others. To further complicate matters, teams are often given notice of the pitch date last-minute, leaving them scrambling to try and put together a polished, refined presentation under some pretty harrowing time constraints. It’s no easy feat.

In our nearly 20 years in business, we’ve seen many a pitch and many a prep, and have homed in on what works and what misses the mark. Here’s our list of the top three most common mistakes teams make when prepping for an interview:

    “We can’t afford to miss ANYTHING!” A well-meaning sentiment, but sadly, covering everything will not win the pursuit. There’s simply not enough time. With a thirty-minute presentation window (if you’re lucky!) more is less and less is more. Teams that hyper-focus on the details and try to pack tons of information into a narrow time-frame end up overwhelming themselves, rushing through more than listeners can hear, and wind up ditching their well-thought strategies for a forgettable rush. The only way to present something that really sticks is to think conceptually, focusing on the higher level points (the forest) backed with a little bit of detail (a tree or two).

    Too often, teams focus so hard on getting the details right that they end up destroying their chance to show themselves as humans. We get it. Nerves are on edge, and tensions are high with so much at stake that it’s hard to remember everything, and you want to get it right. But the extreme focus on details, making sure every word is just right, and that everyone uses the industry terminology the prospect would use, while valuable in its own way can also be a distraction from the most important selling tool you have—showcasing human beings who are likeable, natural, and real. People being human is the higher payoff in an interview than perfection. The very quest decreases authenticity. Plus, people don’t like perfect people, so the more you succeed, the harder you are to relate to.

    We see this happen all the time. A team preps for a pitch, and they focus the entire messaging around themselves. Their whole allotted time is spent waxing poetic about what they can do, how they’re the most qualified, and showing how they are the best pick for the project. What they don’t realize is that this ends up alienating the prospect by making themselves come across as indifferent to the real Main Character of the stories they are telling. Of course the selection committee wants to know about your team’s unique qualifications, but what they really want to understand is what you can do for THEM.

Now that you know these common mistakes, what can you do about them? The answers are simple, but they fall into the category of easier said than done: Focus on the big picture and use that to filter what to say and what NOT to say, give the team permission to not be perfect and be real human beings, and identify the right main character that illustrates them and who they care about.

More than half the battle is being aware of the pitfalls. By keeping these missteps in mind, your team can successfully avoid them and instead focus on the things that will best position you for the win.

Lisa Walden