Episode 6 - Pitch Master

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This is a podcast episode titled, Episode 6 - Pitch Master. The summary for this episode is: <p>Have you struggled to convince others of your idea? Be it to tackle a reliability problem or a sustainability challenge. In this episode, I have a conversation with Danny Fontaine - host of the Podcast Pitch Master on how to pitch SRE and Sustainability ideas.</p><p><br></p><p>Danny shared one of his favorite stories - the origin of the elevator pitch to get us started - and continued with many others including how he changed the paradigm of a customer by surprising them with a fictional scenario and won the deal.</p><p><br></p><p>Listen in as Danny transforms how you think about presenting and help you persuade others of your ideas.</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Things to listen for:</strong></p><ul><li>[02:01&nbsp;-&nbsp;03:16] Danny pitching himself</li><li>[06:48&nbsp;-&nbsp;09:28] Meaning of pitching</li><li>[12:24&nbsp;-&nbsp;16:39] The origin story of the elevator pitch</li><li>[16:54&nbsp;-&nbsp;18:57] How Danny get ready for pitching</li><li>[21:44&nbsp;-&nbsp;27:32] Pitching for Sustainability</li><li>[28:38&nbsp;-&nbsp;32:52] Pitching against detractors</li><li>[34:31&nbsp;-&nbsp;37:42] Pitching for head of IT vs. Business</li><li>[38:23&nbsp;-&nbsp;40:04] Danny's ingredient and recipe for pitching</li></ul>
Danny pitching himself
01:14 MIN
Meaning of pitching
02:39 MIN
The origin story of the elevator pitch
04:14 MIN
How Danny get ready for pitching
02:02 MIN
Pitching for Sustainability
05:48 MIN
Pitching against detractors
04:14 MIN
Pitching for head of IT vs. Business
03:10 MIN
Danny's ingredient and recipe for pitching
01:41 MIN

Danny Fontaine: And what you want to do is create this kind of melting pot across categories of all the different reasons that show that not only they should act, but they should act now. And so you're kind of disturbing them in the first box and they're thinking, " Oh my God, when you put it like that, you are absolutely right. We need to do something and we need to do something now." But then we contrast and we contrast to excite and inspire them. We say, " Instead of the world we're in now, imagine this world." And here we paint a picture of a new bliss where the year is five years from now, and look at the company you have created, and look at how many lives you have changed. We must always remember the human element. Really important there as well.

Kevin Yu: Hi everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Making of the SRE Omelette podcast, where we talk about how we achieve business and client success via the practice of site reliability engineering. Season two is all about how the practice of SRE can help and lead us to a more sustainable future. And before we start the journey, we have to persuade people a sustainable future is the right thing to do. And ladies and gentlemen, you are in for a treat as we have the Pitch Master Danny Fontaine on today's show to teach us how. Danny, it's like a dream come true for me. Welcome to the show.

Danny Fontaine: You're too kind. It's my absolute pleasure to be here. Looking forward to this conversation.

Kevin Yu: Danny, your podcast is one of my favorite, and I've been waiting for a long time to steal a line from you. I usually give introduction for the guest, but since I have the Pitch Master here, I am fascinated on how you will introduce yourself.

Danny Fontaine: All right, well it's actually quite a tough question when you're on the other side of the microphone. Yeah, so my name's Danny, and I guess you could say that I've dedicated the last decade or more of my life to learning every single thing I can about pitching. And when I say pitching, really what we're talking about is the art and the science of persuasion. How can we connect to an audience through emotions? How can we create experiences for an audience? How do we put an audience in another pair of shoes so that we can create paradigm shifts in their minds to help persuade them of whatever service, argument, presentation, that we're doing for them? And I say I've dedicated that much of my life because it's a huge topic. I think you can read books on sales and pitching, but you can also read books on neuroscience, and behavioral science, and creativity, and emotions, and divergent thinking. There's so many different categories that all come into pitching, which is why I find it amazing. It's that juxtaposition of everything. And if I can help to pass on some of that learning, then that's kind of my mission in life.

Kevin Yu: Wow, that was awesome. And Danny, you are definitely passing it on. As we were chatting before the show, I got my son to listen to your podcast in the car to get him ready for his presentation. And earlier today he was like, " Daddy, you're going to be talking to the Pitch Guy?"

Danny Fontaine: I want to see Aiden's presentations. That's exciting. I love it.

Kevin Yu: Believe it or not, he actually did a podcast.

Danny Fontaine: Oh really? There we go. Fantastic.

Kevin Yu: So Danny, you have the title of a creative director. I'm curious, what does a creative director do?

Danny Fontaine: I'm not sure really if there's an industry generic definition. It varies in many different kinds of ways, but the way that my role works as a creative director is I am a leader of a team. So part of my job is to manage a team effectively and do the other kind of leadership stuff we would expect from a role. But it's also especially important to find a way to inspire my team. Because my team are all much better than me at doing graphic design, and motion design, and copywriting, and all of those kinds of hard skills. And so what I try and do is help to show them that the key to what we're doing lies beyond the hard skills. It lies in the big ideas. It lies in thinking as wildly and as broadly as possible to not think that there's any bad ideas and to really kind of push our imagination to the limits, so that we've got a huge array of different things that we can choose from before we kind of converge again. So part of my role is that, it's to inspire and it's to lead. And the other part is to actually come up with these big ideas myself. So I need to not assume other people will do that. So funnily enough, a big part of my role is thinking, and I think that this is something that people don't do enough of. We get a brief and we go, " Right, let's immediately get to work," especially with pitches and presentations. We go, " Right, we've got to create a presentation," so let me immediately open PowerPoint. I'm going to immediately sit at my keyboard and see what comes out. And that is therefore a presentation. Whereas if we ask, this might sound a little bit spiritual, but if we ask our subconscious that question, if we almost say out loud, " What is the best way of convincing someone of A over B?" And then we go for a run, or we go for a walk, or we listen to music, or we do whatever it is that allows our mind to flow freely, then it's the subconscious brain that tends to in the middle of the night or whenever, throw these ideas into our minds. And another part of my role as a creative director is ensuring that the team have time to think, and to experiment, and to play as well.

Kevin Yu: That's key. Innovation comes from try new things. And that comes from experiments and play. So that is, you are the creative leader for the team. You motivate and you lead by example. Danny, you got into a little bit of it during your wonderful intro. Can you also share with the audience what is pitching?

Danny Fontaine: So I think it's like I mentioned in my intro, really. It's how can you persuade an audience? And that is it, at its simplest terms. Sometimes we're trying to sell a product, sometimes we're trying to sell an idea, sometimes we're trying to teach something. But if our audience, number one, if they don't enjoy what they're listening to, then they won't listen. If they don't believe what they're listening to, then it's not going to go in. If they have a strong argument against what they're hearing, then we have to consider that and work out how to bring them on board. A lot of my work is fighting subconscious biases. So when we have a certain belief system or paradigms, whatever it is, let's say you and I vote for opposite political parties. You are going to tell me how great your political party is. I'll say, " No, my political party is better." And we will trade facts and figures, exchange blows. And at the end of it, I'll be even more convinced that I am right. And you'll be even more convinced that you are right as well. So pitching is about thinking what are the barriers and the challenges that the audience needs to overcome, and how can I take an empathetic approach to this, and how can I put myself in their shoes and think, " Yeah, well I can see why that is a barrier." How can I explain to them how we overcome that barrier? And the key to this is really emotional connections. So 95% approximately, of the decisions that we make are made by our subconscious. And especially with buying decisions, 95% of decisions are made subconsciously. So if you are trying to sell me a product or an idea and I think, " I like Kevin," then I'll listen to you, and afterwards I'll find a way to post rationalize a very logical argument for myself that leans in Kevin's favor. If I've also got Bill pitching to me and I think, " I don't really like Bill," then I'll do the opposite thing and I'll find reasons why I don't want to choose Bill. And this happens subconsciously. People don't do it on purpose. So a big part of it is, how do we connect with a human? And the way we do that is not facts and figures, it is through emotions. That is the absolutely key thing here.

Kevin Yu: So I'm not a stalker. I listened to one of your episodes, and I was thinking of playing Freddie Mercury on the show today.

Danny Fontaine: Yes, there you go. Exactly. I'm a huge Freddie Mercury fan. I said in an episode, " If anyone themed a pitch to me as Freddie Mercury, I'd say I don't care what it is, I'm buying it." But it's a brilliant point. We've got to know our audience. I can't do the same pitch to lots of different audiences, because the audience is a difference. And we're in the business of human and social interactions and connections here. So I've got to find out, what are you scared of? What excites you? What are your ambitions? What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time? And not necessarily recreate that literally in its entirety, but certainly think about, " Here's how I scare Kevin. Here's how I excite Kevin. Here is a nostalgic story, because I know Kevin was born in a similar year to me. Let me go back and talk about that decade, and that time, and those computer games." If I can get you to say, " I'm enjoying this and I'm engaged." Then that's a huge advantage and gets us in the right place immediately. But further than that, if I can get you to have a physiological reaction, then we are really talking about powerful pitching. If I can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, or if I can give you a shiver down your spine, if I can make your pupils dilate, or make your heart beat a little faster, then you're hooked. And this is not a tactic of manipulation, by the way. That's a topic I talk about on the podcast. You could use these powers for evil. But as long as you genuinely believe in yourself, and believe in what you are doing, and believe that you can help your audience in some way or another, then using these emotions is the absolute key to persuading them before you've even told them prices, technical specifications, data, ROI. That stuff comes later.

Kevin Yu: This is not the joy you're looking for.

Danny Fontaine: Exactly.

Kevin Yu: Danny, you are a fantastic storyteller. And so many memorable moments from your podcast. One that really stood out with me was actually when my team was lucky to have you teach on how to pitch. And I recall you sharing the origin of the elevator pitch story, and it was such an aha moment. Do you mind telling that story to the audience here?

Danny Fontaine: No, I don't mind at all. It's one of my all time favorite stories. I got a lot of pitch stories. One day, I'm going to release a book of pitch stories, but this one story really proves that pitching is not about PowerPoint. And it goes back to the origin of the elevator pitch. And a lot of people will think, " An elevator pitch, that is the 30 seconds when I get in the lift or the elevator with my boss and I have to tell a perfectly succinct and powerful argument." So they will go, " You're getting a promotion." It's this high pressure situation. But the origin story of the elevator pitch is quite different. And for that, we have to go all the way back to the year 1853. And there's a guy called Elisha Otis, and he was a really prolific inventor, but he had setback after setback in his life. And he ended up working in this huge furniture warehouse and they had these kinds of hoisting platforms to get furniture from one level to the next. And half the time, they broke and the rope snapped because everything was so heavy. And he invented a special safety brake so that if the main rope snapped, it would still stay in place without damaging the furniture, etc. And he said to himself, " Hang on a minute, if I can make these platforms safe, then maybe, just maybe people could use these devices." They weren't used at the time because they were too dangerous. People didn't want to actually die quite literally. And so he made this safety brake, and fortunately for him, it was the same year as the World Fair. So this was the second ever World Fair. And for those people who don't know, it was a global gathering of the greatest inventors and innovators in the world. And in 1853, the World Fair was in Manhattan and New York City, and he lived upstate New York. So he booked himself a ticket, and he actually hired out the main area in the exhibition hall, very ambitious. And he built a platform, he built an elevator, but he didn't build any walls and he didn't build any ceiling. It was just a bare platform with all of the hoists and joists on show for everyone to see. And a large crowd gathered around him, and without saying a word, he stepped onto the platform, and he faced the crowd, and he gazed calmly as the platform ascended three stories above the ground. And here he stood for a moment before his assistant who was perched on top of the elevator, reached for an axe, and literally slashed the rope that was suspending the elevator in midair. And the elevator began to plunge towards the floor and the crowd gasped. And of course his safety brake kicked in, and it halted the platform's descent. And again, the crowd went wild. He said something like, " All safe gentlemen," according to the history books. And that's how a lot of things happened. Number one, he invented the world's first elevator pitch. But number two, he'd also convinced an entire crowd of people without saying a word within the space of about two minutes, that his design for elevators was safe. And it's because of that, that we've got skyscrapers. And actually, for those of you who are interested in fact, have a look in elevators, you'll often see Otis on an elevator panel, which is because it came from his Otis company, which grew and grew off the back of that. And so this really is my ethos in general for pitching. Why show a PowerPoint? I mean, if Elisha Otis had showed a PowerPoint with 100 slides going on about how great he was as a person and what qualifications he got at university and then here's an architecture diagram of how the brake works, it wouldn't have been the same. So how can we all show rather than tell that our product or our idea is exciting and compelling?

Kevin Yu: Don't worry, Danny, this is an SRE podcast and we will talk about architecture and topology charts-

Danny Fontaine: Good, my favorite.

Kevin Yu: But before that, I'm curious, how does Danny Fontaine get ready for pitching?

Danny Fontaine: A huge part of it is preparation. So before you get to the day, I mean on the day you're going to be nervous and you're going to be anxious. And no matter how long you do this stuff for, you will always be anxious and you will always be a little bit nervous. And that's a good thing. We need to embrace that. But I'm telling you now, if you haven't prepared and if you haven't rehearsed over and over again, then those nerves are going to be 1, 000 times worse. So by the time we get to the day, I will have practiced and practiced, and recorded myself on video, and looked for all of my little weird twitches and tried to iron them out. It's amazing what people do when they're on stage actually grabbing their neck and scratching their ear off, and all of these kinds of things. So I get to the day. Before I get in front of a crowd, it's very important to mentally and physically prepare. So I think we have these nerves. The number one thing is remembering to breathe. And this is before I go on and when I get on, I don't want to run on stage and immediately start talking. I'll be out of breath. You've got to get on stage or the platform, and you've got to feel yourself in that moment. You've got to think, " I am here now, and this audience is excited about what I'm going to say. They're not looking for me to fail, they're looking for me to succeed. They're behind me. I'm not a standup comic. I'm someone with something to say, and they've come here to listen to it." And take some breaths, big breath in through your nose, hold it, and then out through your mouth, and just get in that moment. And there's a few other things you can do as well, which I enjoy teaching people as well, a lot of fun, and power poses is one of them. So before I go on stage, I will do a few things. One of them is to adopt one of two power poses. The first one is hands- on hips, like a superhero, a top of a building with a cape flowing, exactly. And the other one is hands in air, like you've just scored a goal at the World Cup or your favorite equivalent sport.

Kevin Yu: The Stanley Cup.

Danny Fontaine: Yeah, the Stanley Cup, exactly. Imagine. And then you do imagine, and that's the important thing. You get in one of those two poses, whichever one you prefer. And you close your eyes and you remember a moment in your life where you were on your A game, where you felt fantastic. Maybe it was when you had already done a brilliant presentation in the past, but maybe it was getting your exam results, or maybe it was helping a friend, or maybe it was doing some volunteer work or scoring a goal. Whatever it was, find a moment and try and imagine not just the moment, but how you felt in that moment, because that's how you want to feel right now. So you stand in that power pose, and you breathe deeply, and you remember that time. And then you'll be ready to go out on stage and be confident and ready for the audience in front of you. I do it normally, by the way, in the toilet cubicle, which is not very exotic, but people will look at you funny if you just start doing it in the middle of the green room.

Kevin Yu: Right before you get on the stage, you go like this.

Danny Fontaine: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. But it really does work. This stuff works.

Kevin Yu: Right. And Danny, you mentioned something at the start. The audience are here wanting you to succeed. They invited you. That's important mindset to know and being.

Danny Fontaine: Right, exactly. I think a lot of people listen to the negative voices in their heads. There's the personal things. " You are going to fail. You are going to forget your words, you're going to embarrass yourself." All irrational. You can't block them, but you can laugh at them. And then we also think, " The audience are going to hate me. They're all staring at me. I'm not getting the reaction that I want." And actually, it's really easy to misread an audience. I've been in rooms before where I've had almost silence the whole time I've been presenting and I've thought, "I've just totally bombed on this one." And then I've had people come up to me afterwards and say the nicest, most positive things. And you think, " Wow, I guess different generations and different people just react in a different way."

Kevin Yu: Different culture.

Danny Fontaine: Culture is huge. It's absolutely huge in terms of audience reactions, especially.

Kevin Yu: I know I was really excited I get to talk to Danny Fontaine today. So Danny, how does that art change when you are talking about sustainability or does it?

Danny Fontaine: It's hard to convince anyone using purely altruistic lines of argument I think. However, whether it's sustainability or any other topic, the same principles apply. And this is emotion and it is storytelling. So when I think of how I prepare a story for a pitch, I'll go through some basic kind of boxes, and anyone can use this and I love to share it. So please, if you're interested, try this for yourself. What we want to do is create contrast across a story. So what a lot of people do is they tell a blue sky story. " Hi, we're company X, we're the best. Nothing will go wrong. We're the safest pair of hands," the end, and there's no books and there's no movies with that plot line. What we need is a plot line that goes from problems and challenges, up to a glorious vision of the future. And then back down to obstacles and challenges again. And this is Martin Luther King Jr's famous speech, is a brilliant kind of prototype for this. And so what I tend to do is I start with the current world and the problems that your audience is facing. And this is where we need to get audience specific. I can't write a generic sustainability story, but I can, if I'm dealing with a specific company, think about them. Your customers, what problems are they facing because of sustainability? And what about the loyalty of your customers because of your stance on sustainability? What about legal problems, regulatory and compliance problems? What about financial issues that are happening now or may come in the future? What about technology? What about brand perception? What about your employees? Are they leaving because really, they want to work for a more sustainable company? And what you want to do is create this kind of melting pot across categories of all the different reasons that show that not only they should act, but they should act now. And so you're kind of disturbing them in the first box and they're thinking, " Oh my God, when you put it like that, you are absolutely right. We need to do something and we need to do something now." But then we contrast, and we contrast to excite and inspire them. We say, " Instead of the world we're in now, imagine this world." And here we paint a picture of a new bliss, where the same kind of categories, your brand awareness and perception has gone up because you have actually had a positive impact on the environment or whatever facet of sustainability we're talking about. Your finances have gone up, you don't need to worry about that legal stuff anymore. The year is five years from now, and look at the company you have created, and look at how many lives you have changed. We must always remember the human element, really important there as well. So that's kind of got them drooling at the mouths a little bit. They're already on a rollercoaster. They're thinking, " Thank God. I was really struggling a minute ago and you've excited me now." And they're saying, " Tell me how we do it." And we say, " No, not yet. I'm not going to tell you yet." What I'm going to do is tell you how hard this is going to be for you. This is not an easy journey. To achieve this new vision of the future, you have many challenges and obstacles to overcome, and I will list them out specifically. " How are you going to join these disparate data systems up? How are you going to change brand perception? How are you going to affect a supply chain with 100 different moving parts? How are you going to get all those third party companies, and how are we going to create a culture of change within the company as well?" And that makes them think, " Oh boy, yeah, it's not going to be easy. It's not going to be easy." And that really helps them to know that you are an expert. You are speaking from experience. You have done this before, and you haven't said it yet, but you're certainly intimating that you are the people who have the answer to this problem. So after you've upset them a little bit more, you go, " But don't worry, I have a big idea." And here is where you reveal your big idea. And that doesn't mean a technical architecture diagram. This means a high level version of what you are actually going to do if they choose to work with you. And this should be a short story that the CEO, CMO, CFO, CTO, CIO so on and so forth, will all understand. It's layman's terms. It's not highly technical. It is the synopsis of how we can help you. And so they're the main boxes really. Now notice what I haven't done through any of that is tell you my company's credentials, or how good we are and all the rest of it. That can come afterwards. Because as I was saying before, if we've created an emotional connection and with those four boxes convinced them already, " Yes, we want it, we want to work with you," they still need to rationalize it afterwards. They still need to say on our procurement spreadsheet, we still got to tick all of the boxes. So then you give them the information and then they say, " Thank you very much. You've smashed everything." So really the key takeaway here is emotion first, information second.

Kevin Yu: Danny, I feel I was just on a rollercoaster with you hanging on, waiting for you to save me, or take me to that future.

Danny Fontaine: Right. Well, think of a movie, think of your favorite movie. Just when you think everything's going right, the worst possible thing happens. And then all you can think about is, how can this person ever get out of this hole? And that's what you want them to do. You root for them. It's how our human brains work. And we pay a lot of money to go to the movie theater, to watch a two- hour piece of work. When we have to sit in front of a presentation, we dread it because we know it's going to be so boring and uninteresting. Well, how about we take the concept of a storyline from a movie, and we put it in our presentations? All of a sudden, your audience might even enjoy themselves.

Kevin Yu: So Danny, how would it change if there are people in the audience that are against the idea or detractors?

Danny Fontaine: It would change subtly, but it depends very much on the context. I think that if someone's already willing to listen to you, you can just tell them a powerful story. If they're a detractor, then there's more work to do in that idea of a paradigm shift. And this is where in my opinion, experiential selling comes in. Because again, we can't argue our way into a detractor. We can connect emotionally, and that can work as well. But really, what we want to do is get them to come to their own realization and change of mind themselves. And we want to nudge them there along the way. And one of the ways we can do that is pitch theater. How can we create a scenario and immerse our audience into a scenario? And I have so much fun with this. It's one of the reasons I love my job, because I'm always making up fictional scenarios. So for example, we worked with a large luxury department store, and they were sure that we weren't the company to actually do some of the customer facing work that we wanted to do. And we had tried to convince them rationally already, " Well, look at our credentials. Look what we've done for other people." And they're going, " No, you're just not as good as these other more exciting designer type agencies that we work with." So we got them over for a workshop, and we didn't tell them what was going to happen in the workshop. And I opened up the presentation, and I started talking about some random product or something. And then on the screen where I was presenting, we had a FaceTime call come in on the screen. And I said, " This is so embarrassing. I'm really sorry." I'm in front of these 30 senior people. " I just have to just answer this for a second." So I answer the call in the middle of the pitch, and it's a lady on the screen. And she said, " I know you're in the middle of a meeting, but I had to call you. I had to tell you I had a dream last night." And I'm going, " You called me in a meeting about a dream that you had?" And she goes, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, but it's really important. You see, I had this dream that I owned a luxury department store. And when I woke up, I spoke to some of my investment friends, and I just bought one." And she told me the name of this department store, and it just so happened to be next door to the department store of the people who were in the room with me. And essentially she said, " For one day only, all of the people in the room, you work for my company." And she left the call, and a balloon delivery man came in with logos of this new fictional company and spread them out everywhere. Baseball caps were handed out with this new logo. We turned the boards around that had the logo of our client to this new fictional logo. We essentially transformed the room in the space of two minutes. And with this short story that I prerecorded and built into the presentation, it really made them feel like they were part of another company. And then we proceeded to do some design thinking activities, where the number one goal was to beat the company that they currently work for in customer experience, in data and analytics, a few different categories. And they came up with all these ideas. And then at the end, my friend came back on the screen and said, " I'm really sorry. The deal's fallen through. The good news is you all can have your old jobs back." So then the last part of the day was getting them to get their ideas and pivot them to work for the current company that they worked with. And at the back of that, we had not only a million brilliant ideas, but we got awarded work with that particular client. And no longer did they think that we were not the people. So we changed their paradigms by immersing them in this experience.

Kevin Yu: I love it. You created an anomaly in that pitch.

Danny Fontaine: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, anomalies are a whole nother topic, but just to cover it quickly, you've heard me talk about this before. You've got to create anomalies. Ideally at the beginning of your presentations, you've got to create something out of the ordinary that wakes up your audience's brain and gets them to pay attention to what you're doing. Even the first slide of the presentation, this is kind of a huge tip here. People put company name, location, date on the first page of a presentation. Now often, this is the slide that has the most airtime, because it's up while everyone's entering the room, and having coffees, and people doing introductions. So even on that first slide, create something exciting. Create a point of view or find a way to inject some curiosity and intrigue into that very first slide. And you will set the presentation off in exactly the right way. And they will be wanting to know what you're going to say.

Kevin Yu: Well, Danny, since you mentioned about the title slide, and I like that the tip of seeding some curiosity, using that space and time. So you have here the audience of site reliability engineers. What would be your words are wisdom for SREs who as you know, sync a presentation is not complete without a topology and architecture chart? And how would it change if we were presenting, say to the head of IT or business?

Danny Fontaine: It always starts with the story. So find your compelling story. Either use that model that we discussed. Or much like the Elisha Otis story, which is one that I use to open presentations sometimes because it's exciting, but it also shows without me saying it, why my job exists and what I am trying to do by using the equivalent of someone in 1853. So I think stories are incredibly powerful. If you have a personal story, that can be the most powerful thing. I think that we've all got stories, because our lives, our memories, our experiences can all be told in stories. And so if we think back to some of the most pertinent moments of our lives, when did we overcome a huge challenge? When were we scared? When were we excited and happy? And thinking about examples of those things in our lives, you might just find that one of those stories has direct parallels to your audience, or at least to the message that you are trying to tell them. And if we can tell a personal, and especially if we can tell a vulnerable story, then the audience will immediately warm towards us in that subconscious way. So I think storytelling is at the absolute heart of all of this, and there's lots of different frameworks and methods you can do. But a personal vulnerable story is very powerful. In terms of the audience, it can change. But the problem that I face is that usually when we pitch, we pitch to five, six people, normally at least four. And they're often the different heads of different departments. So whilst they have different personality traits often, don't want to stereotype people too much. But those traits are often common across a CFO, a CEO, a CMO, etc. Different kind of colors of the DiSC profile. We can't please everyone all of the time, but what we can do is slightly tweak what we're going to do depending on those people. So if we've got someone who is very analytical in our audience, then we need to include that wealth of analytical information. We just don't want to put it first, because we've got someone else in our audience who just wants to know, " What are you going to do? How much is it going to cost?" And then I can leave the room. So you almost want to try and engage everyone emotionally, because no matter what job role you have, you have emotions. You are human. People say, " But this guy, he's the head of IT. He doesn't have emotions. I bet he cries at Star Trek." Everyone has emotions. And I'm sorry, that was stereotypical of me. I'm being facetious, but you get my point. Everyone has emotions, and if we can tap into them, we just got to figure out how. And then we need to direct certain parts of our proposition presentations, knowing that each of those characters in the room will want to hear something specific.

Kevin Yu: I know, I cried in Star Trek when Spock sacrificed himself, saving the Enterprise and the crew.

Danny Fontaine: Well, me too. I class myself as one of these people. I've been working in IT for years. It's just that I've got piercing and tattoos. People don't realize that my inner nerd... But yeah, absolutely.

Kevin Yu: So Danny, it has been an absolute pleasure. In closing, I always go back to the inspiration of this podcast. Danny, what would be your ingredient and recipe for people to convince others of taking on a sustainability challenge?

Danny Fontaine: Start by thinking, not doing. What are you trying to achieve here? What is your key message? And what arguments against your key messages might people have? And why are those arguments valid? You can't dismiss arguments. You've got to think, " Wow, why do they feel like that?" What do I need to do here? Do I need to excite an audience? Do I need to assure them? Do I need to scare them a bit? What is it that I actually need to do to move them into understanding where I'm coming from? And what are those individual people in an audience wanting to hear? Does the lady in the middle really want a promotion? Is that what her main reason for wanting this project to work for? Because if it is, then let's paint her a picture of everyone getting a promotion in two years time, when the press release goes out to the world about the achievements of this sustainability initiative. So think of all of the individuals. And then work on telling a story. And when you get to your presentation, think script first. Write what you're going to say, and then once you are happy with it, think what images or visuals will actually accentuate and elevate that message, rather than starting with slides and then putting the story afterwards. And hit that emotion first, information second thing. So start with stories, emotions, beautiful visuals, and then you are allowed to include architecture diagrams. That's okay. You don't have to cut them out, they've just got to come at the right time.

Kevin Yu: I love it. And hopefully, we'll be able to buy lots of sustainability omelets after.

Danny Fontaine: I hope so.

Kevin Yu: Thank you, Danny. I learned so much, and has been a dream come true to have you on the show.

Danny Fontaine: You're too kind. The pleasure was all mine. Thanks so much for having me.

Kevin Yu: I also like to thank you, the audience for listening. I am Kevin Yu, principal SRE of IBM Sustainability Software. See you on a future episode, where we continue to talk about how the practice of SRE can lead us to a more sustainable future.


Have you struggled to convince others of your idea? Be it to tackle a reliability problem or a sustainability challenge. In this episode, I have a conversation with Danny Fontaine - host of the Podcast Pitch Master on how to pitch SRE and Sustainability ideas.

Danny shared one of his favorite stories - the origin of the elevator pitch to get us started - and continued with many others including how he changed the paradigm of a customer by surprising them with a fictional scenario and won the deal.

Listen in as Danny transforms how you think about presenting and help you persuade others of your ideas.

Today's Host

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Kevin Yu

|Principal SRE, IBM Sustainability Software

Today's Guests

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Danny Fontaine

|Creative Director, UK & Ireland at IBM, Founder of Pitch Masters Podcast