Apr 30 2010

Game Poem 15: The Pitch

....and Chewbacca, for some reason.

The Pitch is a game for at least four players. (It should accommodate up to eight or so fairly well, and may even work with two or three.) Players will take the parts of employees of a company who are attempting to sell a particular product or service, and their clients or potential clients who will be deciding whether or not to buy what they’re selling.

To start, decide what you’ll be pitching or deciding to pay for. A long-term insurance policy? A remodel of a house or building? A new sports car? An advertising campaign, building a web service, or developing a new image? A collection of antique brass keys? A camping trip? A new kitchen gadget? Partnership in a communal living arrangement? It could be anything at all, as long as everyone thinks it’s okay, and it sounds a little fun. Don’t worry about picking the perfect thing – just throw out some ideas, and talk about it for less than a minute or so before grabbing something that sounds good.

Now, split up the players into the pitchers and the clients. The sides should be the same size, if possible. It’s better to err on the side of more clients, so if you have an odd person, make the extra player a client. Now find yourself somewhere to play – have the clients and pitchers sit across a table from each other, if you can. Oh, you’ll need a regular deck of playing cards, too. Grab some, shuffle them up, and have a seat.

There are two things to set up before you start playing. First, each player draws a card from the deck, and does not look at it. Do not look at your own card! Show it to the other players, and then put the card somewhere on your person where all the other players can get a good look at it while you’re playing – on your forehead, in your hat band, poking out of a shirt pocket – but where you are not able to see it at all. This first card is an indicator of how important you are to the rest of the group, and they will behave accordingly. So, a two or three is pretty low on the totem pole – maybe you’re an intern, or if you see that a client is a two, you don’t care about their business at all, or maybe the guy trying to sell something to you is a three, and you’ve already blown them off in your mind. Likewise, someone showing a face card is fairly high status – a king might be the CEO of the company, or a very rich, very influential client that you’ve been courting for a long time, or maybe just someone that you’ve had a crush on since high school. Try your best to keep your card visible to everyone else throughout the game, to give the other players a constant reminder of how important – or unimportant – you are.

The second thing you need to do before you begin is to draw a second card – this time, you will look at the card, and make sure that none of the other players see it. This is your motivation, or objective during the game. Look up the value of your card on the following list, and use the corresponding item to inspire you during the negotiations:

* Ace: You actually genuinely care about this product or service, and whether you’re a client or a pitch man, you really want this deal to work out as well as possible for everyone involved.

* Two: You are extremely attracted to one of the other players. Look around and choose someone now! You will do everything in your power to get them to go out, make out, or sleep with you.

* Three: You are sick and tired of the company or team that you’re part of now, and you want to leave and join the other side as soon as possible. Don’t let your current partners know, though – you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

* Four: You just want this meeting to be over with. You want to get out of here and get home. Maybe your kid’s soccer game is starting right now, maybe your wife is taking the day off and waiting for you, or maybe it’s just a beautiful day out.

* Five: All you care about is money, having money, and taking it from other people. If you’re a client, you basically want whatever they’re selling for free. If you’re pitching, you will squeeze every last dime out of these suckers, and then some.

* Six: You are very, very, very hungry. You didn’t eat breakfast, you skipped lunch to get here on time, and all you want to do is fill your belly with tasty, tasty food. There is no food at the pitch meeting, unfortunately, unless someone brought some.

* Seven: You are extremely religious, and enjoy proselytizing deeply. You would very much like to convince someone in this room to change their religion to yours. It doesn’t matter if they’re on your side already or not.

* Eight: You have to go to the bathroom very badly, but can’t leave the room until the meeting has been concluded.

* Nine: You are in a terrible mood for some specific reason. Something that someone here did, perhaps? You will turn down anything that anybody suggests to you, and won’t be happy until everyone else is as miserable as you are.

* Ten: You really don’t care if this deal goes through or not. What you do care about very much is whether or not every single person here likes you. You want to be everyone’s best friend, and vice versa.

* Jack: You just got an offer from a competitor this morning, and you jumped on it. You haven’t signed the papers yet, but if this deal goes badly, your new gig will benefit greatly. Don’t blow it, but don’t tip your hand too soon.

* Queen: You aren’t especially concerned about the business side of things here at all. What you are concerned with is making sure that everybody with a stake in this deal feels okay about everything that happens.

* King: The most important thing in the world, whether the deal happens or not, is that everybody in your presence recognizes what a smart and intelligent person you are. Much, much smarter than they are, in fact.

Once everybody has taken a look at their objective card and had a moment to think about it, and has also had a chance to look around at the relative importance of all the other players, it’s time to get going! Set a timer for ten or fifteen minutes, and let the pitchers begin their spiel. Interact normally with each other, and try to behave as if the status cards and your motivations are real and compelling. Whatever is said by the players should generally be accepted as truth during the game, so try not to cancel out or invalidate something that someone says without a very good reason.

When the timer goes off, the meeting is over, and you must immediately decide if the deal is off or on. Take a minute or so to come to a decision, shake hands, and wrap up. (After everything is settled, take a look at your own status card, and see if you were able to figure out how important you were, based on how the other players were treating you!)