An agency review is a lot like cleaning out a closet. You keep putting it off because it’s messy and inconvenient, and it forces you to confront some decisions you are not entirely proud of. Deep down, though, you know you need to do it and you’ll feel so much better once it’s done.

Guess what I did? Nope, not the closet; the other thing. You would think that an agency pitch would be a pretty good time: lots of high-energy stuff, pretty things to look at and spirited creative banter. Maybe on TV that’s true, but at the end of the day, they’re like any other sales presentation, except that the case studies have music.

If you are an agency, or if you would like to be an agency, or maybe just be a little better at selling stuff, here are my Dos and Don’ts for agency reviews, most of them scribbled while I was enduring yet another Machead attempting to work the projector.

Ben's sleeping bag takes a bath

Don’t complain about how little time you have for your pitch. You’re supposed to be an expert at making a good impression in a short amount of time. Go do that.

Do bring a dongle so your Mac will work with grown-up hardware.

Don’t turn your presentation into a strategy session about a current project.

Do run the meeting: it’s not your client’s job to keep you on track and on time.

Don’t look surprised when, after the time is up, everyone stands up and leaves. Your genius is not so vast that it outranks a budget meeting.

Do leave time for questions; this is not a 90-minute commercial.

Don’t make stuff up. It just isn’t attractive watching an account director pull complete twaddle out of her rear end in public.

Do show examples: they illustrate your capabilities far more effectively than a slide full of client logos and a photo of your awards shelf.

Don’t disappear the account manager without explanation just before the agency review. Your clients are going to wonder where they are. They are going to ask. And they are going to judge.

Do call if you don’t understand the brief or the rationale. The worst that happens is your client thinks you’re stupid.

Don’t spend the entire presentation walking the room through your brilliant market-share-grabbing-customer-nirvana-building model. I know you paid Deloitte a lot for it, but nobody really understands it and that’s not what you were asked to do.

Do read what you’re sent. When you get the invitation to the pitch meeting, and it refers to a brief, go ahead and have a look to see if there is an attachment. That way, you won’t spend an hour talking and talking while your prospective client wonders what the hell you’re doing.

Don’t tell me about your digital department. That’s like telling me you have lines painted in your parking lot, and it makes me feel like your answer to the digital thing is to hire people young enough to think Kraft Dinner is food and call that your bold move into the future.

Do remember to remove the other clients’ names from the pitch decks you reuse. We will see it, and some of us are rude enough to ask about it.

Don’t spend your entire hour talking to the person in the room you believe to be the decision-maker. First, it’s rude and second, sometimes, you are wrong and you are scaring the pants off the guy from HR who is job shadowing this week.

Do make an effort to bring along at least one or two people your client has actually met before. Anything less makes us feel cheap.

Don’t be afraid to follow up when you don’t get the work. Most clients are happy to tell you why you didn’t make the cut.

Do proofread your presentation. I can’t believe I need to tell you this.

Don’t show examples of your work that have absolutely no relevance to the business you are pitching. I’m sure your mum is very proud of your work for Adidas and Madonna, but that doesn’t cut the mustard when you’re talking to a systems integration company.

Do make some attempt to understand the company you are pitching. Like, I don’t know, maybe look at their website or something. That way, when they ask you how your experience applies, you don’t blurt out “oh, you were serious about the industrial gases? Man, who knew that was a real thing?”

Do send a lovely note thanking the client for their consideration, even if you didn’t get the work.

Don’t forward an email chain in which you refer to the client contact as “The Woman”. The Woman doesn’t like it.