Whether you’re a creative or an entrepreneur, a pitch is your Olympic moment, an opportunity to show your best in front of the ultimate audience: your buyer. Take the gold or else be forgotten with the pack. Countless ideas abound — and many are fantastic — but the difference between an idea and something of value is putting the muscle in.
I make a living buying and selling ideas — things that don’t exist yet. As a TV producer, I ask networks and studios around the world to invest a hell of a lot of money to deliver on something that has never been done before. Over the years, I’ve gotten good at it. I’m one of the rare few people on the planet who have developed, pitched, and sold original series across traditional broadcast and cable networks, plus digital and over-the-top platforms. My shows have been broadcast in more than 55 countries around the world.
By now, I know that a good pitch hinges on a great idea. But what most creatives don’t realize is that you have to break that idea. You must smash it, twist it, and roll it around before you can communicate it so simply that you could tell a stranger in the coffee line the concept and he’d reply, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Only then do you have a solid pitch.
The Essentials for a Successful Pitch.
A pitch starts with a story that has a clear beginning, middle, and end. Engaging your audience members with a good story will have them reaching for a drink and (almost) forgetting that they’re even being pitched.
Don’t forget the good, clean visuals. I use Keynote presentations, and I keep the message simple and clear. When appropriate, a teaser or sizzle reel — a video lasting perhaps 90 seconds to three minutes — is worth the effort and is another way to show your commitment and belief in the project. If your sizzle reel is five minutes, it’s not ready.
When the pitch ends, have a prepared booklet or leave-behind materials that pack in all the details that would have muddied your presentation. No matter if it’s a one-pager or a detailed booklet, thoughtful literature that’s neatly printed and bound will remind executives of your pitch and the work you put into it.
How to Make Your Pitches Extra Special.
Creating a pitch takes time. Every pitch is different, just as every story is different. I’ve spent days trying to determine how to most effectively communicate a unique hook or selling point to a specific audience. You have to reinvent your pitch, your tone, and your style every time.
Here are five of my top tips for putting your best pitch forward.
1. Definitely don’t wing it.
Success comes from execution, which means repetition. Practice makes progress, so rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Practice your pitch on friends, family, and colleagues. The more you test it, the more relaxed you’ll be when the time comes to sell it. Being at ease helps transform a pitch into a conversation, which makes the audience lean in wanting to hear more instead of checking their watches.
Some people don’t practice because they fear someone will steal their ideas. I say don’t covet your ideas. No one will put in the hard work that you will to craft and present the idea in an undeniable package, so rest assured in your pitch’s uniqueness.
While you practice, pay attention to body language. If your listeners’ eyes glaze over, if they scrunch their faces or check their phones, you’re not selling them. If you can’t sell it to your buddies or a stranger at a dinner party in 30 seconds, you won’t sell it to a buyer in a presentation.
2. Razzle-dazzle ’em.
Enter every pitch like you’re the most interesting person on the planet. After all, you are married to the concept, so make the audience fall in love with you, too. When people ask how you’re doing, don’t answer with, “Fine.” Tell an amazing story about your day that will engage and relax your audience.
Enjoy yourself as you make the pitch, and your buyer will enjoy the ride as well. In this way, you must learn how to pitch without pitching. Make the audience want to simply spend more time with you — which will lead to their doing more business with you. You don’t have act like you just gulped a six-pack of energy drinks, but you should entertain your audience.
3. Consider context and timing.
Always consider the wider optics when preparing a pitch. Put yourself in your client’s shoes, and make sure you’re aware of what’s going on in their world. What’s on their minds that would relate to your idea? Is there something in the media that could adversely impact your pitch? Is now the right time? In pitching, timing matters more than you think.
Check what is and isn’t working on for your audience right now to be sure that your idea is in demand at this point in time.
4. Build entire icebergs.
Treat your pitch as an iceberg: The presentation is the shimmering object you show the buyer, and you’ll show them only the prettiest bits. But below the surface is a massive foundation that supports the idea. The foundation doesn’t have to live within the pitch, but the hard work must be present to hold up the idea. Without that foundation, your pitch will fall flat, and your idea won’t live.
5. Get back to work.
If the audience isn’t buying, your first step is to simplify your story. Then do it again. Economize your storytelling by using riveting, evocative phrases and imagery to hook your audience. But don’t make every pitch a clone of your previous. After each presentation, spend time revising your style and tone. Even after successful pitches, it might be helpful to imagine what you could have done differently.
In the end, the strength of your pitch will come down to the hard work you put into developing idea. People pitch me ideas every day, and great ones come at least once a week. But nine times out of 10, people expect me to turn a great idea into a fortune for them. They don’t have the perseverance to fight for it. So learn how to pitch yourself, tell a good story, simplify your pitch, practice it, and then simplify it again. Soon, you’ll be unstoppable and your ideas irresistible.
Wes Dening is the senior vice president of development and programming at Eureka Productions. Wes is an award-winning producer and content creator with more than 15 years of on-screen and production experience and television series broadcasting in more than 55 countries. Wes has extensive experience selling content and growing businesses.