Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Art of the Pitch - Part 2

Whether you’re a director, producer or writer, at some point, you will need to learn the art of the pitch. No matter if you are a low-budget or independent media or film maker, or whether you work in the studio system, you will need someone to either greenlight your project or fund your film or TV project.

I want to share what’s worked for me over the years. I have been in countless pitch sessions whether it’s to raise money or to pitch a program idea to a network or TV station, it’s all basically the same approach.

I’ve nailed it down to five points that’s helped me. By following this formula, you concentrate on the big picture. If you do that well, the small things will take care of themselves.

Number 3

Are you knowledgeable? Have you done your homework or your research? Trust me. If you don’t know what you are talking about, almost any professional in the business will be able to detect that you don’t have any idea of what you are doing. You might as well head for the door because the pitch session is over. Being knowledgeable means you must able to handle any question that is thrown your way. In other words, think it out before you get to the meeting. I’ve had questions asked of me that I never saw coming. Don’t be a deer in the headlights. As you gain experience in pitching, it does get easier. Here’s one thing that can help. Know something about the people you are pitching to. I understand this sounds extremely basic.

Over the years, I can’t count the times that people have come to me with an idea, concept, or script or were looking for a job and didn’t know anything about me or my ministry. There’s no other way to put it except to say that this indicates that this is someone who’s not on top of their game. If they had just spent ten minutes online looking at our website, they would have been light years ahead. If they had done their research, they would have realized we were not the right organization or ministry to be pitching to in the first place. Don’t waste your time or theirs. Know their interests and passion and what they will support before you ever schedule a meeting.

Number 4

Have a plan. If you’ve been successful in establishing your credibility; you’ve been capable of projecting confidence, and you are knowledgeable about your project or idea, you are in the game. They have listened to the concept or the big picture, and they like what they’ve heard. Now they want the details. Have a plan. Have something in writing. This is the part of the presentation of the who, what, where, when, why and how.

You can do this by PowerPoint, video, flip charts—whatever you are comfortable with. The important thing is that it look professionally produced. In every pitch session, you have to read your audience. Some people like a lot of information, and other don’t. So it’s important to know when to stop and not overwhelm them. The best advice is to come over-prepared. But don’t use it unless you need it.

Number 5

Closing the deal. It’s amazing that you can do all the above steps flawlessly and still walk out of the room without a yes. The final step is the most critical in the entire process. Almost anyone in a pitch session will have some reservations no matter how good your project or idea sounds. Your goal is to close the deal. Don’t put yourself in a situation where they can say yes or no. If you give them that choice, chances are you’re going to lose. Give them a choice between Option A or Option B. Both lead to the answer you want.

For example, if I was pitching my show to a network, I would ask them do they want the program in a 28:30 format or in a 30 minute format. Somehow, this approach just works. By suggesting in this manner, it’s as if everyone in the room has agreed that the project is a go. Obviously, it doesn’t work every time, but I have had success with it.

Let me say it one more time. Never give them a choice between yes or no.

Bottom Line

There’s no easy answers on how to know the art of the pitch. You just have to do it and keep doing it. The biggest challenges are getting over your nervousness and getting feedback. Sometimes you never know what you are doing. It’s those nervous habits that can sometimes destroy a pitch session. Maybe you’re taking your hand to your mouth or you’re fidgeting with your tie.

Practice makes perfect. Work with some friends. Pitch your ideas or concept and let them critique you. Just try not to get too overwhelmed. Take a deep breath and just breathe—easy in and easy out.

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