Catch my “How to Deliver the Optimal Pitch” session this Saturday at the TORONTO SCREENWRITING CONFERENCE! It’s going to be EPIC!
Preparing and delivering a full pitch is inherently stressful.
The source of that stress comes from a simple realization. Your project might get rejected.
In fact, getting a response is the ultimate point of a pitch. Here’s what I’m doing, do you want to be involved? There may be discussion, there may be requests for more information, but the act of pitching inherently invites a response.
Unfortunately, this can feel high risk and lead to a temptation to “soft pitch”. You know: to not prepare a full, polished pitch, to just have a roundabout “off-the-cuff” conversation about your project. Nothing polished, nothing prepared. No biggie.
“Just to test the waters.”
That’s the sound of that strategy backfiring.
This half-hearted approach may seem low risk. You’re not pushing for a final decision, you just want to see if there’s interest. The danger of a “casual discussion” is that the Decision Maker might nonetheless make an evaluation of your project and decide that it’s not for them.
Now. You. Are. Done.
You’ve run the marathon and tripped ten meters before the finish line!
There’s truth to the cliche: “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” It’ll be difficult, if not impossible, to come back to that Decision Maker and do a proper pitch with that project.
The most unfortunate thing is that you haven’t given your project the opportunity to be presented in the best way possible – with a polished pitch.
It’s a fine balance. If you must talk about your project in advance of a meeting, keep it brief and high level (think Elevator Pitch). A Decision Maker will let you know if you’re in the ball park and whether a more robust conversation is necessary and appropriate.
But the safest bet requires an investment of time and effort: create a strong, concise, polished pitch that’s engaging and compelling. That way, whatever response you get from the Decision Maker, you’ll know that you’ve at least crossed the finish line and presented your project in the best way possible.
Started the new year with a bang. Conducted a pitch lecture/workshop with members of Facebook group Women Drawn Together hosted by Super Sonics Post Production.
Workshopped three brave participants’ pitches.
Sometimes it feels like pitching is akin to begging.
It shouldn’t and here’s why: at the end of a successful pitch both parties should come away with something they want and need.
If that’s so, then why does it feel like there’s an imbalance of power favouring the Decision Maker? Why do pitchers often feel like they’re pleading?
It’s all about mindset.
A traditional definition of a pitch is “a concise presentation of an idea intended to attract development financing or support.”
Note the use of the word “attract”, not ask, not demand. But here’s a definition that better captures the essence of the process:
“Igniting interest and passion for an idea by connecting with another person through an emotionally engaging story.”
The goal of the pitch is not to change the mind of the Decision Maker or convince them to commit to the project. The goal is to ignite interest and passion.
The mindset is no longer: “Me vs. You”, now it’s: “I think this is amazing and here’s why…”.
It’s positive and persuasive.
If you can spark passion in the Decision Maker they’ll start seeing solutions, not problems. Once they’ve been captivated by your vision, they’ll move heaven and earth to make your project happen.
This definition also reveals how to connect with the Decision Maker: “through an emotionally engaging story”. If you can tell a compelling story that engages the emotions of your audience, you’re on the road to success.
Change your mindset. Remember: your project can help the Decision Maker achieve their goals. That’s a win-win.
Share your passion for your project and good things will happen.
Tactics to Manage Performance Anxiety
Do you like speaking in front of people?
Do you like being the centre of attention?
Many would answer an emphatic “No!” to both questions. Unfortunately, pitching involves putting oneself out there, in a big way. Pitching is Performing, there’s no way around it.
It reminds me of that Seinfeld joke: apparently people’s number one fear is speaking in public. Number two is dying. This means at a funeral most people would rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy!
So, what is performance anxiety and how do we manage it?
Symptoms include dry mouth, tight throat, clammy hands, trembling, perspiration, and nervous laughing.
There are effective tactics that can help us manage this stress and to perform better. They can be placed into two categories:
Physical Tactics: Slow deep breathing and stretching in advance will help burn off physical energy, increase oxygen to your brain and release positive endorphins. During the pitch, speak slowly, force yourself to smile, make eye contact and remember to take frequent pauses to gather yourself and stay relaxed.
Mental Tactics: Don’t think of your nervousness as a harbinger of failure. It represents an internal energy that can be harnessed to sharpen your focus and help make your delivery more emphatic.
Build confidence by honing your pitch well in advance. Practice, practice, practice. Rehearse your pitch until you’ve internalized it and you can deliver it naturally.
Remember: Decision Makers are looking for good projects and creative people to deliver them. They really want you to succeed.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Pitch!
THE OPTIMAL PITCH
Engage, Connect, Succeed.
How do you know if your pitch is working?
Is it engaging? Will it connect with the Decision Maker?
A successful pitch always puts its audience first.
How do you do that? Easy: road test your pitch! Do a dress rehearsal before you pitch your project in front of a Decision Maker. In fact, take your pitch out on the road as often as you can.
Deliver your pitch to friends, family, colleagues…anyone who will listen. Watch their reactions closely as your pitch unfolds.
Do they look captivated? Bored? Confused? Ask them which parts of your pitch didn’t make sense to them. Which parts were too long? Too short?
You derive a double benefit from these informal rehearsals:
You get valuable feedback to improve and hone your pitch;
You get to practice your pitch, internalizing it and making it more natural.
Embrace the feedback! Everyone may have a different opinion, but take note if the same concerns keep coming up. Now is the time to modify your pitch; make it stronger, leaner, more impactful.
Don’t be afraid to Road Test Your Pitch to take it to the next level!
You’ve finally got a meeting with a Decision Maker! Congrats! Now, make the most of your opportunity and deliver The Optimal Pitch by following these ten tips:
10 – KNOW YOUR TARGET – Who is your primary audience?
9 – DO YOUR RESEARCH – Know the Decision Maker’s needs and concerns.
8 – BE PREPARED – Know your content and anticipate questions.
7 – DON’T WASTE TIME – Hone and practice your pitch until it is concise and persuasive.
6 – LISTEN – To any feedback offered, register and adjust your pitch.
5 – BE FLEXIBLE – Be able to relay the key elements of your pitch in whatever time is available.
4 – DON’T ARGUE – It’s not a debate: acknowledge concerns, solve problems.
3 – BE COLLABORATIVE – Involve the Decision Maker, make it a true dialogue.
2 – BE BOLD – Take risks, be different, be original.
1 – NEVER PITCH IN A WASHROOM – Just no.
How to make the most of your time with a Decision Maker?
Find out at my upcoming session: “Banff 101: How to Deliver the Optimal Pitch” Sunday June 10th at 1:30 PM Cascade Room, Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.
The Optimal Pitch is coming to the world-renowned Banff festival (June 10th – 13th)!
Stay tuned, details to come.