This article first appeared in SSN Insider.
A great meeting gets off to a strong start. Unfortunately, even professionals occasionally make these seven “rookie” mistakes in the first few minutes of the meeting.
Luckily, once you know what they are, these mistakes can easily be avoided.
Mistake #1: Assuming they remember you
You’ve set a meeting with a network president or studio head.
In the days leading up to the meeting, you probably think about it frequently. And on the day of the meeting, it’s probably your only meeting.
For the decision-maker, it will be one of a dozen meetings they have that day, interspersed with (literally) a hundred phone calls as well as interruptions, time-sensitive crises, and more. So when you walk in the room, the decision-maker has a lot going on and often the first thought they have when they shake your hand is, “Who is this person and why am I meeting with them?”
The solution is to help them out by introducing yourself, e.g.:
“Hi, I’m (your name). I met (person who got you this meeting) at (recent event).”
“Hi, I’m (your name). (Agent’s name) set this up so I could talk to you about (project name).”
Mistake #2: Pitching too soon
Building rapport and warming up the room should be your first priority in the meeting. If you haven’t established a warm rapport, the buyer is probably not listening to your pitch—he’s still gauging what he thinks of you.
Build rapport first and when you start pitching you’ll have the decision-maker’s attention.
Then, even if the decision-maker doesn’t want to buy your project, you’ll be more likely to get a future meeting—and the chance to pitch again.
Mistake #3: Not including everyone in the room
Occasionally, your pitch meetings will have more than just you and the executive in the room. Sometimes you’ll be pitching to a group.
Even if you think you know who the most powerful person in the room is, introduce yourself to each person, make eye contact, and include everyone in the audience for your pitch.
Mistake #4: Putting yourself down
A common attribute of professional screenwriters is self-deprecation.
A self-deprecating comment can show humility, humor, and can lower expectations—and sometimes, that’s useful.
However, in the context of a pitch meeting (which is like a job interview) you don’t get credit for saying things like:
“I’m not very good at pitching.”Buyers want to do business with professionals, not amateurs. Act confident, even if you’re not (yet).
“I’m pretty inexperienced.”
“This is my first time pitching this.”
Mistake #5: Starting by “pumping up” your project
Many writers start their pitch with the most common pitching mistake.
Don’t use a “pump-up” preamble that contains sentences like:
“Everyone is going to want to see this.”These sentences have the opposite effect. Instead of whetting the decision-maker’s appetite, it irritates them.
“The lead role has Oscar written all over it.”
“You’ll be laughing out loud.”
Every dog owner thinks their pet is adorable. Every parent thinks their child is brilliant. It’s expected that you are a fan of your own work. Don’t say it in the room.
Mistake #6: Talking too fast
When you talk fast, you seem nervous.
You may not think you’re talking too fast. But often people who talk too fast don’t know that they are talking too fast, and decision-makers aren’t likely to pull you aside after the meeting to tell you.
Most writers are so eager to present their ideas (and have them be liked) that as soon as they start pitching, the decision-maker feels like they’re being firehosed with a spray of words.
Remember, the decision-maker is hearing your pitch for the very first time. They need more time to absorb the awesomeness of what you’re saying.
Mistake #7: Talking too much
Often due to nerves, many people get “ramble-itis” when they get into the room.
Instead of answering a simple question with a few sentences, they talk for three minutes without coming up for air. Anytime there’s a slight pause, they fill up the space. They give WAY too much detail, share personal issues, and go off on tangents.
Keep your answers simple and focus on the best things you have to say. Remember, the more you talk, the less they hear.
If you avoid these seven mistakes, you’ll get through the first few minutes of the meeting and be seen as a professional.
Then, your pitch will get the attention it deserves.