Saturday, 4 October 2014

Common mistakes made while pitching

Stephanie Palmer is a consultant, development executive, and the author of Good in a Room. She was a studio executive at MGM and has been featured on the Today Show, NPR, and the LA Times. In 2005, she founded a consulting company and blog that helps professionals inside and outside the film industry learn to pitch and advance their projects.
   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.”
“I’m pretty inexperienced.”
“This is my first time pitching this.”
Buyers want to do business with professionals, not amateurs. Act confident, even if you’re not (yet).

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.”
“The lead role has Oscar written all over it.”
“You’ll be laughing out loud.”
These sentences have the opposite effect. Instead of whetting the decision-maker’s appetite, it irritates them.
    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.


Kathy Smart said...

American society is all about personality, isn’t it? This is a valuable talk about pitching by an experienced player in the movie industry. She makes 5 points and then answers 5 questions. She is very personable and makes it all seem so logical!

Verbally transferring information in order to get someone to act
The person who is listening to the pitch
Whether or not they will support your idea in a way which moves it forward
Successful, charismatic

1. Start by stepping back
Don’t start too far in. “My project is…” Entrepreneurs know all the details of the project but need to provide background, contextualise how this meets decision maker’s goal. Assess audience expectations, level of expertise. Start with opening statement making it easy to understand your idea.
2. Write your pitch to be spoken
Use a pace at which listeners can absorb information.
Remember, can’t use bullets, headers, footnotes, allow re-reading or skimming, in a verbal pitch.
Be careful about level of detail. Make sentences short, brisk and direct.
3. Let the audience be the judge
Avoid telling the decision maker what to think or how to feel. Do not say: “You’re going to love this. I have an amazing idea for you. This project could be a game-changer. This project could revolutionise the industry.” High level decision makers hear these phrases all the time.
Decision makers resent being told how to think or feel. Instead, use third party validation. Someone who has credibility with that decision maker.
4. Sell yourself as well as your idea
Decision makers are investing in your ability to bring your idea to life. Are you uniquely qualified to deal with obstacles and changes on the way? Answer the hidden question.
First category of questions: talking about the product.
• What is it
• What’s it for
• How much does it cost
• What’s the time line
Second category of question relates to pitcher and their team
(i) How did you come up with this idea?
Decision maker is really asking what unique expertise or experience you have that allowed you to see this opportunity.
Answer: “I have been obsessed with this question for 9 years, I did my grad school thesis on it. I invested my own money to build a model. Then my key insight came when I realised it was significantly more efficient than I thought.”
(ii) What are your goals/what made you interested in this idea in the first place? What are some challenges you are looking forward to?
Pretend the decision maker has asked you: Do you have a story that exemplifies your expertise? Or, How does your personal philosophy relate to our company’s goals? Or, Why should I trust you?
This is an opportunity to sell self and unique expertise.
To develop answer to this question, Assess how you are different from people who do a similar job. Think about stories you could share that exemplify your expertise. Why are you the best person to bring your idea to life?
5. Development is the process of taking an initial idea and converting it into concrete plans that can be funded or implemented.
Core problems to a main idea come out when the pitch is being created. Anytime you have a project, take an hour and write a short pitch. A one or two sentence encapsulation of the idea. Assess it and see if you can improve it. Test it on friends and colleagues. Where do they nod or smile? Where do they frown? What questions do they ask you? What questions did they ask first?
Rework pitch and try again. A good pitch enables someone to act and say, “I can help. OR I know someone who can help.”
Criteria – develop idea when get sense friends and colleagues want to support you with the idea.

Kathy Smart said...

And here are the answers she gave to the 5 questions:

Elevator pitches
You should never pitch in an elevator, when you only have a moment of access with someone. It does not give them time to buy into your idea. Also don’t pitch to just anyone with a one-size-fits-all pitch. High level buyers expect a level of customisation. An effective pitch is customised to a specific person in a specific situation.

Pitch decks
It is very hard to effectively convey data in a pitch. If you use a pitch deck, remember it is not the pitch. It is visual back up for you. A human can talk, make eye contact, and respond, customising the pitch. Often decision makers have to re-pitch. What is that one piece of data you want remembered, that one story, that they can remember and use when they re-pitch why they need to do business with you.

How to figure out the audience
Put yourself in the decision maker’s shoes. Research everything about them: Age, gender, time in company, what time of year would be best for them to receive your solution. Position personalisation in the beginning of the pitch.

How to handle requests for change
Practice pitch early to make changes earlier to try to prevent outrageous requests for change. If ridiculous request, save the relationship rather than just saying no.

Focus on selling company as solution rather than selling self as person. If you are going to be contact, be human face to the company. Demonstrate you are a real person. “This is how I solved a similar problem with a company similar to yours”, or share personal story from childhood or college where you had a specific way to solve this problem.