Three advice on pitching

I’ve been pitching things for over a decade – from ready-made shows to interactive concepts, from television formats to transmedia projects. I’ve pitched to all kinds of people; investors, buyers, jurys, collaborators, colleagues… you name it.

Lately I’ve been asked to hold some pitching workshops for PhD students and researchers at the university I’m affiliated to (the Abo Akademi University here in Finland), looking at the task from a storytelling perspective. While preparing the workshops, I had reason to revisit some things I’d written and read about pitching, and pitching transmedia projects in particular. My post is from 2010, while the second link, leading to Nuno Bernardo’s book on how to pitch transmedia projects, is from earlier this year.

Reading both of them, and mentoring these PhD students and researchers with their project pitches brought back some realizations:

Your pitch is probably the least stable part of your project. Your pitch is the window into your project, the window that most people will see your project through. It’ll be affected by a multitude of things – how your project is evolving and what new turns and twists it may take, what kind of an audience it is that you are pitching to, and not least how the world around you is changing by the minute. As it’s always a great thing to be able to hook your pitch to something current (along the lines of ”I just read this morning that… ” and showing how your project deals with that issue or adresses part of that challenge) that means that your pitch needs to move with the times as well.

The story always comes first. Be it your own personal story into the issue and the project, or the story of the project itself, or the story that is at the heart of your show or your transmedia tale or whatever it is that you’re pitching, the story always comes first. With every pitch, you’re asking the people you’re pitching to use their imagination to follow you on a journey. The more compelling and interesting and engaging and immersive you can make your story, the better they will be able to do so. Make them feel that sense of wonder and discovery that you yourself can feel when you’re watching a great movie or reading a great book, and they’ll follow you to whatever conclusion you want as a result of the pitch. And – to be noted – people don’t listen to ideas, people listen to people. Rehearse your pitch a lot, just to be able to make it feel genuinely authentic and passionate, so that your audience can connect with you. If you’re not passionate about your project, why on earth should they be?

You know your project’s every detail – but that doesn’t mean they should go in the pitch. Overpitching has been a flaw of mine from time to time. I believe I’ve even lost a couple of sales through that particular flaw – being so excited about how excited a possible sponsor or buyer has been that I’ve elaborated on points not truly clear yet, or confusing, and thereby having the counterpart pulling back. Since then I’ve learned that all those details that make up the nuts and bolts of a project, those are details that are great to keep in mind to be pulled forth when needed, but not things that should be included in the main pitch. One good advice with those details, is that always have them connected to a minor story as well, hooked to perhaps a colleague or a user case or suchlike (i.e. ”yeah, that’s what my colleague has been working on, and after a weekend of laboring, she’s solved it like this…”) . Basically – know all the facts and have them at the ready, but let them be carried by stories as well. And yes, this goes doubly for transmedia projects, where the details are many and the chances of going awry in the pitch even more so.

Happy and successful pitching, everyone. I’ll go prepare some of my own now ☺

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