Creative Leadership

How to Pitch Your Ideas Successfully

How can you make your dream their dream?  It’s a great question if you’re a creative person. In many ways, the ability to present or “pitch” your ideas is one of the most important things you can learn in business – or life. Whether you’re trying to produce a movie, publish a book, get a raise, launch a business, find donors, or whatever, your ability to inspire others to your way of thinking is critical. So to make you better at presenting your brilliant ideas, here’s 10 important principles to keep in mind:

1) Someone once said, “A good idea is the worst thing in the world if it’s the only one you’ve got.”  Always bring in 3-5 ideas to present. In my experience, they rarely buy into the first idea out of the gate.

2) Do your Homework.  Learn everything you can about the person you’re pitching.  Check industry magazines, trade journals, the Internet, referrals, etc…  Get as much information about him or her before you walk into the room.  Never go in blind.

3) Even though it might take some time, if possible, don’t just pitch – develop a personal friendship.  When that happens it’s less awkward, and you have more access.

4) Instead of just trying to sell them, start by genuinely asking for their opinions and advice.  That takes the pressure off them and you’d be surprised how much it helps.

5) These are busy people, so limit the presentation to 3-5 minutes, and please don’t show up late.  Honor the appointment time.

6) A script, treatment, photos, or demonstrations can help, but don’t get cute.   The slickest presentation rarely wins. And if you do bring a handout such as a script or treatment, don’t give it out until the end.  Otherwise, they’ll be reading it and not listening to you.

7) After the meeting, give them time to think about it.  Don’t follow up too soon, or it will drive them crazy.  Give them a week or two at least. Call or email them every day and your career is over.

8) Learn to listen.  I once successfully pitched a TV special to a producer without saying a word.  (That’s another blog post.)  Just remember, a successful pitch isn’t just about you dominating the conversation.

9) There will often be an unexpected guest.  Accept it and don’t let it throw you.  It might be his best friend, business associate, or golf buddy.  Engage them just like the boss, and you’ll find they’re often the key to success.

10) Before you walk in the door, know what “success” means to them.  Sometimes movie studios aren’t as interested in making a profit as much as winning an Academy Award.  A business executive might be more interested in fame than money.  Understand their motivations and plan your presentation around that.

Above all – know that successful presenting isn’t an act.  The people you’re pitching to are smart and experienced and can smell a “con” a mile away.  Be real.  It will make a big difference.

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  1. It’s always about three things: your dream, their dream, and the relationship. How well they match up, creates a yes. Do your homework, never pitch cold, come with a win/win philosphy. And, bring your most enthusiastic vision of the project you can muster, if you’re not excited about it, they won’t catch the fire either.

  2. Phil – great article. I think the last sentence drives it home So often I find that people when they come in to pitch me on something are so noticeably fake that it makes me want to throw them out of my office. Can’t stand the over-the-top positivity, over-commitment mentality. No time for that.

  3. Thank you for this – I have some pitches coming up soon, and this really helped me to understand better what I should be working towards!

  4. Also remember that most people you’re pitching to are not the ones who make the final decision, so what you say needs to be easily re-state-able. Generally when I pitch, the person has a notepad in front of them and is writing stuff down, and one exec told me to basically “pitch to the notepad” — that is, make sure you know the kinds of key points that are going to be written down, in the simplest of terms, so they can say to their higher ups “Here’s what the show/movie/project is about; here’s how it’s going to be done.” Good practice is to pitch the idea to a friend, then ask them to pitch their one-minute version of your idea back to you and see how they interpreted things.

    Oh, and get the person to talk about themselves, which is why #2 is so important. I went to a meeting and knew all about the execs history as a low-level assistant on a show and we talked about that and when I left she literally said, “It’s so cool that you knew who I was.” And I got the job.

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