Friday, January 27, 2012

Pitching – Preparing Your Presentation

I’ve been talking about how I construct the content of a pitch over the last few posts, but equally important is how you present your pitch. When I was starting out, many successful writers told me they memorized their pitch word-for-word. They would write it out in a very conversational style, memorize it, and then perform it like an actor. So that’s what I did.

It was frequently a disaster. I’m not an actor. I would get horrible stage fright upon launching into my story. And if I lost my place or forgot a line, my performance would frequently fall apart. Plus, sometimes the executive would interrupt me to ask questions or make suggestions. Since I’d memorized so specifically, I wasn’t easily able to adapt and that meant more nervousness and fumbling.

So I stopped memorizing. What I do now is create a bullet point outline for my pitch. Then I improvise the pitch based on that outline. I rehearse many times, often with other people, until I know it backwards and forwards. Things that get a good response in my rehearsals will lodge in my mind and I’ll tend to say them the same way in the future, but I don’t feel pressured to get it exactly right. And now my pitches are much more casual and conversational.

You don’t have to do it my way. Obviously word-for-word memorization works for a lot of other writers. I’d say do what makes you most comfortable. The one thing I wouldn’t suggest is reading verbatim from a page. That comes off as tedious and annoying.

If you memorize, you can carry a printout of your pitch to refer to if you get lost. Similarly, if you do an outline like me, you can hold a page with the bullet points, or bring index cards. It won’t raise any eyebrows in the meeting if you work from notes. Personally, I try to deliver my pitch without any reference material, but I do keep a bullet point outline convenient in the side pocket of my briefcase in case I completely blank out.

But that rarely happens because I’ve rehearsed so much. And rehearsal is key no matter what technique you employ. You will be nervous. We all are. And you have to be prepared for bizarre interruptions and distractions. So the more you’ve rehearsed, the better you’ll be able to handle the stress of the room.

You can rehearse into the mirror or to your teddy bear or to a spot on the wall, but I like to do at least a few pitches to actual people. It enables me to gauge their response to various things and I can find out where they get confused or misinterpret something. Rehearsing is the single greatest thing you can do to improve your pitching.

Next time I’ll discuss some of the things that will help you deliver your well-rehearsed pitch as effectively as possible.


On another note, if you’re going to be near Albuquerque on February 25th, you might want to check out the SouthWest Wrtiers Screen & Script Conference 2012 where I will be delivering a keynote. More info:

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