By Steve Kayser, Expert Access
“Good in a Room” is a term used to describe professionals who pitch their ideas successfully to colleagues, clients and decision-makers. If you’re good in a room, when the time comes to present your ideas you’ll know just what to say and how to say it.
The “Ask the Expert” question below is about pitching a screenplay to a movie executive – but the do’s and don’ts work for just about selling anything if you think about it.
Answer by Stephanie Palmer, the author of the book “Good in a Room: How to to Sell Yourself (and Your Ideas) and Win Over Any Audience.”
WHAT ARE THE TOP OUR DO’S AND DON’TS OF A GREAT STORY PITCH?
Start your short pitch by identifying the genre.
Without this crucial piece of information, it’s easy for the listener to make incorrect assumptions about your story and get confused. For example, if a writer tells me that he’s got a story that involves the CIA, I could assume it’s a thriller like Three Days of the Condor when it’s really a drama like The Good Shepherd or a comedy like Meet the Parents. Genre is the most important piece of context for your story. Lead with it.
Focus on as few main characters as possible.
You know these characters; the potential buyer doesn’t. Stories with one or two protagonists are the easiest for listeners to remember and understand.
Be brief, then listen.
No decision-maker has ever said after a pitch, “I wish they talked longer.”
The more you talk, the less they hear.
Identify patterns of feedback.
When did they smile? Where did they get confused? What were you asked first? Over the course of several meetings, certain questions will recur–that tells you where you need to improve your pitch, your project, or both.
Give a positive opinion of your own work, e.g.,
“This is a great story and you’re going to love it.” Just like every parent thinks their child is brilliant and every dog owner thinks their pet is adorable, it’s expected that you are a fan of your own work. When > you give your work a positive evaluation, it shows that your desire
for approval is greater than your interest in the other person’s honest feedback. Instead, let the listeners form their own opinions.
Refuse to categorize your project.
If your project doesn’t have a clear genre, this doesn’t demonstrate uniqueness or originality. It shows that your work isn’t ready to be sold. Think of your project like a book. There are many extraordinary, original books in the bookstore–and they are organized by genre. There is no shelf at your local bookstore for “Books That Defy Categorization.”
Talk about who else is involved (unless they’ve got skin in the game).
For example, don’t say, “So-and-so read it and loved it.” This begs the question: if someone read the script and loved it, why didn’t they buy it? If a star really wanted to attach herself to the project, she would. If a financier really wanted to make the movie, he’d invest. Anything short of that works against you.
Disagree in the room.
Too often, I have seenpeople ruin their chances to get hired and make sales by arguing in the first meeting. You don’t have to agree with every suggestion, just smile
and say, “Let me think about that idea and I’ll get back to you.”