Stephanie Palmer
Stephanie Palmer

Blake was a big fan of Stephanie Palmer, a pitch consultant who helps creative people sell their work. She was a studio executive for MGM where she had more than 3,000 pitch meetings. You can sign up for her free course, “7 Days To Creating A Better Pitch For Your Screenplay” on her “Good in a Room” blog. It’s rare for us to republish a blog, but we think Stephanie’s advice will resonate for you:

Want to get better at pitching in an instant?  Don’t make this extremely common mistake.

Seasoned pros and beginners alike, at some point in their pitch, tell the decision-maker what decision they should make.

To raise your game, when you are pitching your idea/script/project in a pitch meeting, don’t:

Make predictions about financial success

* “This will be a big hit.”

* “It has great international appeal.”

* “Everyone is going to want to see this.”

* “My project is a guaranteed moneymaker.”

* “It’s commercial.”

* “This will be #1 at the box office.”

Make predictions of other kinds of success

* “The lead role has Oscar written all over it.”

* “This script will change the world.”

* “This project will inspire people.”

Tell them how they will think or feel

* “You’re going to love this.”

* “You’ll be laughing out loud.”

* “This is the best thing you’ll read this year.”

Give your own positive opinion of your own work

* “I’ve got a great idea for you.”

* “I have an amazing project.”

* “I love the story in this script.”

What’s The Problem?

Isn’t this just harmless self-promotion to communicate confidence and enthusiasm?

Not in this case. When you rave about yourself and your project, you’re intruding on the decision-maker’s turf by telling them what to think, how to feel, and what their opinion should be.

Imagine a couple circumstances where you’re the decision-maker….

Watching American Idol

An American Idol contestant gets up, and before she sings, she says to the audience:

“I just want to let you know that I love the way I sing this song, I think you’re going to love it the most out of all the performances tonight, and after I’m done, I know you’re going to vote for me.”

Or would you rather just have her sing and decide for yourself?

On A First Date

You meet your date at a coffee shop, and right after you sit down at a table together, he says:

“Before we get started getting to know each other, let me just tell you what a great conversationalist I am. I have some excellent personal stories that will make you laugh. I’m also terrific in bed and I’m confident that you’ll be in love with me by the end of the evening.”

Or would you just rather go on the date and decide for yourself?

Irritating the Decision-Maker

The truth is that most decision-makers don’t want to hear your predictions about success, and they don’t want to be told how to think and feel.

* You say: “This will be a #1 hit movie.” They think: “Oh, good—you’re a fortune teller now. Can I get some lottery numbers?”

* You say: “You’re going to love this!” They think: “Really? I’m so glad you know how I’m going to respond.”

* You say: “I have an amazing idea for you.” They think: “You’ve concluded that your own idea is a winner? I’m stunned.”

Decision-makers want to decide for themselves–just as you do when you’re the decision-maker.

Communicate Confidence in Three Steps

I hope you can see that when you promote yourself and your work in a pitch meeting, it doesn’t demonstrate confidence.  It just annoys the decision-maker.

Instead, try these three steps:

1.  Let other people say great things about you.

Your agent, your producer, other executives who have worked with you, can talk about your work and say, “This is the best script I’ve read this year.”

Validation of you and your work from a third-party is much more credible.

2.  Let your pitch have the focus.

Here’s what communicates confidence:  just pitching your story. No pre-qualifications, no “pumping up” the executive or raving about how great it is in advance. Simply tell the story.

3.  Let the decision-maker form their own opinions.

Give the decision-maker the space to think, feel, and form opinions on their own. Let them be the judge. After all, they are.