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Report – CMC SkillBuilder: Building a Pitch

Posted on: Wednesday 04 July 2018 12:30am by Tom Jordan

An esteemed panel of experts guided delegates through the daunting world of pitching, putting would-be pitchers through their paces in a round-table format and offering invaluable advice from a diverse range of industry sectors.

Takeaway:

·     A good pitch is all in the preparation.

·     Pitching is about your idea, but it is also about you and the conversations that might develop.

·     Short is sweet – commissioners can sit through more pitches in a fortnight than you are likely to give in a lifetime.

 Detail:

They said this session would be ‘intensive’  – and they weren’t joking!

Over the course of four hours, delegates were schooled hard in the art of putting together an eye-catching pitch. The process was simple, but hugely effective: each of the 10 experts (who moderator and producer Justine Bannister described as having over 300 years of experience between them!) took a position at a table, and delegates moved round the room to pitch their idea. The expert gave very constructive feedback on how the pitch technique could be improved, before the delegate moved on to present their refined pitch to the next expert. As the afternoon progressed, the time available to pitch became shorter, from four minutes down to two, culminating in the opportunity to deliver a (hopefully) carefully honed pitch to the whole room, in just one minute.

Speaking as a relative newcomer to the world of writing for children’s TV, I found the workshop invaluable. I went from a pretty rough, downplayed pitch on my first attempt, to what felt like a much-more to-the-point and confident attempt on my final one-minute go – all thanks to incorporating the advice and tips I picked up throughout the afternoon.

In between the pitches, Justine also grilled the experts on various pitching-related subjects, and they delivered some really helpful nuggets of information:

Tim Searle suggests you keep it short, saying that it’s important to have a structure, without having to read it out verbatim. It should be organised, but also like you’re having a conversation.

Lucy Pryke said that pitching is also about building a relationship as an individual. Lucy likes to meet people at CMC and said that a pitch bible is always helpful!

Tony Collingwood said that pitching should be like telling your favourite joke – there’s no need to be nervous, you are professionally showing off!

Howard J. Blumenthal also concurred that meeting people and establishing a connection is so important. You might go into a meeting with three ideas, end up talking about something completely different (as guided by the producer), and come out of the meeting working on something else entirely.

Phil Molloy highlighted that there is not a toy in every idea, but nor should there be – no one knows what will work as a toy, so the heart of your idea should be the show. He likes pitches where the person knows what they are talking about and it should have heart. He also said visuals are good, but not essential.

Mellie Buse said that you need to be nimble in your pitch and make it as concise as you can. Visuals can help but don’t go overboard with PowerPoint presentations – it’s about the conversation.

John Lomas-Bullivant explained that the kids’ publishing world thinks completely differently to kids’ TV. It’s a mistake to think that a kids’ TV show can also be a book – publishers need a manuscript, not just a top-line idea.

Juliet Tzabar said that when it comes to platforms, don’t try to do everything at once. What sort of platform is your idea suitable for?

Dave Ingham suggested that you get under the skin of what you are pitching, and research who you are pitching to, and who their audience is. Mood boards are a good pitch aid if you don’t have more developed visuals.

Kay Benbow emphasised the importance of knowing your audience. If you are pitching to a broadcaster, really know what they broadcast as your idea might be something they already do. Also spend time with your audience to see what their world is really like.

The SkillBuilder session offered real practical help to would-be pitchers, and is highly recommended for next year!

Tom Jordan

About the author

Tom Jordan

Writer

After working for more than 15 years in travel publishing, writing for National Geographic Traveller, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Which Travel? and CNN, among others, and editing travel books, including for Bradt Travel Guides, Tom recently made the exciting move into children’s TV in the only logical way possible –… Read more

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