Rookie mistakes can add up—make enough of them in a pitch meeting, and your project may not move forward.
Unfortunately, even experienced pros can sound like amateurs sometimes because it’s rare that you get feedback after a pitch meeting about the small mistakes you made.
Let’s talk about 13 phrases which make you seem like a rookie–even if you’re not.
Don’t Be Fooled By What You See on TV
If you have looked for information about how to handle yourself in a pitch meeting, you know that there isn’t that much available. Episodes of Entourage. The opening scene from The Player. Pitch meeting parody videos on YouTube such as this, this and this.
You see the pitchers acting slick and sales-y. Pumping up the people who are listening. Using insider lingo like “This is really high concept. We’ve had lots of interest. Tom Cruise was attached….”
Having participated in thousands of pitch meetings as a studio executive at MGM Pictures, many pitch meetings are like this—and they are not successful.
The issue is that what you’re seeing on TV and film is good for storytelling, and is a version of what often happens. However, it is not an accurate representation of what happens when a pitch is successful.
13 Phrases to Avoid
- “High concept.” If your idea is high concept, it’s obvious. If it’s not, saying it is won’t help.
- “We’ve had a lot of interest.” To a decision-maker, this is code for, “Lots of people have read this but none of them have liked it enough to get involved.” This is related to how people try to amp up the decision-maker in advance of the pitch by saying positive things—the most common pitch meeting mistake.
- “With the right cast….” Yes, of course. Every project needs the right cast. If you need stars to make your script work, the decision-maker will guess the story isn’t that good.
- “This is a very unique project.” This sentence sends up a red flag. If it’s “unique” it usually means that you haven’t done enough research to understand the genre, or that your project is so particular that it could be impossible to sell. Neither is good.
- “Trials and tribulations,” “Thrill-a-minute.” If you speak in clichés in the meeting, the decision-maker will assume that your writing is full of clichés.
- “It’s funtastic.” Avoid puns. They rarely produced the desired effect.
- “A pseudo/quasi/very very secret society.” Strong ideas don’t need qualifiers.
- “With a message.” When you highlight the message, this means that you’re focused primarily on teaching the audience a lesson instead of telling a great story.
- “I’ve been working on this film for 11 years.” You’re committed, okay, but possibly inept.
- “Attached was (some star) and (some director).” This is the equivalent of saying, “Here is a list of the people who have already passed on this project.” Don’t talk about who has read, or been interested, or previously was interested.
- “I’m not very good at pitching.” If you apologize for yourself before pitching, you’re not making a good first impression. Buyers want to work with professionals.
- “And… you can fill in the blank….” Pitching to a decision-maker isn’t a game of Mad Libs. They don’t appreciate gimmicks to try and “intrigue” them. Filling in the blank is your job.
- “You’ll have to read the script to find out what happens.” I’ve never heard of a script being purchased when this line has been uttered in the room. It’s your job to create a great ending to your story and be able to pitch it effectively.
If you avoid these thirteen phrases, you’ll soon discover that you’re not embellishing your pitch, or qualifying it, or obscuring it. You’ll just be pitching your story in a clean, simple, and clear way.
And that’s how you sound like a pro.
Can you add any rookie phrases to this list? Would love to hear your thoughts.
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