The Most Common Pitch Meeting Mistake (That You Don’t Know You’re Making)

Meeting Mistake Most Common Writers Make

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 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 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.

What are other examples of how people give a positive opinion of their own work?

. . . . . . . .

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  1. I love your posts and articles! I just finished an online class from Industrial Scripts on screenwriting and now I am jumping into MasterClass for the same reason to soak up as much as possible to make my script truly shine and stand out of the overflowing and crowded file slots. Then it will be onto your class and books for the business side of the business. I really love how you explain things and make it so simple and straight forward but at the same time a confidence booster like anything can happen! You cheer for the unknowns and give us hope! Thank you.

  2. Great advice! I’ve done some of the above in anxiousness and do not recommend it! Now I feel more confident just speaking about the story in meetings. But thank you so much for the reminder. I wish I read this years ago!

  3. Dear Stephanie, Every one of your articles I have read is so very helpful. I love this one. I have to admit, I do not make these mistakes (at least I don’t think I do!). What I do get is stage fright. I am a former actress and performer, so you would think I would be OK in front of people. But somehow, when I am pitching myself and my work, I get horribly nervous! (Probably because i want to succeed so badly) I do practice, by myself and to other people. Any hints for getting over a bad case of nerves?!
    Thanks and keep telling us the good stuff!

  4. 80173 camino san mateo Can you refer me to a pitch writer I can hire? How much does it cost to get one for a reality/game show idea, and do I need to get a patent lawyer to secure my idea? Thanks

  5. Is it okay to say something like “I believe this story is important for our generation because…” when you are asking to adapt a story owned by the person you are pitching to? Like if they were not particularly planning to make it into a movie but you would like to write the screenplay.

    • In a general way, yes, provided you’ve correctly analyzed the situation and determined that the listener who owns the story would be interested in helping “our generation.”

    • Hi Ozzie,

      Thanks so much for the question. Unfortunately, the business is so competitive that anyone approaching it as a hobby is going to have a really hard time getting attention in comparison to someone approaching it as a full-time professional. This is similar to any other competitive field like investment banking, architecture, design, media- you can absolutely pursue it as a hobby for the experience and joy of it, but don’t expect that you will be able to make a living. I love architecture, but I’m not going to be able to get an architecture commissions as a hobbyist.

  6. Love your advice and guidance; so practical and common sensical. Look forward to reading your book, How to Be Good in a Room. This is an area the needs so much attention and development for me. I’ve done public speaking and client presentations (in my former endeavours) for over 20 years, but the specific tools for screen writing pitching escapes me.

  7. Can u please refer me to someone to pitchmy reality show idea too,its original I know you will love it the world will love the compassion ,it will be wonderful, I just need someone to listen to me they say you need to know someone in the company please help! 5623707609
    Thank you
    Elana Tucker

  8. Just a thank you for the amazing information included here.

    I’ve been honing my craft as both a screenwriter and a low budget filmmaker for the last five years and I’m finally ready to try and “pitch” some of my screenplays that are out of my budget.

    Should I keep the fact that I also make movies a secret? I think it makes me a better writer, but really I have no idea.

    • Thanks so much, Kat. No, you don’t have to hide that you are making movies— you can definitely share (and especially if the movies are in the same genre as the one you are pitching). Definitely talk about it. This is a positive selling point and shows your dedication to the craft and understanding of what is involved in the filmmaking process.

  9. This has been a great lesson to me. But I have a few questions.
    1. Since I’m not suppose to make prediction of financial success of my script to an investor or decision-maker. What if he asks me: what is the fate of this story at the box office when it’s made into a movie? What will be my response to this question?
    2. Possibly these are potential investors who don’t have the slightest idea about movie business and considering the numerous poor-standard movies produced in my country. How do I convince an investor to invest in my script or in the movie industry? Since I can’t also refer to other successful movies?

    • 1. Since no one can accurately predict what box office returns will be, I would smile and say, “I hope it will be a great success.”
      2. In general, I would focus on the other benefits to the investor. For many investors, the amount they would invest could be quite small to them (even if it is a large amount of money to us) and they could benefit from a tax write-off, or enjoy the perks of getting to visit the set and meet movie stars or the satisfaction of bringing an important story to the screen. There are plenty of film investors who are motivated to invest for reasons other than financial return.

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