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Mind Your Business: TV Pitching at Conferences

Mark Simon, in this month's "Mind Your Business," becomes Grand Wizard of the Order of Pitching Markus Simonus to tell us more about pitchland.

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Abra-cadabra, sneako-fitch. Go to conferences, and land a pitch.

There's nothing magical about pitching shows at TV conferences. You just need to have the right concoctions and know the proper spells.

As a wise wizard once said, "Why spend weeks battling the throngs of troll-traffic to land a few elusive meetings, when you can conjure up hordes of meetings at one television conference."

The cost of going to conferences, from registration to airlines to hotel rooms and food, can seem outrageous at first glance. But when you think about what it would take to have just as many meetings in N.Y. or L.A., it's not quite as bad.

In Los Angeles, you're having a good day when you have two pitches. Of course, you have to leave plenty of time to drive to each one. Plus, unless you're experienced, you may not land any pitches at all.

At the last few NATPEs I've attended, I've bewitched as many as 35 meetings in one day. It could take months to land that many meetings outside of a conference. Think about the cost of airfare, hotel, food and car for two months in L.A. or N.Y. It will be many times more expensive than any conference.

But the meeting of the minds at conferences is only one reason to attend. These mystical gatherings also raise your wizarding stature. Simply by attending these events, you are seen as an industry insider, with many of the powers to produce a great show.

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One major roadblock many young and old wizards alike run into is not having the dark-magic help of an agent to set up pitch meetings. There is a simple incantation to beat this dark magic. Repeat slowly and often, "I'd like one registration to your conference, please."

Once you are on the floor of a conference, you will seldom, if ever, be told you need an agent to pitch. In fact, I've never been told that in 11 years of going to these events.

The conference floors aren't the only places to land pitches. There is a mystical energy that surrounds these international events. Strange things can happen.

This past June, my bewitching wife and I were at the Banff World Television Festival in Canada. We stayed at a hotel down in town and had to take the conference shuttle up to the event each morning. One chilly morning we were standing in front of our hotel waiting for the shuttle when another conference member came out and waited with us. I recognized him as Michael Goldsmith, the new director of original content for Teletoon Canada. I introduced my wife, who proceeded to pitch a new concept to him. We then were able to continue talking to him, uninterrupted on the entire ride up to the conference.

Try doing that while standing on a street corner in Burbank.

How you present yourself and your project can mean the difference between doors being open for other meetings and beating your head against impenetrable doors.

Do your homework. Pitch the right shows to the right networks. Pitching a show without kids to Nickelodeon is not a good idea. Scott Fishman, former general manager for Nickelodeon Studios Orlando, actually had someone pitch a show about parents to his network for kids. That pitcher was not invited back.

Know how to properly answer the main questions every network will ask, like, "What's your show?" They're not asking you if it's a family show or a reality show, although that's part of it. They are asking for the hook that will instantly excite them and make millions of people want to tune in. And you need to be able to do it in less than a minute.

A bad attitude will end meetings just as quickly as a terrible pitch. Don't tell a network that everything they produce sucks and your show can save them. Even if it's true, telling someone they suck seldom makes them want to work with you.

As pitching at conferences is mastered, conjuring up other pitch meetings at the studios is a much simpler spell. Once you've entered the inner executive sanctum at a studio, the only keys you need to get back in are well-placed and well-executed pitches and a good attitude.

Mark Simon is co-founder of www.SellYourTvConceptNow.com. Mark has a guided tour and training available at www.HitMakerTour.com to help pitchers prepare for and succeed at TV conferences. Mark may be reached at MarkSimonBooks@yahoo.com.

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