How to Captivate an Audience With Your Pitch

This one crossed my desk from my other main gig, teaching at Second City. I tweeted it out to my students, and I think it bears a little more context and emphasis here. It’s a post from about Reno 911!’s Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant on how to pitch your ideas. Specifically, your screenplay ideas, but some of these doubly apply to entrepreneurship because you want to avoid being the usual khaki’ed schlub babbling about “crowdsourcing” this and “social media” that.

The tips are culled from their very entertaining and informative book, “Writing Movies for Fun and Profit: How We Made a Billion Dollars at the Box Office and You Can, Too!” and they are as follows:

1. Have a one-sentence “short pitch”
2. Keep your complete pitch short.

There are many more tips in the book, which is a great read and I think has other nuggets that would be useful for entrepreneurs, but these two are great for many reasons. Maybe it’s the circles I run in and the places I’m at, but a lot of people just don’t know how to pitch. Even when told, “Okay, keep it short,” it’s prefaced with some sort of half-apology (“sorry, I didn’t know I’d have to pitch you”) or it then goes on and on and on and on. It’s like I tell my students: If you can’t convey your idea in a single tweet, it’s too complicated or you’re missing how to simplify it.

As they say, “No one listening to a pitch has ever said, ‘I wish they talked longer.’” There was a study done that found our average attention span for a presentation is somewhere in the realm of 20 minutes. Shoot for 10. Heck, even better, shoot for five minutes tops.

So how can you get better at pitching? By practicing, practicing, practicing. They also suggest giving the listener an opportunity to ask questions along the way, which is good, because it keeps the audience engaged and able to interact. After all, the pitch is about making sure the person you’re pitching to understands it — so stopping along the way to keep them onboard can’t hurt.

Read the rest of the tips here.

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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