Pitching is arguably one of the most important parts of the development process. It’s never been easy to get an idea sold, but COVID-19 has added new challenges to the mix. Attention spans are waning, screen fatigue is setting in, and something always seems to go wrong with technology.
Kidscreen reached out to leaders from across the industry for their insights on how to pivot to an online pitching world, what it takes to translate art and ideas over a distance, and how to lock in that deal in lockdown.
When pitching digitally, presenters need to be hyper-aware that everyone is experiencing some form of burnout, says Christopher Keenan, SVP and exec producer of global content development and production at Mattel. While buyers are always keen to find the next big thing, spending all day in front of a screen is taxing, so short elevator pitches have taken on a whole new level of importance.
Keenan adds that brevity also helps mitigate tech and audio snafus—the shorter the pitch, the less likely something is to go wrong. Complicated and involved pitches up the ante on risk. Even Mattel, a large company with plenty of resources, has had issues during many of its pitch meetings, so keeping it tight will help avoid potential issues.
Keeping things quick means that artwork needs to do the heavy lifting. Keenan says producers should lean on visuals and animation tests, while keeping text on screen to a minimum. Always lead with the core message and theme, and provide some detail on how your project is unique.
Keenan points to Mattel’s recent pivot to animate Thomas & Friends in 2D (pictured) as an example of how its digital pitch differed from what it might have done in person. In person, Keenan may have led with the strength of the longstanding brand, laying out the backstory and emphasizing its big fanbase, before pivoting to the new art style. But online, where you need to hook your audience quickly, he kicked things off with the new animation style, explaining the reasoning behind the shift instead.
“I could talk all about Thomas, from storylines to our development, but as soon as they see it, they get it,” he says. “Showing them animation or art can communicate a lot about the look and feel of the project in a more exciting way.”
And while an in-person pitch often relies on visual cues, those become harder to read in an online world. Keenan suggests keeping buyers engaged by asking questions throughout the pitch, which not only helps producers identify where an idea has fallen flat, but also forces the audience to pay attention.
With in-person pitches on hold indefinitely, Mattel will lean on its better-known properties because familiarity with a brand cuts down on required explanations, says Keenan. Mattel has a number of lesser-known IPs, but those can be just as hard to get off the ground as original ideas, since time needs to be spent introducing people to the idea and explaining why it’s unique.
Despite all these new considerations, there are a few evergreen pitching-101 tips Keenan insists people keep in mind, regardless of the format of a presentation. It’s important to always know who you’re pitching to and have an idea of their target demo. Ahead of the actual meeting, he recommends asking the buyer what they want, and tailoring the pitch to those specific needs.
Finally, he suggests rehearsing the pitch on the computer and making a recording for review later.
“A big thing to remember is that pitching is not just about the project. It’s also about pitching you,” says Keenan. “Even if they don’t like the idea you’re presenting, maybe they found you funny and charming, and they’ll want you to come back with a different idea.”
For more insights on nailing the digital pitch, Kidscreen Summit Virtual (February 8 to March 5, 2021) is hosting a Pitch Doctoring workshop session and a master class on Perfecting Your Virtual Pitch. Business Passes for the upcoming event are availabe here.