How To Beat Pitch-Meeting Anxiety

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Picture this:

You’ve written a great pitch. You’ve connected with a producer. You’ve set a meeting date. This is everything you’ve wanted since you started working on your gem of an idea. You’ve got a chance to grab the brass ring!

If you’re like most writers, that half-minute of joy after you land the Big Meeting is followed by soul-crushing anxiety at the very notion of talking about your beloved project to a bunch of near strangers. What if they don’t like it? What if they don’t like you? What if you puke mid-pitch?

The most important thing to know is: pitch-meeting anxiety is normal. It’s even kind of normal to feel like you want to sprout wings and fly to South America like the beautiful parrot you were always meant to be. The point is: you need a few tricks up your sleeve to combat anxiety, so let’s run through five ways to beat pitch-meeting anxiety.

A quill might be overkill. You get the point. Shakespeare In Love (1998) Photo courtesy: Miramax

No. 1 — Write Out Your Pitch With Your Actual Hands

Most people write at a computer nowadays. Writing anything by hand pretty much sounds crazy, but lots of writers claim this trick works: write your pitch by hand.

Why does it work? One theory is that writing things by hand helps us remember. So: after you’ve gotten your pitch nailed down, take the time to handwrite some flash cards. Even if it doesn’t work, hey! You’ll still have flash cards.

Do your thang. Sing (2016) Photo courtesy: Universal Pictures

No. 2 — Bribe A Friend to Listen To Your Pitch

Everyone knows the old saw “practice makes perfect.” It may be old, but it’s still good advice. The more you practice your pitch, the better it’s likely to get. So: get a large chocolate bar, wave it in front of a close friend, and tell them they can have it if they listen to your pitch. Then practice, practice, practice!

Develop your answerbank and hoard it like a crazed decorator crab. Moana (2016) Photo courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

No. 3 — Cultivate an Answerbank

One of the most challenging elements of pitching is answering questions, especially when someone interrupts your train of thought to ask about something you said a few minutes ago. But answering questions well is also one of the most important things you can do as a writer. If you do it right, you’ll answer any concerns they have and demonstrate that you are ready to move to the next level with the material.

When you’re practicing your pitch in front of your friend, have them ask questions and write down some of the ones you think you might get again. Have your friend interrupt you a few times, so you won’t get rattled when if/when it happens in the meeting. Keep a list of those questions and your brilliant answers – that’s your answerbank.

Walk into the meeting like…. Suicide Squad (2016) Photo courtesy: Warner Bros.

No. 4 — Know The Pitch-Meeting Format

If it’s your first pitch meeting, the structure can seem like a mystery. Pitch meetings are all different, of course, but most share a few common elements. First, you get to know everyone and warm up the room. Second, you deliver the pitch. Third, they ask questions about the project. Last, you follow up with questions about the next steps with the project.

Slow down, Max. Sloooooow. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) Photo courtesy: Warner Bros.

No. 5 — Slow Down

Most people start talking fast when they get nervous. It’s a completely human response – but it’s also one you want to avoid. The whole purpose of the meeting is to communicate your brilliant idea. Let yourself slow down and focus on truly making a connection with your audience.

The people who invited you to the pitch meeting want you to do well – they want to discover that diamond-in-the-rough so they can turn it into box office gold. So go out there and be brilliant!

What are some of your favorite ways to reduce anxiety? Sound off below!

author-avatar

Jennie Evenson is the author of "Shakespeare for Screenwriters" (Michael Wiese, 2013) and the forthcoming "Storytelling Secrets of the Masters." As a writer in LA, Evenson worked as a consultant for Netflix and developed ideas at production houses from DreamWorks to Focus Features. You can follow her on Twitter: @JM_Evenson

4 Replies to "How To Beat Pitch-Meeting Anxiety"

  • comment-avatar
    Tim Aucoin July 11, 2017 (2:54 am)

    It’s also good practice to pitch movies you’ve seen a million times. Just to get better at pitching in general. Thanks for the article.

  • comment-avatar
    Laree July 11, 2017 (7:41 am)

    Great idea Tim!

  • comment-avatar
    Candy Petersen July 11, 2017 (7:45 am)

    Know your audience. Research them ahead of time.

  • comment-avatar
    Tammy Gross July 11, 2017 (12:16 pm)

    The hands thing is physiological due to how fast our brainwaves reach our hands & fingers so fast (better than the mouth!). It enhances stored memory.

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