6 Tips to Sell Your Idea Better – GAPF Part 1
Last Weekend was the Great American Pitchfest, an amazing platform for screenwriters to learn, mingle and pitch their projects to pros. On Saturday, all day, and for free, you could attend lectures about various and interesting topics
Each lecture was 1h30.
In a time where our attention span keeps decreasing, doing a presentation the length of a feature film is a challenge and requires extra work from a speaker. Even though the audience is willing to listen, they will also stop listening faster if yo try to bullshit them.
There were some great talks at the GAPF, and some very bad ones. The interesting part was that the very bad talks were not bad because what the speaker had to sell had no value, but because the speaker was not well-prepared enough to captivate an audience for 90 minutes.
I have attended dozens and dozens of lectures in the last three years and I have come to realize that there are some simple things that can be done to avoid PISSING OFF an audience.
This article is based on the assumption that
a) You are selling a good idea/concept. (Otherwise there’s nothing I can do for you.)
b) You are already passionate about it. (So I won’t tell you to be passionate about your idea.)
And no, being passionate about your idea is not enough (at all) to be a captivating public-speaker.
Yes, a catchy title is going to attract people. But once they are sitting and waiting for you to talk about ‘The 78 things to put in your screenplay to become a billionaire (for sure!).’ they are expecting you to talk exactly about that, not about the Aristotle three acts structure.And if you said you were going to talk about 78 things, don’t talk about 77 of them. Talk about 78, or even better, 79.
I spent 13 years reading thousands of scripts and helping key players in the Industry becoming millionaires. I detain the formula that can make any literate individual the next big shot in Hollywood and you want me to reveal all my tips for free? What about the book I spent 12 years and half writing?
This is a valid point. But then don’t chose the name of your book as the catchy title for your talk.
Let’s say you do want to name your talk ‘The 78 things to put in your screenplay to become a billionaire (for sure!).’ Then, when you start your talk, be clear about what is going to happen. We know that you agreed to speak for free because you have something to sell behind, and that’s ok. So just say it: ‘Today I will talk about X, X and X points from my book ‘The 78 things to put in your screenplay to become a billionaire (for sure!).’’ Chances are, if your points are valid, we are going to want to know more.
What if my title is not as specific, but is, let’s say: ‘Digging Within – A Journey to find your inner child through your Right Brain avoiding your Left Hand.’’
Then use the Introduction to give some key points to the audience so we know where this is going. The mystical/inspirational talk can be very powerful, but we are not all yoginis. You have to keep in mind that the audience is here to gather valuable information, and now more than never, having a clear structure and guiding us is essential. (And it doesn’t have to be on the nose. But, as my favorite speakers would say ‘That’s for another talk. I could write a book about that.’ < sarcasm)
The challenge to keep an audience awake is to manage mixing technical content and anecdotes in an organic-like way, to make the talk lively and to make you likeable. (Because if we like you, we will be more incline to buy whatever you are selling.)
The thing is, there is a fine line between anecdotes and endless digressions.
- It’s not because it happened to you that it’s interesting or relevant, so chose your anecdotes carefully.
- Make sure you know how to close the circle. It’s ok if at some point we have no clue why you’re talking about this thing that happened to you last night, if at the end it clicks with the starting point and it helps us understanding your point.
Record yourself and analyze what you said with these questions in mind:
Be honest and you will realize that often, you are not providing as much content as you thought you were and said you would.
This is tied to tip #3 but here I am talking about the examples you are not planning to talk about but have in the back of your mind, just in case.
Don’t forget that there will always be someone in the audience asking ‘Can you give another example but in a different type of movie?’. And at that point, if you are not prepared, the only other example that is going to come your mind is going to be a bad one.
It is stressing to talk in front of people, and even when you think you know your material by heart, under pressure, we tend to forget.
In other words, if you’re planning to say ‘I have studied hundreds of movies’, you better have 10 examples ready in your head to support that affirmation.
You have to keep in mind that we are here because we do think that you might have something new and possibly life-changing to offer. Thus, there is no need to keep repeating to us that you detain the truth, especially since it’s eating the precious time you have to show us why you’re such a genius.
You think I’m exaggerating, but one of the worst talk I ever attended was a talk where the speaker kept bragging about how he had a bullet-proof recipe to write scripts that will sell and become blockbusters. I’m still waiting for the demonstration to begin.
In other words, don’t ask the audience a question if it’s not justified. And 99% of the time, it is not justified. It’s just a way for the speaker to create an illusion of synery. And the illusion is only working on the speaker, let me tell you that much.
You do not need to ask me to raise my hand to make me feel part of something. Once again, if you are providing content, and if you make your presentation lively by balancing content with relevant anecdotes, I will feel connected to you.
There are three reasons why it is pointless to do so:
– It makes people feel uneasy
– A lot of people don’t raise their hands because they know you’re not going to come out with a graph out of their answer, anyway.
– You can annihilate part of your audience by asking the wrong question.
What is the wrong question?
The wrong question is a question that has a ‘right-answer’. In other words, never, ever, ask your audience to raise their hands to a question that ends with you saying: ‘the right answer is: blabla.’ The people that got it wrong will feel like crap, and that’s not going to help your book.
Next post, I will share the notes I took during one of the great talk I had the chance to attend at the GAPF. Obviously, all the previous points were met, it was informative and lively, and it made me want to buy the speaker’s book to dig the subject deeper.