Make Your .Connection: Insider Tips On How To Pitch Media Development Executives from the Banff World Media Festival

After 4 days, over 140 sessions, 6 industry-leading keynotes, 16 facilitated meetings sessions, 1,300 prebooked meetings, 15 parties, enough coffee to kill Jaun Valdez’s donkey, enough alcohol to fuel an AC/DC world tour and enough business deals closed to keep the media industry thriving for another year, the Banff World Media Festival has wrapped up for 2011.

Every year brings a new all-star roster of delegates and executives and a new list of sessions tackling the problems that are at the core of the media industry. But the one thing that never changes from year to year is this: the delegates who know how to network on the ground are the ones that leave with the deals made and the best leads; Delegates who make amateur mistakes when trying to make the right connections leave missing some great opportunities.

For the last couple years, I have been managing the .Connect meeting sessions for the Banff World Media Festival, and other Achilles Media events. .Connect meetings are exclusive, prebooked meetings that we set up in advance of the festival between delegates and the leading development, broadcasting, funding, advertising, and digital executives in the industry.

.Connect meetings have been host to decision makers from HBO, Fox, CBC, BBC, UKTV, MTV, BET, Shaw, A&E, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, Astral Media, Comedy Central, Corus, Teletoon, ZDF, TV Brasil, Corona Films, and numerous other executives representing the top countries and genres in the media industry.

I speak with every delegate and every executive that attends one of our sessions. I’ve heard the feedback, the success stories and the complaints about every meeting, pitch, style, angle and approach to getting your deal done and learning what you need to make your business a success.

There are a few tips that I continually hear from all of this feedback. When gearing up for the next BANFF, remember to bear these tips in mind. Although these tips apply best to .Connect, some of these are just good rules to think about when pitching your project anywhere.

“Do You Know Who I am?”

The number one complaint I hear from executives is that the person they’re talking to has no idea who they are or what their company does . If you don’t do your research, then all you’re accomplishing is wasting everyone’s time with a project idea that isn’t right for the two of you.

At best, you’ve burned an opportunity to be speaking with another executive at that time. At worst, you’ve burned a potential bridge with that executive and their company for all future work.

This isn’t necessarily a comment on the quality of your work. Even if your concept is brilliant, you need to be sure that you’re pitching it to the right people. You need to research the company that you’re going to be pitching well in advance of your meeting, and also the individual executive. If you’re there to pitch a comedy concept, don’t try to pitch it to a company that only works on factual entertainment.

Furthermore, even if you’re pitching to the right company, be sure that the executive focuses on the type of work that you’re trying to pitch. Even if that executive works in the same genre as your project, they may only deal with non-scripted materials, meaning your scripted project isn’t the right fit.

Be A Boy Scout. Always Be Prepared

The key to success in anything you do is preparedness. Pulling an all-nighter on the occasional university paper might have worked out – but you don’t want to scrape through a potential valuable meeting with an executive. You want to be sure that you have the right materials on hand.

This means preparing what you think will represent your idea best for your meeting. I’ve seen just about every kind of material brought into .Connect meetings. Here’s my general feedback on each:

  • Electronic Materials: Lap Tops, Portable DVD Players, Video and Audio

I haven’t heard any problems with bringing audiovisual equipment into a meeting, especially if you want to show off a promo or a pilot concept. Just be aware that these materials are usually pretty bulky and can be prone to technical difficulties. If you’re going to bring some equipment, be sure to bring a plan B in case something goes wrong.

  • “Heavy” Materials: DVDs, CDs, Portfolios

The issue with bringing “heavy” materials to a meeting is that they are usually pretty bulky for executives to carry with them. I have heard complaints from executives being forced to carry off stacks of DVDs and portfolios from meetings. This is particularly true from .Connect meetings, where executives you meet will be meeting many other delegates over the course of the event.

While there is no issue with bringing heavy materials to a meeting, I would recommend asking whether an executive will take these materials, or would prefer something lighter before adding to their DVD collection.

  • “Soft” Materials: One-Sheets, Papers

Soft materials are usually anything printed. One-Sheets, print outs and, of course, business cards are all common. These materials are definite winners. I have never heard an executive say no to a well-written one sheet about a project concept.

As an added benefit, limiting yourself to a one-sheet will give your pitch the focus it needs. You only have a few minutes to pitch your idea to an executive. If your idea can’t be expressed in the time it takes to read a single sheet, I would say that you haven’t found the best angle to pitch your idea.

This Isn’t A Game Show. You Won’t Make A Deal In 10 Minutes

I have heard some rare success stories of delegates making deals with executives in the 10 minutes that they get during a face-to-face meeting at one of our events. But every one of these stories comes from a delegate who has fostered a relationship with that executive, some time years in the making.

The most important thing that you can take from a meeting with an executive at one of the .Connect sessions is an introduction. Use this opportunity to make that face-to-face connection that you may not otherwise get. Feel free to introduce your concept, but don’t expect to sell it in 10 minutes. Exchange contact information and use the rest of the year to go over the particulars and sell your concept for good.

Listen

One of the best strategies that I’ve heard to come out of a .Connect meeting is to simply listen.

Most delegates go into one of these meetings pitching as quickly as they possibly can to try and get their concept across to a potential partner. A few delegates who are veterans to the .Connect game have suggested that simply asking to learn from an executive for a few minutes is one of the best ways to come back with a solid lead.

By showing a genuine interest in discussing a mutual problem or concern, you get the opportunity to share some of your own insights and forge a relationship with a good business lead. If you see an opening to pitch your idea, take it.

The benefit to this approach is that it takes the executive off of the defensive, away from repelling aggressive tactics for a few minutes to simply discuss things as professionals. This is also a particularly useful approach if you don’t think your concept is completely ready for a solid pitch. You don’t want to try and sell an idea in the formative stages, so a purely informational meeting can help you learn more about what that executive wants to see in a project and give you some common ground to build a professional relationship.

Bond Always Has An Escape Plan. So Should You.

While your pitch is an important part of your meeting with an executive, so too is how you’re going to follow up. The final piece of advice that I have for how to pitch successfully for a .Connect session is to know how you’re going to close out a meeting with an executive and continue to build that relationship following the event.

Depending on what project you’re working on, your strategy may be as simple as following up with an email, a phone call, another meeting, or to send in additional materials. How you decide to continue a discussion of course depends on your meeting, but the important thing to remember is to not let that introduction be forgotten.

Choose a plan of action post-event and stick to it.

Closing Remarks

There are a few final tips that don’t fall within the broader sections above.

  • Don’t overstep your boundaries. Showing a little too much “moxie” in a meeting, or forcing an introduction has never panned out well for a delegate
  • Show respect, patience and courtesy to staff running a .Connect session. We will put you in every one of your meetings, try and get you any extra meetings we can and help you in any other way you need. We’ve been doing this for a while and our process is designed to make things run smoothly for everyone – yourself included. We also know the executives and the ins and outs of the event better than anyone. You’d be surprised how we can help you navigate the event and find you the right shortcuts – if you give us reason to.
  • Double check your email and your meeting schedule before the event. Our team has to balance the schedules for the entire event and all of the executives. We end up having to make some last minute changes and reschedule meetings frequently. To avoid confusion, double check your .Connect meeting schedule right before the event.