Finishing up with the third cocktail question: “Would you like to hear a great idea for a movie?” For some reason, when people know you are a screenwriter they feel compelled to tell you their story or ask your opinion on their idea.
As you are listening, realize you are sitting in the place of a beleaguered studio executive. What can you learn from this experience?
Always listen to the idea carefully because it’s a great opportunity to learn two of the most valuable lessons about pitching. Pretend you listen to screenplay ideas for a living.
First, notice the person isn’t nervous. They are simply sharing something that they are interested in and feel passionate about. They are hoping you will like the idea but the fun is in just communicating the it. That is the greatest lesson of pitching. Don’t go into a pitch meeting with the expectation or desire to sell the pitch. Just enjoy sharing your story. That goes a long way in eliminating nervousness. Have fun. Make it fascinating cocktail conversation.
Second, keep it short and punchy. You want a strong opening, a series of interesting complications and a satisfying payoff. That’s it. Any more than ten to fifteen minutes is overkill. Einstein once said” “If you can’t explain it briefly and simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” And he was talking about physics! The best thing you can get anyone to say in a meeting is: “Tell me more.” Then you have permission and the interest and attention to elaborate. You don’t want someone looking at the watch and thinking: “Get to the point already.”
Isn’t that what anyone wants in a cocktail conversation: A fun story that is mercifully short. Get in. Get out. Leave them wanting more.