Media Parents PD Evy Barry writes about her experience of pitching at the BBC’s FastTrain Event, a free training day for freelancers on May 16th. Plus top five pitching tips from the speakers at the event listed at the bottom of Evy’s post.
Having registered for various sessions at the BBC FastTrain freelancer training event, which I read about via Media Parents, I was interested to see a call for ideas for the pitching session.
The pitching session was expected to be one of the most popular sessions and a good opportunity to get some face time with some of the top commissioning editors from ITV, Channel 4, BBC and Channel 5.
I sent in an idea called ‘Can You Raise It?’ which was about tapping into the burgeoning philanthropical efforts of members of the public who would team up with an inspired celebrity for a unique challenge that would capture the public’s imagination with incredible feats of endurance and bravery and oh I could go on – but I only got 2 minutes to get the idea across. Any longer and I would be silenced by the klaxon.
Part of the brief was to choose who to pitch to. I picked Jo Clinton Davis at ITV as I felt this was where I could most see the idea as a programme. I got an email on Saturday morning saying I had made it through the short list. This gave me until Wednesday to work the idea up. I began to identify what I could say in two minutes – which is not as long as you would think.
I was intending to read/perform my pitch until I had a coaching session with Frank Ash at the BBC Academy about an hour before the big event. He was really inspirational and made me think carefully about what I was going to say. He asked me what the two most important things I wanted to get across were and to make sure I included those two things at all costs. Start with explaining the concept clearly and make sure you know why you want to make the programme. Frank told me to just have some bullet points on a piece of paper and to talk to the panel passionately instead of reading out loud. He also advised me that two minutes doesn’t give you long to explain your programme so don’t have too much to say. The commissioners can always ask you questions afterwards.
The prospect of performing instead of reading made me feel a bit underprepared but what was the worst that could happen? I pitched third of eight and reassuringly when I opened my mouth words started coming out! I managed to get the concept across, and the two most important points, and the why should this programme be made now – and then the klaxon went off.
The audience clapped and all of the commissioners congratulated me on a well delivered pitch. There was constructive criticism too especially with regard to getting celebrities to commit themselves to anything but short filming schedules, and that there should be more of a twist to the idea to make the idea more commissionable. Obviously it is a crowded marketplace to get a charity idea commissioned. I had deliberately targeted ITV as the BBC have Sport Relief, Comic Relief etc, C4 – Secret Millionaire and C5 Starlight and they did all point this out but and they also said this – if you come to something from a new angle it can be something they would be interested in.
Overall it was a very positive experience and I learned a lot. I hope the crowd, and I don’t think there was a spare seat in the house, enjoyed it as much. It was certainly an opportunity all around to get a masterclass in pitching…..And as Frank Ash said “You are doing well if you get one in ten ideas commissioned.”
Top Five Pitching Tidbits from Commissioners at FastTrain
- Think : Why you? Why me? Why now? before you pitch. If you can’t answer these questions for the comm ed, don’t try.
- Danny Cohen “Our job is to find great ideas AND great talent” – so you need to make yourself known to commissioning editors. Watch this space for a Media Parents meets the Commissioners event later this year.
- When a big idea comes it can be explained in a sentence.
- Zai Bennett is looking for “boysy” ideas for BBC3 and science. BBC1 want the next Apprentice big fact ent format for 9pm. BBC Daytime is not getting enough fact ent pitches – they are scaling back their long runs of shows and want more variety.
- Pick your moment to pitch – a chance meeting in the loo could be the place to ask to pitch, not to do the pitch itself!