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America's Next Great Pitchman

Reality TV is no longer just a guilty pleasure, but an insightful one. The funhouse mirror that reflects humanity’s angst and misplaced ambition also reveals ways that we can change for the better. Take NBC’s new show, America’s Next Great Restaurant. In the first episode, contestants pitched their dream projects, showing us (painfully) the do’s and don’ts of selling ideas.

First, the pitches that were shown the door:

Pitches that weren’t as good as the idea. Many contestants presented ideas that may have been structurally sound, but their presentation were not. Their stream of consciousness style did more to breed contempt than interest. Others froze up when (*gasp*) questioned about their genius ideas. These contestants were met with a humbling, and often patronizing, “Thank you for your time, but we aren’t interested.”

Pitches that lost sight of what they were supposed to be pitching. Some contestants had the best laid plans for restaurants, complete with visual aids, huge diagrams, and even some tent like ecosphere that apparently didn’t have all the parts included.  In the drama of their pitches they lost focus. Ideas, though innovative, were off strategy, off topic, and just plain off. NEXT!

Pitches that were nothing new.

There is a place for the usual, mundane, everyday rigmarole. A place where naivety and awkward enthusiasm will push you and your dream forward. Good luck finding it. Goodbye.

Pitches that moved forward:

Pitches that had heart. Sometimes an idea isn’t a super fantastic homerun. Sometimes the person pitching it isn’t even that knowledgeable about what they’re doing. What can make the difference is having heart and determination. Evoking emotion can get the powers that be behind you to push an idea forward.

Pitches that showed expertise. As stated before, not every idea is a super fantastic homerun. In fact, these ideas are usually pretty rare. What is even more rare is someone who is savvy enough to actually execute an idea well. These people usually get to pass go and collect $200.

Pitches that were short, punchy, with ideas that were at least decent. Remember those super fantastic homerun ideas? These came in the form of a short, straightforward sentence with a clever twist that made everything come to life for the audience. Everything else in the pitch was just gravy on top. Even just ok ideas presented in this format made a big impression. These pitches are escorted past the velvet rope with a glass of champagne waiting for their arrival.

The last place anyone would look for tips on their pitch game is reality TV. Some truths, however, are universal no matter the medium. Our reality is everyday we play a precarious game where we have to prove to clients we know what's best for them, their audience, and their bottom line. We can avoid selling ourselves short by keeping it brief, having a little heart, a lot of focus, and twist that brings it altogether.

Written by Ken Hammond on March 11, 2011

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Ken Hammond