We covered four things this week: The history readings, what good pitchwork is, how to critique well, and we watch a few short examples of pitches and critiqued them in class.

  • Notes from history: Fax machine & Telephone (Flatow)
    • Both took many years (decades for fax)
    • Involved many different people
    • Borrowing of previous ideas
    • Fax machine tech has stalled: todays faxes are based on very old technologies
    • “No practical value” is a common refrain heard by inventors and idea pitchers
  • Notes from Gladwell’s essay on Popeil
    • Cynical view of pitchwork: selling things people don’t need is described, yet Popeil does truely believe in his products.
    • Certain kinds of pitches work well in person vs. on television.
    • The “turn” is the part of a pitch where the vibe switches from selling to closing.
    • Deep sense of craft about both product design and pitchwork – He sees these as tightly integrated activities. Product function is just as important as product perception (angling the food for maximium visibility, etc.)

Good pitches:

  • Use personal characteristics to help make the pitch
  • Hits on pitchee’s wants and needs
  • Demonstrates conviction or passion
  • Is soft or hard depending on audience
  • Makes pitchee feel in control (Unless its a hard pitch)
  • Catch phrase or key point that’s easy to recall
  • Presentation and idea are as simple as possible, and easily understood
  • Creates a connection between the pitcher and the pitchee (typically based on the perception of trust)
  • Obfuscates or explains away negatives

Types of pitches:

All pitches are a request for something. Here are the 3 basic types of pitches and you should know what yours is before you do it, as it changes the focus of what the pitch should achieve.

  1. Sell a product. Popei is the classic example of a pitcher who is selling a product directly to his customer. His pitches aim to get you to give your credit card #.
  2. Obtain funding. Most pitches for start-up companies or screenplays are really about obtaining funding. This kind of pitch is different in that you are pitching to someone other than the final consumer of the idea (e.g. You’re pitching to the movie studio, not to the people who will pay to see the movie).
  3. Inspire action. Its possible to pitch people to recycle, quit smoking, go out on a date with you, etc. The action you desire could simply be to get them interested in your idea and want to ask more questions or get involved.

Good criticism:

This is important as we’ll be critiquing each other at various times during the remainder of the course, including pitches. Good criticism is:

  • Collaborative. Information is going in both directions, building towards understanding and good advice.
  • Has recommendations for action. Its one thing to say something is lame, it’s another to offer practical insight as to how it can be improved.
  • Uses most effective channel for the person and situation. Criticism is a kind of pitch – good criticism picks the right means (e-mail, private conversation, group discussion) and right approach that have the highest odds of being effective for the person and situation in question.
  • Has respect for boundries. The criticism reflects constraints beyond the control of the other person.
  • Asks for clarification rather than making assumptions. A good critiquer will ask before they jump in “What were you trying to do here?” or “What effect was X intended to have?” This allows the critique to be centered on a comparison between the intention and the result, rather than a comparison between the critiquers personal biases and the result.

If you know of other good/bad examples of pitches, leave them in the comments.