Three tips for pitching to the sharks

October 9, 2014

Three tips for pitching to the sharks

October 9, 2014

Group Gordon’s Gigi Kwon blogs about pitching lessons PR pros can learn from ABC’s Shark Tank. 10.9.2014

“If you had one shot or one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip?”

ABC’s “Shark Tank” is back, and I, along with an average of six million viewers, tune in every week to watch entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to the sharks, made of a panel of experienced investors. Participants get 60 seconds to hook the sharks with the pitch of a lifetime, followed by a grilling Q&A session. Only a few nail the presentation, while the others are sent home empty-handed.

In the real world, PR professionals only dream of having 60 uninterrupted seconds to pitch a story idea to a reporter, especially face-to-face. Even outside of this reality TV framework, there are a few lessons we PR pros can extract from the show. Here are three tips to help you land the pitch and avoid becoming shark bait!

1. Get to the point

The best “Shark Tank” pitches present the most important information within the first few seconds. A touching story about the inspiration behind the business may make a powerful introduction in some cases, but potential investors and viewers want to know what the business is before getting into the backstory.

The lesson? Let reporters know why your news is important—and why they should care—by leading with the high-level information. Once you’ve gotten them hooked, you’ll get a chance to answer follow-up questions, so make sure to prioritize your information.


2. Know your five W’s

It’s surprising when some contestants just don’t know their numbers or basic industry facts. The sharks are experts on the industries and markets in which they work, and they expect contestants to know their stuff, too. Not knowing your profit margins or key competitors not only annoys the sharks, but it wastes their time.


Journalists also hate having their already limited time wasted by someone who can’t answer the most basic questions about their clients. So before you pick up that phone, make sure to arm yourself with the main facts—at the very least with the five W’s. Answering a simple question such as what your client does or the date of an event with, “I’ll have to get back to you on that,” is just unacceptable!

3. Practice makes perfect

Presenting on primetime television to a roomful of investors who hold the future of your business in their hands is certainly intimidating—but pitching on the phone can be pretty nerve-racking, too. Don’t be shy about doing some test-runs with coworkers or jotting down some key facts and figures to have on hand. You’ll be surprised how much more confident, compelling, and polished you’ll be in your pitch simply by having prepared.