How to Win a TV Pitch Competition

Pitching a TV show is serious business. If you haven’t done it before, it can be incredibly daunting. That is why pitch competitions are so helpful for creators. Not only are you getting your work in front of all the right people, but you’re practicing for the real deal when–instead of friends and judges invested in your success—you’ll be giving your pitch to prickly network execs. 

I was recently a finalist in the Catalyst Story Festival’s “Pitch World” which involved three rounds of nearly 60 competitors giving 5-minute and 7-minute pitches. The competition led up to a five-person final round in which we gave our full 20-minute pitches. I had fun and my show was a hit at the festival–here’s how to have just as much success and fun. 

Know your material 

Knowing your show front to back is so important. But, knowing your pitch is even more important right now. If you are allowed index cards or notes–use them! But, don’t rely too heavily on them. You aren’t just selling a show, you’re selling YOU: your personality, sense of humor, professionalism, coolness. And come hell or high water, get your notes off of your phones. Don’t read your pitch off your phone! Don’t do it! Don’t!!!!! 🙂 

Lean on your strengths

Are you a good performer? Can you make the room laugh? Are you secretly a pro-orator? Now is your chance to shine. Not everyone pitching will be a comedian, so having the skills to read the audience and make them laugh will really help you. If you want to improve these skills…I just so happen to know of a killer comedy school online for women and nonbinary folks in just this situation…hmm. 

Prep like you’re going to win

Most pitch competitions have multiple rounds requiring slightly different things out of the pitchers. Before the first round, do what you can to prep for all the rounds! This requires some serious time and brain management–don’t get the different pitches confused. Often, you won’t have time to start from scratch between rounds. You want to go into rounds 2-100 just as confident. 

Listen to your Notes

Just because you’re prepared doesn’t mean you should be inflexible. If you are getting notes or questions that ring true–adapt! Having a pitch ready doesn’t mean you can’t tweak and change. Being able to roll with the punches, take notes, and adapt is another skill you should be eager to prove. Judges and audiences will notice if they have fewer and fewer questions because you’re answering them as you go. Woo! 

The journey is important

Make friends! Be a good audience member to your fellow pitchers. Be the person they want to support as the competition grows. This is so important. And all those “right people” in the room will notice that too. It gives off very natural confidence, but it also means that you’re building a growing community with peers. This is the single most successful way to leave a festival or competition: having met a ton of new people. You’re pitching your TV show, that’s a dream come true. Or at least, that’s how I feel about it! Enjoy the process, give it your all, and then party hard no matter the results.