„Michael Leahy is a platinum lyricist that first attended Midem in 1997 tying to pimp digital services to labels. He has since done business development for African labels, marketing for Midem itself and pitched projects at the Cannes Film Festival. He has also coached music and movie people in the fine art of networking. He wrote the Cannes Starter Guide last year as a mind-map for getting results at Midem.”
A quick guide to pitching at Midem
Cannes is pitchville. You do it the whole time, sometimes even unconsciously. If you don’t have experience, it can seem daunting and like sex, there is a danger of having unreasonable expectations. But remember, lacking experience is a problem that is easily fixed (well, in pitching anyway). But Midem can be intense, as people try to maximise their time. Here are a few thoughts for being more comfortable and ultimately more successful when you pitch:
Determine what you want to achieve. In the majority of cases, you won’t physically sell anything at a face-to-face pitch at Cannes. What you are trying to do is to get permission to start actual negotiations at a later stage. You have to make a good impression and get the person to whom you are talking to say, “Cool, let’s talk about this next week. Here’s my card”.
Always start with a one-line account of yourself. “Hi. I’m Michael. I work with [company name], Europe’s biggest/newest/most innovative/latest writer/producer/label/publisher (or whatever). I’m at Cannes this year to check interest for a new [whatever].” Keep it short. Keep it focused. You are talking to this person for one reason, not three. As you have done your homework (hint: use the event database), you can comment on their company’s latest success, release or whatever is relevant. Show them you know their business. By this time, you will be nonchalantly fingering your promo material without really showing it. Hopefully, you will hear the magic words, “So how can I help you?”
Pitch in 25 words or less. The movie business has a wonderful discipline called “25 words or less”. Ultimately, it’s all you need to get some initial interest. If you’re pitching a service or app, start here with the basic premise in 25 words or less. If you’re pitching music, you’ll actually find that many people are not really equipped to listen to music at Midem as it takes a few minutes. Give them a short blast – but know when to switch back to verbal pitching. Never, ever read from a text. You have to be so convinced that your stuff is right for this person that you can keep eye contact at all times, only breaking it to show them some promo material. If you get him or her to nod their head, you can start going deeper into your pitch. In music, labels are mainly interested in indications that a potential audience is out there. From 25 words, you’re into a 10-minute conversation. So far, so good.
Keep the radar on. As you are talking, keep a very close eye on the other person’s body language. Some people are comfortable with stopping you in your tracks if your pitch is not relevant to them. It saves time. Others sit and squirm, wondering why they took this meeting and hoping you can read the signs. If you get a negative vibe or a request to “get to the point”, take the appropriate steps. If it’s negative, ask politely why. Accept that whether they go for your pitch or not, they are probably making the right decision for their situation. You can learn a lot from being brushed off. You’ll find that either your product is a total dud, or that you are selling it badly – which is an important learning. Most people will be grateful you don’t oblige them to become impolite. You might also get great market info such as “We did something similar two years ago and lost money; we found there was no market” or “We’re getting right out of that genre, and here’s why”. Make rejection pay.
Get out of the meeting. As I said, it is vital not to wear out your welcome. If you get a positive response, aim to be out of the meeting on a high note within 3 minutes. Don’t bother with small talk or comments about the view over of the bay. Just get out and look forward to being in touch later. If you got a negative response, thank them for the insights, shake their hand warmly and tell them you might be in touch at some distant future date. But let them understand you won’t be chasing them with this project. Then run around the corner and write down what you learnt. You can review it later back in the office and draw up plans.
These are broad rules. Each of them can be broken, depending on whether you have a relationship with the person you are pitching to and individual circumstances. One other thing that is worth mentioning: if this is your first or second time, a lack of interest might be dispiriting. Remember that some deals are just not worth signing.
As a reminder:
Cannes Starter Guide: http://amzn.to/1C4H07H
Midem 2015 Cheat Sheet: http://amzn.to/1DUCGp8
Cannes or Bust: First time in Cannes http://cannes-or-bust.com/first-time-in-cannes/