This post was originally published on the American Film Market & Conferences blog and has been republished here with permission.
It happens more often than you might think—a writer with a promising project makes a mistake in the room and “breaks the deal.”
Although you may already avoid most of the mistakes I identify in this post, you may find one or two to be a wake-up call. So be honest with yourself. Is it possible that you sabotage yourself and break the deal in any of the following ways?
1. Sitting in the wrong seat
Obviously, if you’re in the decision-maker’s office, you wouldn’t sit behind the desk. But frequently, meetings are held in conference rooms or other places where the decision-maker’s chair isn’t immediately apparent. Thus, always let the decision-maker sit down first. And even if it seems obvious where you are supposed to sit, ask, “Where would you like me to sit?”
2. Not including everyone in the room
3. Assuming they know who you are
The decision-maker may have forgotten why they ever made the appointment with you in the first place. Be ready to (re)introduce yourself at the beginning of the meeting.
4. Addressing the buyer too informally
Some people try to create instant friendships by calling the buyer by a first name or even a nickname. This is a risk not worth taking. Instead of forcing intimacy, err on the side of formality. Let the decision-maker suggest moving to a first-name basis.
5. Starting before the decision-maker is ready
Let the decision-maker finish phone calls, get papers arranged and otherwise get themselves together before you start your presentation.
6. Displaying anxiety
While it is understandable that you may feel nervous, for many decision-makers, obvious signs of anxiety are an immediate deal-breaker. After all, if you lack confidence, they can’t introduce you to their colleagues or their boss and say, “I vouch for this person.” So if you walk into the room with sweat beading on your brow, shake the decision-maker’s hand and your hand is wet and clammy with nervousness, and your throat is so dry that your voice cracks when you start to talk, you’re at a serious disadvantage.
7. Being obsequious
Getting defensive during the meeting is an amateur move. If you get asked a tough question and you groan or make excuses, the decision-maker will think you’re not the right person for the job. If you can’t handle yourself professionally in the initial meeting, how can the decision-maker expect you to handle even higher-pressure situations? Here’s what the pros do instead of arguing—they say something like: “Interesting point. Let me think about that.”
9. Indicating impatience
Don’t drum your fingers or check the time repeatedly. In the room, you’re on the decision-maker’s schedule. Don’t give the impression you’d rather be somewhere else.
10. Using jargon that is not known to the buyer
11. Phoning it in
How do you know if you’re phoning it in? If you haven’t customized your pitch, you are. Decision-makers can tell if your pitch is something you’ve presented the same way countless times before. Little tweaks make a big difference.
12. Talking too fast
Some people naturally talk fast. However, it’s not smart to talk faster than the decision-maker can process the information. Plus, talking fast often means that you’re nervous—and you know how decision-makers feel about anxiety.
13. Starting with an apology
Don’t say anything like, “I’m not very good at pitching,” or “I’m pretty inexperienced,” or anything else that reflects negatively on you. Decision-makers only want to do business with professionals, not wannabe’s.
14. Making a big deal about where you went to college
If you and the buyer went to the same school, that may be a rapport-building topic. Otherwise, you can mention the school you attended once, casually. Emphasizing your educational pedigree too frequently makes you look like a tool. Decision-makers care more about what you’ve done since you’ve left school.
16. Being inappropriate
Female executives should be looked in the eye, if you get my drift.
17. Acting desperate
18. Giving too much information
Some people feel comfortable talking with people they’ve just met about medical conditions, financial situations or romantic escapades. I met with one writer who blurted out mid-pitch, “I haven’t had sex in twelve years.” Yikes! In general, if you wouldn’t want to see it on the front pages of the local paper, don’t share it in the room.
19. Sweating buckets
20. Acting weird
Stephanie Palmer, a former MGM Pictures executive and best-selling author of “Good in a Room,” has been featured by NBC, ABC, CBS, Los Angeles Times, NPR, Variety and many more. You can meet Palmer at the AFM 2015 Pitch Conference. To connect with her, visit her web site or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.
READ MORE: The Top 8 Pitches at the Hot Docs Forum: What Worked and What Didn’t