During shooting, I'm usually the last Shark to stroll in, around 7:30 a.m. While my head is being powdered, a producer gives us a broad rundown of the day, during which we'll see anywhere between ten and twenty pitchers. That's far more than the average venture capitalist will see in a day, but whether you're prepping for a TV show or to present in front of a board of potential investors, the number-one rule is to make your pitch incredibly dynamic.
Here are 10 tips to make sure you ace your pitch in the Tank, or in the office boardroom.
1. Keep it simple.
Make sure you can explain your business to an eight-year-old. The producers on Shark Tank aren't business experts; they're in the business of making a TV show. If you think the Sharks are impatient, you haven't met the average reality TV producer. If it takes more than a couple sentences to explain the opportunity you're presenting, your idea needs more polish. 2. Keep it lively.
If you're talking about a dry business like security software or an agricultural product, you must find creative and entertaining ways to demonstrate it, or you will not make the cut. We love to see all kinds of business, but you must make every effort to turn your presentation into a production worth watching and enjoying. Believe me, if you think I'm vicious in the den, try boring me in my own boardroom. 3. Watch the show. You'd be surprised by how many people vying to be on Shark Tank haven't ever watched an episode. Very dumb. Watch and learn! By the same token, know everything about the business people to whom you're pitching. Get the prospectus; read the website; Google the hell out of them. You can't simply wing it in the Tank, or in the board room. 4. Keep props to a minimum.
On the show, every single prop has to pass muster with the show's director. He has sweeping authority to put the kibosh on your elaborate graphics, life-size mannequin, or anything else that might clutter the shot or make it difficult for the cameras to get the angles. Just as in real life, there's a big difference between a solid pitch that happens to dazzle, and one that needs to dazzle to hide its lack of substance. Less is usually more. If yours is a good idea, it won't need bells and whistles to make the grade.
5. No entourages.
Don't show up with your Aunt Betsy who's a big fan of Robert. The greenroom is small, the days are long, and the producers are cranky. The Shark Tank shoot is expensive, fast-paced, and intense, so there's no time for visits or wandering. And in real life, if you've got several partners who all want to make the case to potential investors, keep the cast to a minimum. Bring only key players. For my money, I need to have the CFO present because all my questions will concern money. VPs can usually wait in the car.
6. What not to wear.
Don't wear anything white, busy patterns, hats, costumes, or distracting garments that haven't been approved by a producer. We shoot in the summer and air in the fall and winter, so dress accordingly. Shorts look stupid on TV in February. In fact, your terrific little pitch could hit the cutting room floor because of the way you look. Same goes for making that crucial first impression in the boardroom. Dress the part of a winner--whatever that looks like in your field. 7. Be safe and practical.
Remember, it's a long day. Bring something to read and something to eat. And in order to get into the Tank you have to walk down a long hallway of shiny hardwood floor. Keep that in mind when choosing footwear. No one's slipped and fallen yet, but you don't want to be the first. That's a scene that won't likely hit the cutting-room floor.
8. All numbers on the table.
Nothing bothers me more than when entrepreneurs want to keep some of their numbers off the record. You must be prepared to disclose all relevant info, no matter how succulent the margins, how big the profits, or how many competitors you fear might be watching the show. Put your figures on the table--on TV and in the boardroom--all your figures, period. Or stay home. 9. Do your own PR. If you are selected to be on the program, you won't get much notice, so be prepared to launch your own media blitz. Gather local media contacts, write yourself a press release then hit Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook like crazy. Big and small businesses are increasingly required to be social media savvy.
10. Get ready to fill orders.
Millions of people will see your pitch if it's aired on the show. So stock your product, update your website, and man the phones. Time and time again, entrepreneurs aren't prepared for the influx of customers that come with Shark Tank Friday, only to have their websites crash within minutes. This often means missing out on.
Read more great advice like this in my newest book, Cold Hard Truth on Family, Kids, and Money.