Recently I had the privilege of sitting on a panel of judges as some small local game developers pitched their game concepts at us. We were there to discuss their ideas, not just on a gameplay front, but also (and probably more importantly) from a business standpoint. Sitting in a smallish room, the other judges and I watched these guys and girls show us their ideas. While the ideas were pretty much all solid – though they could all have done with a bit more time on their design, which is understandable as they had all only had a few weeks to develop – it was the pitches themselves that needed the most work.
This in turn caused me to think about pitching. For most devs, it’s not really something they have to do – yet at college or uni, or in this case an incubator, it was expected that these programmers and designers jump up and give us a 5 minute (which is a very small amount of time to convey as complex a subject as a game design) spiel on their work.
Good pitching is really a direct-experience thing – something that takes a long time and a lot of attempts to get right – or at least get to a point where it’s acceptable. While there’s not really any class or book or advice that is going to be anywhere near as good a teacher as just doing it a whole lot; I myself have had to do dozens and dozens of them, and while I am in no way a pro at it, I’ve definitely gone through enough of them to have figured out a few things which I thought I’d share...
When pitching your game, don’t tell us how passionate you are about games. The people you’re speaking to will assume this is the case. You also don’t really need to mention that you’re gamers. Almost everyone who works in developing games is into games. You have limited time to impress your audience, and there are better ways to use this time.
Try to focus on talking about your game. Always open with an introduction of your company – not yourselves – but keep it quick. Discuss the gameplay, and the elements of your game that are interesting and different – in the typical ‘why would I play your game over *insert other game here*?’ sense. Be prepared for this question – whether they ask it or not – you’re still going to have to cover it in one way or another.
Keep your introduction to the narrative and any world-setting brief. Publishers don’t really care too much about the narrative; they want to know you have a narrative and a rough idea of it to see if it’s an original concept. If you have a game with a campaign, just stick to the dot points, keep it to a sentence or so.
Lastly, you can’t ever fully prepare for a given pitch – different people are going to react differently and ask different questions – so you need to develop (or be one of those lucky people who have it naturally) the ability to think and talk on your feet, and one of the best ways to achieve this is to Know. Your. Material.
At the end of the day, pitching is not really something that can be taught, or leaned from a book. It is something that is best learned simply by doing it. If you’re in the position at Uni/College, or even work where you’re having to give one or more of these sort of presentations, the best advice I guess I can possibly give is just to believe in your concept – the confidence in your voice and your manner will come with a bit of time and practice, and confidence is a key to success for almost anything.