By Carole Dean
Gary Hankins is the author of The Power of the Pitch and an expert on creating a persuasive presentation. He shocked me when I started my interview with him on my The Art of Film Funding podcast The Perfect Pitch, What it is and How to Create it.
Gary takes people who have difficulty speaking in front of audiences and teaches them how to become persuasive presenters. It’s an important lesson to learn and skill to have. Especially, when trying to get investors or donors to give money to your documentary, feature, short film or web series.
What shocked me was his explaining that people make decisions about other people within 30 seconds of meeting them. Also, what you have to say is the least important aspect of gaining their trust and acceptance.
He says people decide in 30 seconds of meeting you if you’re going to be persuasive and if they are going to like you based on three key factors.
Presentation Factor 1 – Your Physical Actions and Appearance
The number one factor is how you physically present yourself. This includes your facial expressions, your eye contact, your gestures and even how you sit.
Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UCLA, says that 55% of total likability is how you physically present yourself. Do you have eye contact, are you relaxed, or are you stressed or anxious? In other words, how you look and act accounts for more than anything else in a presentation or a pitch.
People see this nonverbal communication and are receiving this while you speak. This is important information to them. It becomes critical especially when it’s incongruent with what you are saying. That’s when they will doubt you and make a decision not to trust you even before they really hear your pitch.
Gary says you need to smile, be friendly, be open and make people feel comfortable around you. Remember, donors want to know if you trustworthy. They are instantly making a major decision and asking themselves, “Are you someone that I can know, like, and trust?”
Presentation Factor 2 – How You Sound
How you sound is 38% of the acceptability. When you speak, are you enthusiastic? Are you upbeat and positive? Do you sound confident? Do you use appropriate inflection, tone, and range? All of these are important elements that should be considered when making your pitch.
Gary warns to not use fillers like uhh.. And do not pause often. This can make you seem unsure of yourself.
Personal Tip – In our Intentional Filmmaking Class, producer and co-instructor Tom Malloy always teaches filmmakers to practice the pitch until it is part of their DNA. You have to know it word by word. He suggests you get in front of a mirror and watch and listen to yourself as you are pitching. You want your pitch to be perfect with no pauses, it has to be natural. You have to believe it to get me to believe it.
Presentation Factor 3 – The Words You Use
The final 7% is what you say in the meeting. That’s it. It sounds amazing that this is so low. But, remember, we are discussing the decision that people make in 30 seconds on whether they can like and trust you.
People decide on what you say after they decide if they like you or not. This decision of likability comes from the nonverbal components that are happening once they meet you. When people trust you, then they listen to your pitch and make a decision. When they don’t trust you, they tune you out in the first 30 seconds.
If donors do trust you, this is when your pitch has to be awesome. If they trust you and your pitch is good, you get the check.
Final Thought – People Give Money to People Not to the Film
The main thing about getting a donation is the donor is giving the money to you not to the film. Your first job is to create a feeling of trust between you and the potential donor. You must get this right because by the time you get ready to give the world’s greatest pitch if the trust and the likability factor are not there you won’t get the donation.
Gary says they will turn you off and stop receiving your information early in the meeting if they don’t find that comfort zone. Malcolm Gladwell in his book Blink advocates your instinct comes to you in the blink of an eye.
Your donors are operating under their instinct immediately upon meeting you. Your job is to immediately put them at easy, look then in the eye, be confident, happy, proud of who you are and excited about your film.
Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-profit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcast, The Art of Film Funding, interviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film production. She is also the author of The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts. See IMDB for producing credits.