Paul Pauwels is the head of the Belgian production company Congoo and former director of the European Television and Media Management Academy (ETMA). He continues to works worldwide as a tutor and moderator. Pauwels is sharing his guidelines for a successful documentary pitch. In this third part of the series, Pauwels offers some advice for when you are actually in front of a funder.

Part 1: Pitching 101: Writing the Pitch, and Other Pitch Preparations
Part 2: The Ws That Build a Successful Pitch
Part 3: When You’re in the Room

When You’re in the Room

  • Don’t be afraid of showing your passion.
  • Prepare yourself and do your homework. Try to find out who will be present during a pitching session and what kind of slots people are responsible for.
  • Use body language, make sure the producers see you and remember your face.
  • Entertain your audience! They will be grateful for it. Listening to a lot of pitches can be a dull job. Make sure your project stands out. Humor always works, but in the right measure. Don’t turn the pitch into a stand-up comedy routine.
  • Try to find a good opening pitch situation or phrase. Surprise listeners and grab them by the throat.
  • In many cases you can decide whether you want to stand or sit. Standing up is sometimes easier because it helps you breathe better.
  • Pay attention to what your hands are doing. When you’re nervous they tend to have a life of their own. This can be distracting to the listeners.
  • Speak loud and clear. Find out what a microphone does to your voice, and don’t be afraid of using the microphone to your advantage.
  • You’re talking to people. Look at them and look them in the eyes.
  • Avoid open phrases without a clear end. They give a bad impression and they make you look unfocused.
  • Avoid negative phrases: don’t tell them what you’re not going to make.
  • Use a bullet point list and train with it. The structure of your pitch should be clear in your head. But don’t learn everything by heart – avoid making a sterile pitch.
  • Don’t make your pitch too wide. Keep it simple. You’ll have individual meetings afterwards, where you can give more detailed information to the financers.
  • Never fight during a pitch. Argue and make your point but never get into a verbal fight. You can’t win and it will destroy the atmosphere. The moderators will be there to help avoid a situation like this.
  • If more than one person is pitching, pay attention to what the other person is doing and saying. Show the audience that you’re a team.
  • If you’re using visuals, make sure that they’re well synchronized with what you say, otherwise the audience will get lost and your pitch will lose its power. Beware of PowerPoint presentations (Bill Gates is lying when he says they’re safe).
  • Help the producers/commissioning editors understand what kind of film you are aiming for. You should know what kind of audience you want to reach.
  • Timing is everything. Make sure you keep an eye on the clock, so that you don’t have to rush towards the end of your pitch. Train your pitch. Use a mirror…it looks ridiculous, but it will help you to control yourself and to stay within the time limit.


Part 1: Pitching 101: Writing the Pitch, and Other Pitch Preparations
Part 2: The Ws That Build a Successful Pitch
Part 3: When You’re in the Room

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POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 300 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.