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3 Ways To Manage Pitch Panic

Pitch anxiety is very real for all writers. Here, co-authors Peter Desberg and Jeffrey Davis offer three ways to manage your pitch panic.

“What happens if I forget key parts of my pitch in the room?” “These executives enjoy tormenting writers and love putting them under pressure.” “I’m a good writer, but I don’t have great social skills...”

If you’ve had any of these fear-provoking thoughts, you’ve experienced a fear of negative evaluation. Causes of Pitch Panic range from anxiety that you’ll ruin your pitch, to the idea that you’re pitching to horrible people who won’t grasp your prodigious talents. Either way it makes you nervous when you’re going to pitch to them.

(Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Correcting Submissions Before You Hear Back)

There are three ways to manage Pitch Panic:

Changing Your Emotions

The first way to deal with it is on an emotional level. This won’t get rid of what causes your fear, but it will enable you to reduce the symptoms. It’s the symptoms that make you feel terrible.

To start feeling better, begin practicing Progressive Relaxation skills. Go to this link and do the exercise. You’ll want to practice for seven and a half minutes a day (that’s how long the session takes) for one week. It will help settle you down before you pitch.

We suggest that you use this exercise just before you go into pitch. It calms you down, and the deep breathing will oxygenate your brain, making you more alert.

Changing Your Thoughts

The second way to manage Pitch Panic is by learning to change your thinking. As writers, we’re skilled at terrifying ourselves. Psychologists use the term “anticipatory anxiety,” to refer to how we scare ourselves long before an important event. If you created a list of all the things that could go wrong, you’d probably never show up to pitch. The way we frighten ourselves is a great demonstration of our creativity.

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Greek philosopher Epictetus said that it’s not the events in our life that shape how we feel, it’s the way we interpret them. You’re in the middle of your pitch and the most important person in the room yawns. You’ll probably think, “I’m boring the hell out of this editor. This pitch is over.” And you may be right. But, perhaps the editor only got four and a half hours of sleep the night before. It’s important to learn how to come up with alternative interpretations of events … particularly negative ones.

Peter worked with an actress who was attractive, but was convinced she wasn’t nearly as beautiful as the women she was competing with. Whenever she didn’t get a part, her interpretation was, “I didn’t get it because I wasn’t pretty enough.”

One day she came in after an audition where she didn’t get the part. When asked why she didn’t get it, she gave Peter an exasperated look as if to say, “Aren’t you smart enough to see why I didn’t get it … it was my looks.” Peter asked her if there could be another reason. It took a little time, but she came up with, “I guess they could have been looking for a tall, brooding brunette and I’m a perky blonde.”

In addition to being an actress, she was also a writer. Within a few minutes, she began coming up with a series of other interpretations and changed her thought process. The key to making this technique work is that each interpretation you come up with has to be plausible.

Changing your thoughts is easier than changing your emotions, but it’s still not easy. Snap your fingers and try changing your religion or political affiliation and you’ll see that thoughts can be resistant to change.

Changing Your Behavior

Unlike the first two categories, changing your behavior is directly under your control. If you can change your behavior successfully, it will lead to changing your thoughts and that will lead to changing your emotions. Here are a few things you can do.

3 Ways To Manage Pitch Panic

Practicing your pitch—We’re strong believers in State Dependent Learning. This means practicing as close to performance conditions as possible. Gather a group of experienced friends and colleagues together and take turns practicing your pitch in front of each other. This practice will simulate the conditions of an actual pitch. Ask members to ask you difficult questions, interrupt you, look bored. Ask them to do everything you’ve ever heard that scared you about pitching.

Getting Feedback—After the pitch, make sure they give you specific feedback. Did you include all the necessary information? Did you lose the thread of your story? Did you ramble or go into bragging mode, showing your cleverness? Tell them not to hold back or spare your feelings.

Something to look forward to—Pace your pitch so that every few minutes you have something fantastic to say. It can be a story, anecdote, a joke, or anything you know will engage the people in the room. This will help you look forward to the next part of your pitch, giving you much needed confidence.

Running scared—Here’s a bonus practice technique to make you bulletproof. After you’ve honed your pitch and practiced it, run in place hard enough to get a little out of breath. Then give your pitch. This will simulate pitching while you’re having a mild panic attack. If you can get through it, there’s not much that can stop you.

Revision and Self Editing

Every writer knows that the journey to publication is a long and hard road. Once you finish your first draft, it’s time to start the arduous process of self-editing and revision. When you take this online writing course you will learn methods of self-editing for fiction writers to ensure your writing is free of grammatical errors.

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