For the first few weeks that I attended pitch meetings at Guideposts magazine, I was a nervous wreck. Every time 10 o’clock on Wednesday morning rolled around, I’d anxiously fidget and crumple the pitch sheet I’d prepared with palms that were already starting to sweat. I preferred to sit in the chair farthest from the table and look down at my now-damp paper, so I wouldn’t be called on. Part of the reason I got so nervous is because of my own introverted self, but the main reason is because as an intern you have an overwhelmingly strong desire to please your editor and any dissatisfaction makes you question yourself and your abilities. Now that I’ve had a few weeks of pitch meetings under my belt, I feel I can share what I’ve learned about making these meetings a little less terrifying for interns.
Study your pitches beforehand. Like any presentation, it’s a good idea to do a test run before walking into the conference room. Whip out your highlighter and really study the submission or story ideas you’re bringing to the table. Make sure you know all the details, so when your editor asks for some clarification you can just say it without fumbling through your notes. This also gives you time to really think about what section of the publication your pitch might fit in or if the story is worth pitching at all.
Realize that everyone is nervous. What I didn’t expect in the pitch meetings was to find that others in the room, no matter their experience, seemed just as nervous about their pitches as I or the other interns did. A lot of the more experienced writers and editors sped through their pitches, sometimes backtracking to explain a detail they had missed, and then looked up expectantly. If that person’s five minutes was followed by crickets, he or she might try to defend the pitch or usher on the next person, so as not to sit there in awkward silence. So, know you’re not alone in the nervous department.
Accept that not all your pitches will be winners. As an intern, you want to try and impress your editors and supervisors, which means bringing the best stories possible to your pitch meetings. However, no matter how great you might think a potential story is, be prepared to throw it in the recycle bin — and don’t take it personally. Maybe the magazine has run a similar story recently or the idea might just be a dud. Also understand that it isn’t just some of your pitches that are met with grimaces and “good tries.” Staff writers pitch things all the time that don’t pass muster. On the bright side, every time a pitch is struck down, you’re training your brain to look for something a little better the next time.
Try to have something to pitch. While all of your pitches won’t be accepted, you should always do your best to have something prepared. Even if it is a tiny blurb you found, offer it as a story because an editor might see the potential in it you didn’t. Two weeks ago, when my turn came to pitch, I hesitated. The story was on a girl who was spending a Christmas in Las Vegas, away from her family and friends in the Midwest. After rereading my notes for the fourth time, I decided there wasn’t much there, but at the urging of the editors, I pitched the idea. Turns out, they liked it and had me contact the writer later that day. However, you shouldn’t pitch a story just for the sake of it. If there isn’t anything good in the slush pile that week, just say so and save your editors’ time.
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