September 3, 2014
Listening to a panel of investors at one of our events, I was amused to hear that they have many of the same pet peeves as journalists when it comes to pitches. Cc’ing all the partners at a VC firm or – even worse – bcc’ing your pitch to dozens of people with the salutation “Dear investors” can be a deal breaker.
When it comes to pitching at conferences, journalists and investors have many of the same feelings here, too. Conferences are an amazing venue to make connections with journalists and give you an advantage over the dozens or hundreds of cold emails we get every day. But if you do it wrong and end up annoying us, it could hurt rather than help you. Here are 8 do’s and don’ts for approaching journalists at conferences.
Don’t ask if we want to see a demo. In the unlikely event that we do, we’ll ask you. If you insist on demoing all the features of your app, we’ll probably be glancing over your shoulder trying to catch a glimpse of that famous speaker we want a word with. Unless you’re the hottest startup at this conference, we want to spend our precious time looking for a more timely and relevant scoop.
Don’t ask if we’ll cover you. As you might say in the dating world, we just met! We want to check out your website, think about it a bit, and see if you have more than 23 Twitter followers. When you try to seal the deal too soon, it makes us uncomfortable. We’re human – we don’t like rejecting people, either, especially face to face.
Don’t give us your press kit. Format doesn’t matter – if it’s a huge folder, that’s yet another thing we have to schlep around. If it’s on a USB stick – well, the one press kit I got on a USB stick got deleted and turned into some very nice data storage for me.
Don’t chat with us for 20 minutes. This is pretty much a common courtesy – at a two-day event with thousands of people, we only have so much time to make the connections we want to make. If we’ve stopped asking you questions and we’re clearly ready to end the conversation, please let us go.
Do your homework. Investor Jeff Clavier remembers laughing when someone asked if he heard of Twitter – he, who owns the handle @jeff. Do your research on which journalists are attending a conference by checking out the press list, and get familiar with what topics we and our publications cover. That way, you can be more targeted in whom you talk to.
Say something intelligent. The point of the conversation is not so much to pitch your startup as to pique our interest and be memorable. If the conversation is all about you and your product, you won’t stand out from the dozens of other entrepreneurs who approach us. Instead, say something interesting about one of the speakers or an article we’ve written.
Give us your card. As imperfect as business cards may be, they still do serve a purpose. If I’m totally impressed, I have a way to get in touch with you. Instead, I’ll probably throw out your business card but I might be 10% more likely to remember your name when it shows up in my inbox a week later.
Follow us on Twitter after. Again, the goal here is to be remembered. An email from someone we met at a conference – though not the warmest introduction possible – is way better than an email from a stranger. Adding us on Twitter – triggering a notification on Twitter and possibly a notification email – is another way to burn your name into our memory.
So there you have it. It may not seem fair or nice, but that is the harsh reality of pitching journalists at conferences. We have our own agenda for every event – getting great stories and tracking down high-level sources – but we know you do, too. Respect our time, be memorable, and you might get a reply when you pitch us for real later.
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