Pitching Tip: To "Leave-Behind" or Not To "Leave-Behind"?

You’ve done it! You’ve prepped. You’ve practiced. You’ve pitched. The hard part’s over. There’s energy in the air. They like your idea. You can breathe again.

Now you just need to leave the pitch meeting on a high note. Believe it or not, this is where the enthusiasm and energy you’ve earned can fall apart. Quickly. From nervous, inappropriate banter to awkward silence, I’ve seen all forms of it. If they love your project and want to buy it, you’re okay.  But if they’re on the fence about working with you, this could tip them to the “pass” side. Which is why I spend time on this in my Power Meeting Prep seminar and client workshops. I like to walk people through what they should expect from the minute they enter the room to the minute they leave (you never want your last minute impressions to thwart your first ones).

One question that often comes up: Should I leave a leave-behind?

What is a leave-behind?

A leave-behind is generally a concise one-page document that ideally presents your pitch in the best possible light.

These one-sheets usually consist of a logline, a BRIEF paragraph that describes the world of the show, what makes it compelling – why viewers will watch it and a description of the MAIN characters and their relationships to each other (hint: make sure there’s conflict).

Often the people you’re pitching to must then pitch your idea to their boss. You want your one-sheet to make it easy for them (did I mention these should be brief)?

So should you leave a leave-behind?

After reaching out to colleagues to find out their preferences, here’s the answer:…

It depends on where you’re pitching.

At a Pitchfest

Yes, but only if the person requests one. The best way to handle this opportunity is to ask the person you’re pitching to for their email so that you can send it to them the next week when they aren’t so inundated with material. In this case your leave-behind may be a one sheet, a bible or a script… or all of those.

This approach benefits you in two ways.

  • It puts you on their radar the following week when they return to their office
  • It separates you and your material from the hordes of people they met with and received documents from at the pitchfest

So what should you say when the person you’ve pitched to asks to see more?

“I wish I could give you a (one-sheet/bible/script), but I don’t have any more with me because so many people asked for it. Can I get your email and send it to you next week?”

To a Production Company or Studio

No. Although, they might ask for one if it’s a particularly complicated premise that needs explanation or if a family tree would help understand character connections.

To a Network/Cable/Digital broadcaster

No. There’s almost always someone in the room taking notes on the meeting. If the pitch is based on a book, however, it could be helpful to leave behind a copy of the book.

Basically, in all scenarios, only leave a leave-behind when asked.

Prep one anyway

Of course, it never hurts to be prepared. I encourage writers to create a one-sheet just in case. Think of it as a writing exercise that forces you to think of your pitch in a clear and concise manner. Plus, if it turns out after your pitch they want to have something to take back to the rest of the development team, you have one at the ready.

As for me, from listening to thousands of pitches both at the network level and at various Pitchfests, I can say, personally, I do not want to have a leave-behind. If I really like an idea or am intrigued by a writer, I will reach out and ask for more.

Let me know what you’ve encountered when you’ve pitched. Have you been asked for a leave-behind? If so, what did you leave? Do you feel it was helpful? Tweet me @carolekirsch

All my best, Carole

About Carole
Director of WGA's Showrunner Training Program, creator & Director of the CBS Diversity Writers Mentoring Program, international speaker and a leading expert on entertainment career strategies, Carole Kirschner teaches creative professionals how to navigate the often mystifying landscape of show business. Her book, Hollywood Game Plan: How to Land a Job in Film, TV and Digital Entertainment is a primer on how to break in and move up in the entertainment industry. Through her popular workshops, Carole teaches writers, producers, directors and executives the real world strategies that will help them not just succeed, but thrive.