The Serious Business of the Serious Entertainment Business
Why do we need to be entertained?
I'm just heading off to Toronto to deliver my 'Art of Pitching' lecture, based on the Seven Secrets of a Successful Pitch, for the Entertainment Master Class Canadian Conference. Looking through the list of lectures at the event, I saw these notable speakers:
Mark Burnett (creator of The Apprentice) - The Inside Story of “The Voice”
Alan Boyd (the man who commissioned Pop Stars and franchised many of Simon Cowell’s shows around the world) - Entertainment Is a Serious Business
It got me thinking. Is entertainment a serious business? And can serious business be entertaining?
TV shows such as Dragon's Den and The Apprentice take some very dry business themes; profit and loss, return on investment, recruitment and retention, business plans and investor relations, and present them in an entertaining way. We may not understand how the Dragons in the Den arrive at their valuations and investment offers, but we can begin to understand the factors that make someone investable or not.
In the world of entertainment, commissioning executives might seem like a tough audience to pitch to, but they're no different to any other investor. It really doesn't matter whether your product is designed to make some laugh or cry, or even if it's designed to improve the energy efficiency of their home, the investor's decision is simply based on two questions; "Do my customers want this?" and "Can I make a profit out of it?"
People from outside of the commercial world, often creative or technical people, can see this as a harsh, soul-less approach. They often want everyone to feel the same sense of passion and excitement as they do about their product, idea, format, invention, design or movie script.
The important thing to remember is that, without a serious, thorough and committed investor, your creation isn't going to be seen and enjoyed by anyone.
Some people describe such decision makers as 'gate keepers', in a negative sense. But you must remember that the job of a gatekeeper is to let the right people in. Your job is simply to pitch to the people you are right for.
In Toronto, I will be lecturing to TV executives from the EMC and CBC (Canada’s free to air broadcaster) about the psychology of pitching and communication.
I will also be having meetings with a number of advertising agencies including the MD of RAPP Canada about improving their pitch offerings.
What I find really fascinating is being able to see the pitch from both sides. The audience you're nervously pitching to today will be nervously pitching to someone else tomorrow. We really are all in it together.
Is entertainment a serious business? Of course, otherwise it wouldn't be an industry that so many people aspire to work in.
Can business be entertaining? Absolutely, when you realise that it's not a battle, it's a dance.
I'd better go... I can hear the music starting...