Dream of being mercilessly grilled by the Sharks on ABC’s Shark Tank in front of a TV audience of millions? Of course you do. A spot on the show brings the potential of investment dollars and mentorship, not to mention priceless publicity.
The producers of the show are about to go on tour to find their next batch of entrepreneurs, with stops in New York City, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and Houston, among others. (Read the full list of cities and dates here.)
Hopefuls will only get 1-minute to pitch, so the producers recommend that everyone comes “prepared to wow and dazzle.” We’ve collected some tips on how to do just that, along with advice for pitching the Sharks – if you happen to actually make it onto the Shark Tank floor.
1. Remember you’re on television.
First and foremost, Shark Tank is a television show. Be quirky, bold, funny and even downright odd – just don’t be boring. One minute isn’t much, but if you can prove you have a compelling personality and pitch, that alone may be enough to carry you through to the next round. Business ideas are important, but if a founder is a giant yawn, his or her pitch won’t make for good television.
Rugged Events co-founders Rob Dickens went on Shark Tank and walked away with $1.75 million and the backing of mega-entrepreneur Mark Cuban. While his business idea was important, he recognizes he would never have gotten that far without an interesting storyline. “It all goes back to reality TV,” says Dickens. “The producers wanted something to happen in the pitch." Read More: How to Get on ‘Shark Tank’ and Win
2. Keep it simple.
This is particularly important during the initial casting call, when time is limited. A pitch should be easy to understand, says Scott Salyers, the supervising casting producer on the show. He’s not interested in the purely theoretical, the unnecessarily complicated or the long-winded. He wants to know, in as simple language as possible, what the product is, why it will make money and how much you want from the Sharks. If you start using abbreviations (SMBs, B2B and the like) he’ll have you start again, without the jargon. Read More: Want to Get on Shark Tank? 8 Secrets From the Show’s Casting Producer.
3. Test before you jump in.
Yes, your personality is important. But to succeed on the show, you also need a killer product or service, says Shark Tank judge Robert Herjavec. So before wasting your time lining up for the casting call to peddle an idea that doesn’t cut it, test it out in the real world. This doesn’t mean asking a biased source such as your mom, significant other or barber what they think, but instead turning to objective individuals, either clients or strangers, to see if they’re interested in buying whatever it is you’re selling. Read More: Shark Tank Star Robert Herjavec’s Top 10 Tips for Entrepreneurs
4. Know the basics.
At the end of the day, Shark Tank judges are interested in two questions: Whether or not they will get paid back for the risk they are taking, and how long it will take. While in early seasons, the casting directors would occasionally bring on ridiculous business ideas just to see how the Sharks would react – the equivalent of a disastrous audition on American Idol – now they are only looking for serious contenders tempting enough that a Shark could bite.
Make sure, then, that you have a solid answer to both of the above questions, preferably ones that contain hard numbers and illustrate that you understand the size of the marketplace, demand and gross margins for your product. Related: The 3 Questions Always Asked on ABC’s 'Shark Tank’
5. Be honest about failures.
While it may be hard to cram a story about a previous failure into a 1-minute pitch, if you make it past the initial casting call don’t attempt to Photoshop your past, says Shark Tank judge Daymond John. He’ll see right through it.
“Don’t make your pitch, or your brand backstory, sound all rosy, because I don’t care what brand you look at or how big they are now, all of us know that times have not been great all of the time,” he says. “If you can’t come clean and tell investors how and why you failed, that raises a red flag. They need to see that you learned from it and came back stronger.” Read More: Shark Tank Star Daymond John Says Never Make This Common Mistake When Pitching Investors