Pitching your game like a pro: 13 essential tips

Pitching your game like a pro: 13 essential tips

By Jon Torrens

September 8th 2015 at 11:17AM

Jon Torrens offers invaluable advice on how to present your games to publishers and other potential partners

1.     Don’t rely on Powerpoint

Listen, and understand: Powerpoint is out there! It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until your audience’s enthusiasm is dead.

Well, that’s how it can feel. Only use Powerpoint to illustrate your points when helpful. Otherwise, step away from the clicker. Crucially, if you rely on your Powerpoint and the tech fails, you’re stuffed. Like a turkey at Christmas. With cheap stuffing from a packet.

Tip: only use Powerpoint to illustrate what you’re saying, not as the basis of the whole pitch. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of Powerpoint…

2.     Guns don’t kill people

Bullets do. Don’t read them off the slides. That would mean intelligence insulted and time wasted.

Tip: use images with little or no text.

3.     The fear before a crime and the thrill of success

Being nervous is normal; it shows you care. Those confident-looking speakers get nervous, too – right now they’ve just got more experience than you. Nerves are the necessary demons whose presence you must accept. Counter their power with the confidence of knowing your pitch.

Tip: remember you’re supposed to be nervous. It’s part of the process.

4.     Keep it simple, stupid

Enthusiasm is great, but ten minutes of enthusiasm is pointless if your audience still don’t know what the game is actually about. Accurately conveying the idea in ten seconds, however, is a very good thing indeed. Your audience wants to ‘get’ your idea as quickly as possible.

Tip: experts can sum up complex concepts in a few words. And you’re the expert, remember?

5.     Rehearse. Keep rehearsing. Then rehearse a bit more

Don’t let the event be the first time you actually deliver your pitch at full pace and volume. Rehearse it a few times and don’t stop if you make a mistake. Then deliver it to someone who knows nothing about it (or games, even). Then: a.) Listen to all their feedback and b.) Act on it. If there’s something unclear in there you need to fix it.

Tip: do a dress rehearsal in front of someone. Running through it in your head doesn’t cut it.

6.     Engage

Speak to them. They’re real people and they don’t just want a Powerpoint with you gesturing at bits of it. Have a conversation, ask them questions.

Tip: drop the formality and you’ll communicate much better.

7.     Do your homework

Make sure you know the game inside out (and I mean every last bit of it, even the stuff you’re not responsible for). It shows you care about the project as a whole and not just getting your bit done.

Research the audience; do they know anything about this genre? Or video games at all? Or are they experts, whose intelligence you’re about to insult and whose time you’re about to waste? Neither possibility is particularly good, so just ask them (they may each have different levels of experience).

Familiarise yourself with the tech, the room and have backup plans for every situation you can think of. “What, every situation?” Yes. You’re pitching for investment.

Tip: know the game concept, the audience and the venue. Have plans B, C and D ready for when the tech goes pear-shaped.

8.     A good set of references

It’s like God of War meets Minecraft with COD perks.*

References to existing titles can communicate your game’s features quickly and effectively, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking your game will be as successful as all of them combined. Also, if any of the audience don’t know the obscure JRPG you’re referring to, then that reference is pointless. A well-known movie is a good bet. *(Not a bad idea, that. You could call it ‘COD of Warcraft’. Er…)

Tip: use no more than two references, and make sure they’re ones that everyone knows.

9.     Freestyler

If you’re getting a little lost, for goodness’ sake don’t start improvising or your audience will metaphorically got off the bus. If you’re losing your way, just admit it and get back on track (the audience may even help you). If you don’t know the answer to a question, just say so. It’s fine. You’ll speak to them about it afterwards.

Tip: only say what you know to be true.

10.  It’s tricky, tricky, tricky, tricky, hoooah

You’ve written and rehearsed a brilliant presentation. You know the venue, the set up, and you’ve even put fresh batteries in your clicker. You’re feeling good – it’s in the bag. Unless someone asks you a tricky question about that feature you don’t want to talk about yet.

So, write down the most awkward, devious questions that someone could ask you and then think of an answer for them. Anything, including deferment responses such as “We’ll decide on that at the end of November.” Even if it’s not the answer they wanted, firing it straight back at them keeps you in control. This is very good.

Tip: have answers ready for every tricky question.

11.  Be creative, convincing and concise

Or ‘be yourself, show some emotion, and keep it simple’. Originality is vital, so show your character and how much you love your game concept. Deliver something that takes half the time slot you were given so they can ask questions afterwards. Time your rehearsal to make sure you know exactly how long it takes to deliver.

Tip: being different is great, being different and enthusiastic is even better. Doing all that while also being brief is a huge bonus for your audience - the cherry on the pitching cake.

12.  Banter fodder

Investors aren’t just looking at your game concept, they’re examining you and your team, considering what your next few games could be. If you look like you’re enjoying giving your pitch, it says that you have confidence in your game concept. It also makes you likeable – pretty important if they’re going to be working with you for the next few years. Interact with your team, have fun, have some banter with each other and show that you make games together because you bloody love it.

Tip: Try enjoying yourself and you’ll deliver your best pitch. 

13.  Prepare thoroughly, then go with the flow

Create something wonderful. Rehearse it thoroughly. Then get up, smile and deliver it. You can’t control everything that happens, but you can make sure that you know your material.

Tip: know your stuff, but don’t worry about delivering it perfectly.


Jon Torrens is a communication coach who helps game devs find their speaking character for pitches and presentations. Learn more at www.jontorrens.co.uk.