Two 90-minute events. With 18 paying participants. Trying to start a relationship with a five-minute pitch.
Welcome to Speed Pitching. It’s like speed dating, except PR professionals court the platonic attentions of magazine editors and TV morning show producers.
“We are the only company that does this,” says Nicole Vance of New Product Events, organizer of the trademarked Speed Pitching. The company had been putting on media events since 2007, but saw a need for a new approach. “It’s very hit-and-miss with the trade shows,” Vance says. “What our clients are really looking for is one-on-one time with the nationals.”
At a time when publications replace print versions with online components, bloggers have become increasingly influential, and getting a journalist on the phone can seem downright impossible, New Product Events is, in a way, reinventing the pitch. By providing in-person meetings with members of more-traditional media—“the clients still want to get into those print magazines, especially around holiday gift guide time,” says Vance—companies such as Hallmark, Hamilton Beech and LEGO can count on brief but uninterrupted opportunities to share products with Real Simple, Everyday Food, The Today Show and O, The Oprah Magazine.
How does it work, exactly? Events are themed so, for instance, only food companies can pitch to food editors. Exhibitors are allowed to pitch two products to an outlet, for up to five minutes, then must rotate tables after a buzzer sounds. There’s a morning session and afternoon session, with about a dozen outlets attending each. Unlike speed dating, however, editors don’t mark scorecards to tell organizers which pitch they’d like to “see again.” Instead, New Product Events takes care of mailing all products and press information to each media outlet in the days following the event. “This way, PR people don’t have to lug their samples around,” Vance says.
How do journalists like it? “We have a reputation for putting on good events,” Vance says. “The media loves the five minutes. We’ve never had any complaints from the exhibitors.”
Danielle Blundell, a senior associate home editor at Family Circle, seems to agree. “I tend to only remember a few key points from a pitch anyway, so why not take all of the extras out of the equation? Editors can learn more via press release or by following up later,” Blundell says. “Pitching should be the start of a dialogue about something—not a marathon to cram every little detail in.” Blundell’s magazine has covered products discovered at Speed Pitching in their openers and features.
Where and how much? Vance and her partner Amy Bates organize these events in New York, and have held two in Los Angeles. “Most of our clients are interested in the big names, so going anywhere but New York City wouldn’t give that to them,” Vance says.
With a price tag of $2900 per exhibitor spot for two 90-minute sessions—free to journalists—Speed Pitching is not exactly cheap. But Vance is quick to mention that the price is comparable to renting a table at a trade show. And it should be noted, these events do sell out.
Blundell also brings up a good point about trade shows: “It’s hard to see everyone who exhibits there.”