Have you ever had trouble figuring out how to end a piece of content? Do your presentations or articles just kind of…stop? There are all sorts of reasons why a strong ending is key to strong content (my favorite is the peak-end rule), and today, I’ve got a GREAT example for you. My thanks to Mitch Joel and Alistair Croll, who shared a link to this pitch in Mitch’s great newsletter:
Muppet Show Pitch
There are three big lessons from this to take away, and I’m going to lead with those so that you can see them at work in the video itself:
1. Write your conclusion first.
This is advice I give to all the TEDxCambridge speakers I work with, as well as any of my clients working on long-form content like talks or books. It may seem strange to start at the end, but by knowing how you plan to finish, you have a much better sense of how to get there.
If you write it first, you also have a lot more energy to give to it, which means you tend to use your strongest and best language there, instead of getting to the end and wondering, “how do I say this again?”.
And finally, writing your conclusion first guarantees you’ll actually have one, and your post, presentation, or book won’t just peter out. Not sure where to start? The Red Thread Storyline can serve as a stand-in for your conclusion until you write the “real” one, or can be the conclusion itself!
I have no idea if Jim Henson and George Schlatter wrote this first, but I know it can make a big difference if you do.
2. Show, don’t (just) tell.
It makes a lot of sense that a pitch for a television show would have a video element (though I wonder how often shows are pitched without that!). In this case, by using the very medium they’re pitching, Henson and Schlatter are able to really demonstrate to the decision team at CBS what the show they’re pitching could actually look and feel like. Not to mention, they turn over the conclusion to a Muppet.
If your idea isn’t video-based, though, don’t fret, there are still plenty of ways for you to do something similar. Tell stories or give case studies, engage your audience in actively thinking about your idea (“Imagine if…,” “Have you ever…?,” etc.), or when possible, physically demonstrate your idea or product.
People need to believe in your idea before they’ll act on it, and, as they say, seeing is believing.
3. Personalize, personalize, personalize.
Can you imagine how the team at CBS must have felt when they heard their own names—and saw their own faces!—as part of this pitch? Since it was a video, they had to know that this was built just for them. And, back to my previous point, that shows the team just how serious Henson and Schlatter are about having CBS buy the show.
My friend Tim David writes in his book (one of my very favorites) about how someone’s name is one of the seven “magic words” that motivate, engage, and influence people. So the more you can address your audience by name, especially in conversational or pitch settings, the better.
But there’s another form of personalization going on here, too: the pitch is built around what Henson and Schlatter think are the team’s goals. The “40 share” of the closing line—the proportion of the viewing public the show hopes to claim on the nights it airs—doesn’t help The Muppet Show, it helps CBS. Yes, they also talk about people being famous, but the whole pitch is clearly built around the idea that this show is designed to be popular with a wide variety of people.
How they did it
So those are the big lessons, now let’s look at how it all comes together in the transcript:
In conclusion, I would like to point out that it is time for a revolutionary new look in primetime variety television, and the combination of the Muppets and George Schlatter can bring this to the world.
[Like a good conclusion, they restate the main point right up front: The time is now, and this is the team to do it.]
Yes, for over 20 years, Jim Henson here, and the dedicated group of people that make up the Muppets have been developing the art of television puppetry to heights that were never before considered possible. And at the same time, George Schlatter here has been developing and creating new forms in television comedy that have changed the very face of primetime television.
[They’re reminding the team here that they have the credentials to back up the claim of a “revolutionary new look”. Henson has developed the Muppets, and Schlatter has a track record of creating successful shows that not only break formats but create them, as well.]
From the same creative minds that brought you Ralph of the Jimmy Dean show, Laugh-In, Sesame Street, The Cher Show, Turn-On… Anyhow, these two giants of the industry have fused their creative juices into one great explosion of brilliant television programming. And what is this fusion of creative juices called? The Muppet Show, a show that will be loved and adored by every Nielsen home in the country.
[Here, they’re adding specifics to the claims they made in the previous paragraph. They’re also naming shows the team is likely to be familiar with, thus creating a strong anchoring association when they name their own show. The implication to the team is clear: this show will be as good as these other shows you already know are good.]
Small children will love the cute cuddly characters. Young people will love the fresh and innovative comedy. College kids and intellectual eggheads will love the underlying symbolism of everything. Freaky long-haired, dirty, cynical hippies will love our freaky, long-haired, dirty cynical Muppets, because that is what show business is all about.
[This is one of my favorite parts because it’s just so brilliant. They are naming each of the audiences they are aiming for while showing the elements of the show that match up. So good.]
Yes, and when this show hits the careers of the men who made the decision to put this show on the air will skyrocket. People like Bob Wood, Lee Curlin, Perry Lafferty, Oscar Katz, and even Tom Swofford will become stars in their own right. The names of these men will become household words like stove, sink, toilet… No, no, like patriotism, apple pie, and mother.
[Another spectacular example of “showing” here, as the claims now veer into hyperbole and farce, just like The Muppet Show eventually did when it aired. The team knows that this show isn’t going to be the one that makes or breaks their careers, but they had to smile hearing it nonetheless. I also love the humor of the “household words”—again demonstrating what we know now is very Muppet-like humor.]
Friends, the United States of America needs The Muppet Show. And you should buy this show, and we’re not pulling any punches here. I mean, there’s nothing subtle about this pitch. So buy the show and put it on the air, and we’ll all be famous. The Muppets will be famous, and CBS will be famous because we’ll have a hit show on our hands, and we’ll all get temperamental and hard to work with, but you won’t care because we’ll all make a lot of money, and Schlatter and Henson will be happy, and you will be happy, and Kermit’s mother will be happy, and God will look down on us and smile on us, and he will say, “Let them have a 40 share.”
[Now they just keep piling on with the hyperbole, but the self-awareness—and saying out loud what others usually don’t—is so consistently a part of the ethos of the Muppets that it had to have been wildly differentiating at the time…just like Henson and Schlatter were promising the show would be. The lightning round of images and ridiculousness right at the end is also classic.]
There apparently was an alternative ending for the reel, which I personally love, as it’s another example of saying the quiet parts out loud. Some on the team probably were wondering, “What the hell was that all about?,” so to have Kermit come on and say that…<chefs kiss>
Conclusions are critical
I’m pretty sure this is the conclusion example to end all conclusion examples, and not just because I’m a dyed-in-the-flannel GenXer who was raised on the successful results of this pitch. No, it’s because the lessons it teaches are absolutely within your grasp, as well:
- Personalize your pitches,
- Show your audience how you do what you do in a way no one else can, and perhaps most importantly,
- Give your conclusion the care it deserves.
It may seem strange to start at the end, but by knowing how you plan to get there, you have a much better sense of how to get there. Click To Tweet
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