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How to Pitch An Idea to Shark Tank

If you have an amazing idea and need money getting off the ground, Shark Tank might be the ideal venue for you. However, whether you want to go on Shark Tank and pitch or you’re an entrepreneur slinging your goods you need to learn how to pitch.

shark tank, pitch, pitching

The perfect pitch is both art and science.

And I’m going to share the secret formula with you.

Shark Tank is a TV show where entrepreneurs come into a room and pitch a panel of “Sharks” or investors to raise money for their idea.

I have analyzed every episode of Shark Tank and watched for patterns of the successful and unsuccessful pitches. I combined these with the latest research on body language and persuasion psychology to identify patterns of success.

Here is what I found makes the perfect pitch on Shark Tank:

Shark Tank: How to Give the Perfect Pitch

1. The Power of Touch

The most successful pitches typically have something the sharks can touch, hold, eat or handle. This physical interaction has two psychological implications that explain the importance of allowing sharks or investors to interact with your product. First, fascinating research has shown that the longer we touch or hold something, the more we feel ownership over it and the more we want it. Second, the more we feel we already own something, the higher value we place on it and the more we are willing to pay for it. Check out this pitch where all of the sharks get in on a deal and have a hands on experience right away:

If possible have the sharks or investors touch or hold your product during your pitch to give them ownership and buy in.

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2. The First 30 Seconds

People make their first impression of you within the first 30 seconds (some studies say this happens in just 6 seconds). On Shark Tank and in most pitching situations this happens before you even start talking–as you walk down the hallway or into a room. In addition, previous contestants have shared that once you walk down the hallway on Shark Tank, the producers have you stand on a mark while they reset the cameras. This has you standing in front of the sharks for about 15 to 30 seconds SILENTLY. This is the perfect place to practice your nonverbal because its the only communication you will be doing. Here are a few ways to nonverbally show confidence, composure and calm:

  • Walk strong and up. Practice charging the room, not just walking into the room. You can do this by walking at a medium pace with your head and chest lifted up. Many people when they are nervous roll their shoulders in and have their forehead and upper chest sunk down. This makes you look weak or submissive.
  • Be prop conscious. If you are in Shark Tank try setting up all props in the room ahead of time so you can walk unencumbered. If you are pitching producers ahead of time or other investors, try to set-up props ahead of time and if you can, consolidate what you have into one bag. Studies have shown that people who carry more than one item are seen as disorganized and unreliable.

Watch this clip and see how Jeff Stroope walks confidently into the Shark Tank. He charges in. He also uses the power of touch late in his pitch but the Sharks love having something to see:

3. Use Your Hands as Demos

Your hands are your most powerful weapon. Hands are one of the first body parts our brain notices when someone is speaking to us. There is an evolutionary reason for this–back in caveman days it was critical to look at someone’s hands immediately to see if they were carrying a weapon. Our brains still have the habit of wanting to see someone’s hands to ensure our safety. In the Shark Tank or when pitching investors you want to not only keep your hands visible–don’t hide them in pockets or under crossed arms, but ALSO you can use them as extra tools. The sharks hear tons of pitches in one day; their brains begin to tune out all of the words. If you use your hands to demo concepts you can actually help investors stay awake and tuned into what you are saying. Whenever possible think about where you can add hand demos into your pitch. For example, if you have high growth, show an upward trend with your hand. If you are bringing two niche audiences together use your hands to show a combining effect. This makes you easier to understand, more memorable and more likable.

4. More Than Just a Story

Stories are so important. Not only do you need to tell your “How I started my business story” but you also want stories ready and waiting for questions the investors might ask. See how One Soles does this as an example: (*Notice how she also invites Barbara to touch and handle the product immediately)

You will notice she has the story about how she came up with the idea for her product, a story on traveling on business trips, a story on how she makes the products and a story on how people are fighting over her. Before pitching, have small demonstrative stories. Here are some ideas:

  • Stories that show success
  • Stories that show determination
  • Stories that demonstrate social proof (people wanting you or the product)
  • Stories that show talent or a skillset you uniquely have

Insider Tips for Pitching on Shark Tank:

Mark Cuban said the worst pitch he had ever seen, “was easily the two doctors that came on this season. They kept on throwing out buzzwords about social media as if that would wow us. They had no company. No business. No clue.” He advises entrepreneurs to, “Do the work. Out-work. Out-think. Out-sell your expectations. There are no shortcuts. My dad [told me that] when I was in high school. My dad did upholstery on cars, and he was always very encouraging but also realistic.”

Kevin Harrington advises: “My advice to any salesperson is to prepare yourself by doing your pitch in front of a camera or a mirror. Do your presentation for your spouse or your kids. Practice. Don’t go in cold.”

Daymond John says Jason Woods’ Kymera was, “The worst pitch I’ve ever seen.”

Barbara Corcoran advises:

“Don’t you dare underestimate the power of your own instinct.” – Barbara Corcoran

Remember to trust your gut and instinctual nature.

Want to dig deeper into the science of pitching? Check out our book Captivate!

Book Descriptioncaptivate, captivate book, vanessa van edwards

Do you wish you could decode people? Do you want a formula for charisma? Do you want to know exactly what to say to your boss, your date or your networking partner? You need to know how people work.

As a human behavior investigator, Vanessa Van Edwards studies the hidden forces that drive our behavior patterns in her lab—and she’s cracked the code. In Captivate she shares a wealth of valuable shortcuts, systems and behavior hacks for taking charge of their interactions at work, at home, and in any social situation. These aren’t the people skills you learned in school. This is the first comprehensive, science backed, real life manual on human behavior and a completely new approach to building connections.

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All Rights Reserved + COPYRIGHT 2014 Science of People, LLC

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a national best selling author & lead investigator at her human behavior research lab, Science of People. Her groundbreaking book, Captivate: Use Science to Succeed with People was chosen by Apple as one of the most anticipated books of 2017. She writes a monthly Science of Success column for Entrepreneur Magazine and the Huffington Post. As a professional people watcher her unique work has been featured in CNN, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, Inc, Business Insider and more. Vanessa leads innovative soft skills trainings for Fortune 500 companies including Google, Dove, Facebook, Intel, MillerCoors and American Express.


  1. Plasma Hardfacing

    This is an extremely helpful post to me Vanessa as I have an audition with the producers of Shark Tank that is now returning to Australia. I will most definitely incorporate all your tips. Not sure if it’ll get me over the line but any help is very appreciated!

  2. Robby Smith

    This is so interesting. I will need to watch Shark Tank and see the trend from successful vs. unsuccessful, based off these tips. Thank you Vanessa!

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  4. Bella Perennis

    Stories are so important and practicing them is key. I just recently had to give a pitch and wasn’t prepared for some of the questions. It didn’t go bad, but the stories could have been way better.

  5. Liam Hayes

    I personally love Shark Tank so this was a fun article to read and I also enjoyed the videos. I think this stuff is so true. Thinking about your body language in this kind of situation is important, and I agree with “Mr. Wonderful” Kevin, practicing before you go in sounds like a really good idea.

  6. Lauren Freeman

    This was really interesting to read and watch! I didn’t realize how powerful touching or handling an object would be to someone trying to buy it – I love how interested all the Sharks were when Jeff Stroope pulled out the garden hose attachment that they could all look at and pass around.

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