Whether you’re a toy inventor at heart, you just have a good idea, or you’re in the business of selling toys, pitching to toy companies can be a scary and intimidating process. We asked a team of five experts to share their advice on the dos and don’ts of pitching inventions:
David Winter, Sr. Director, Inventor Relations at Jazwares LLC
Trina McFarland, Owner and General Manager at TinkerTini, LLC
Harshunan Sivanander, Director of Innovation and Preliminary Design at Spin Master
Tanya Thompson, Senior Director Inventor Relations and Innovation at Hasbro
Adam Hocherman, Vice President of New Business at PlayMonster
Here is what they had to say on how to nail your pitch and improve your chances of moving forward.
Do your homework. Does your invention fit within the company’s portfolio? Is it in line with the latest trends? Are there any similar games or toys already available on the market? You need to do your research on these questions before you even decide where to pitch. The companies you’re pitching may make toys, but that doesn’t mean they’ll make yours. And they will factor these important questions into their decision-making process.
Prove your idea is great, but don’t overthink it. Put your idea on paper and flesh it out. What are the key features and play patterns? Remember: companies are looking for ingenuity. They want to see and feel your passion — not just read a paragraph describing your toy. Use images and sketches to help communicate your idea. A buy-in quick model is another great and cost-effective way to showcase your invention — buy toys that fit with your idea, and then cut and glue them together for a rough prototype. And, if your invention contains electronics, you need to show off the technology, not just allude to it.
Don’t pitch with a PDF or PowerPoint presentation. Make a video! Again, don’t overthink it. All you need is a smartphone and your product. Companies aren’t looking for a studio-quality production, they just want to see your toy in action. Keep it under a minute – 30 to 45 seconds is ideal. Highlight the main features and show what makes your invention cool. If it’s a game, show how to play it. People will invest the time to watch a short video, but there’s no guarantee they’ll invest the time to get through your PDF. Sizzle reels are a great way to keep your audience engaged during a pitch, and it’s easy for them to pass it along internally.
Do bring the energy. The more energy you put into your pitch, the more engaged your audience will be. Companies want to see your passion and creativity, they want to see you excited about your idea! Don’t put pressure on yourself, stay positive! Pitching your idea to toy companies can be intimidating and nerve-wracking — so try to not think about it as a pitch! Instead, think about your actual goal: to build a relationship with the people in the room with you. The people you’re pitching want you to succeed, and they want your invention to succeed for them too.
Don’t put pressure on yourself, stay positive! Pitching your idea to toy companies can be intimidating and nerve-wracking — so try to not think about it as a pitch! Instead, think about your actual goal: to build a relationship with the people in the room with you. The people you’re pitching want you to succeed, and they want your invention to succeed for them too. But sometimes, it’s just not the right fit, and that’s okay. Pay attention to their feedback, and inform yourself on what they’re looking for. Now that you’ve built the foundation of that connection, the door is open for you to come back with a pitch that is more aligned with their wish list.
Don’t worry about patents. Most companies don’t expect you to have your idea patented, and it’s not necessary. Patents are tricky, expensive, and fear-based, making you feel like you need to protect your idea. In fact, it’s often not possible to patent an idea, so don’t waste your time and money. But, if you have an innovative mechanism or idea, then consider taking out a utility patent before pitching.
Don’t worry about trademarks. Pitching an idea with a trademarked name or logo may seem like a good idea, but it’s not necessary. Although trademarks are easier to obtain than patents, they’re not needed for a pitch. More often than not, if a company decides to move forward with your idea, they’ll likely change the name. So don’t worry about trademarks, just focus on your invention!
Don’t ask a company to sign an NDA. Most companies will ask you to sign an NDA before you pitch to them so they can confide in you about the things they’re working on and the new toys they’re making. But, they won’t sign your NDA for one simple reason: They’re not lawyers and they can’t sign on behalf of the company. Your NDA would need to be vetted through their legal team, which is costly and time consuming!
One final tip: stay hopeful! We’ll let you in on a little, (poorly kept) secret — many of the most successful toys in the world came from small invention houses!
To watch the complete panel click HERE.