Shark Tank Behind the Scenes: Media Training to Get Funding

SUMMARY: Media training for Shark Tank is a thrilling adventure where every minute counts. The pressure is on to shape your pitch-perfect persona (given we just had time for two short sessions.) From defying the odds to memorizing your 90-second pitch, each step is critical for to get funded. Remember, authenticity is key, so be yourself while captivating the sharks with your story and interaction. Prepare for the toughest questions and know your numbers inside out to secure the deal of a lifetime.

Table of contents:

Why You Should Get Media Training for Shark Tank

I’m about to take you behind the literal curtain on an exhilarating adventure into the heart of Shark Tank!

Picture this: a dazzling, sun-kissed day as I stepped into a sleek, modern decor radiating elegance. I had a mission, a challenge that had my adrenaline pumping – I was gearing up to media train a mystery client for Shark Tank!

The founder was dashing about getting everything ready as I set up my tripod and camera, knowing that time was of the essence. We had just two, two-hour segments to shape this entrepreneur into a pitch-perfect sensation before they jetted off to tape their appearance on the show in a mere few days. The stakes were high, the clock was ticking, and their nerves were crackling—because they didn’t yet have the final version of the pitch totally memorized.

There was quite a bit of back and forth with the producer editing the pitch so it was still in flux.

I’m bound by the tightest of NDAs, and the secret identity of my enigmatic client must remain shrouded in mystery until the show airs.

But, in the meantime I’ll share the wisdom gleaned from this whirlwind adventure—strategies you can apply to win the trust and funding of the right Shark Tank shark for you.

Defy the Odds

Did you know that the odds are stacked against you?

Only 60% of taped shows ever make it to our screens. It’s a ruthless arena where every minute counts. Picture this: the pressure is on, the spotlight is glaring, and the sharks are staring.

The magic of television often hinges on those moments of embarrassment, fumbling, rambling, and freezing, but for your reputation and brand, it’s an entirely different story.

Shark Tank episodes typically film one and a half hours for a 10-minute segment. 

So there’s lots of room for embarrassment, fumbling, rambling, and freezing. 

Which makes for a good TV, but not good for your reputation or brand. 

Happily, there is also ample time to shine, and show that you know your stuff—and are prepared to receive guidance and funding. 

File:RuffleButts Shark Tank.jpg” by Cbarrentine2 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Be Yourself Everyone Else is Already Taken (Oscar Wilde).

The producers want you to be lively, perky and upbeat. But not everyone has that personality. My client didn’t. They were low-key and serious. Which doesn’t always translate easily on TV.

The producer kept wanting them to be more expressive.

“They want me to be more like an infomercial,” my client bemoaned.

Instead of amping up like a sleazy salesperson on speed we worked on being more engaging through expressive body language and pertinent pauses.

It’s always my mission to preserve the integrity and spirit of my clients so they feel comfortable being true to who they are.

Memorize Your 90 Second Pitch.

To get the sharks buy in the pitch has to be eye-popping. 

Whether you have a dual purpose to get funding for your start-up and positioning yourself in the marketplace to build your brand you’ll need to memorize your 90-second pitch and be able to deliver it with precision and panache.

You’ll also want it to meet the 10 criteria of past Shark Tank pitches that were successful and got funding.

According to The Science of People, who analyzed 495 Shark Tank pitches looking for patterns, they discovered 10 elements that made up an effective pitch.

  1. Credible
  2. Agreeable
  3. Interactive
  4. Captivating
  5. Relevant
  6. Entertaining
  7. Confident
  8. Powerful
  9. Funny
  10. Inspirational

With my mystery client we worked on the words, timing, centering, grounding and using their whole body for expression and drama. 

We used props as well to speed up the explanation of the product/service and to make it visually exciting.

Make a Memorable Entrance.

The Science of People noted that “The entrepreneurs who smiled broadly and then nodded at the sharks before starting their pitch were much more likely to have a successful interaction. In fact, the smile and nod almost doubled the chances of getting a ‘yes’ no matter the combination. This is because a smile and nod is a very polite way of nonverbally signaling friend not foe. We like to work with friendly, agreeable people. This was an easy and immediate way an entrepreneur could show off warmth.

14% of ‘yes’ deals had the nod, while only 7% of ‘no’ deals had the nod.”

The smile and nod needs to occur while walking in to start strong. Once you have the connection and command attention your pitch will be more easily received.

That said, you don’t need to smile through the entire pitch.

In fact, don’t as it might conflict with being congruent with your content.

When my client was talking about the gap they filled in the marketplace they needed to NOT smile as they were pointing out a hardship that made people unhappy. It’s important that your body, facial and verbal language match.

Be Relatable.

When sharks feel a communion with you they say things like, “I can see myself in you.” Or, as Mark Cuban actually said, “You’re a mini me.” They can relate to you because they’ve had a similar experience in their own life or business. They are more likely to invest in you when they see themselves in you.

I remember a famous director talking about how he chose actors. He said something like “No one likes to work with a prima donna or a dick. I want to work with people I like and admire.” Same goes for Shark Tank.

Create Interaction.

Being able to experience a product or service makes for a powerful pitch.

Chew our cheese!

Test our app!

Feel our fabric!

My client prepared a custom box of their product for each shark so they could see and touch it. When you can touch, taste, smell, hear or interact the sharks get involved and engaged while getting a real feel for the offering and are more likely to buy in.

Tell a Stellar Story.

58% of successful deals had a story. Stories that share a challenge, an aha, a dramatic sink or save are the cornerstones of connection. Our brains synch when we hear stories. Share an emotionally moving, shocking, surprising, humorous or counterintuitive tale to encourage rapt attention.

While funding may be a priority to grow the business my client’s priority was also how they came across to the consumer—as it was an opportunity for them to connect with a much larger audience. To that end they needed a story that resonated with both the sharks and their core consumer.

BallBoy1231, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Know Your Investors.

The first thing I did before I met with my client was to research each of the investors to know what interests them and what they’ve invested in before. I recommend that you do a thorough search on their background including their personal and professional lives and their social media channels. (ChatGPT can help shortcut the process).

This gives you an advantage when you’re answering their questions to show that you have done your research and taken the care and diligence to know them personally. It’s also impressive if you can state why they would be a good advisor for you based on the background you uncovered.

Prepare for Hard Questions and Worst-Case Scenarios.

Then comes the intense grilling of all the questions that could and possible would get asked. 

Which takes practice to handle with grace and make sure it’s not YOUR eyes popping out or your face getting taut like a Halloween mask during the shark’s “inquisition.”

In a Shark Tank episode that tanked that my client passed me to share what they DID NOT want to happen, Mark Cuban accused the woman of just using Shark Tank for the publicity versus not needing the funding or the guidance. 

It was disturbing to watch just how uncomfortable the situation became when the contestant became defensive and also froze as she didn’t have a prepared answers for Cuban’s accusations and wasn’t resilient enough to respond on the spot. 

She also sniveled and cried.

While crying isn’t a deal breaker, context is everything. This person wasn’t sympathetic and was crying, not out of passion, emotion and devotion for her topic but for her stressed-out self.

The Science of people note that “Surprisingly, more successful entrepreneurs have cried than unsuccessful ones. 19 out of 253 total successful entrepreneurs cried  (8%).”

To make sure my client was prepped for all the different shark personalities and brutal questions I ran through all the worst-case scenarios so they would be prepared for any kind of “attack.” 

And to make sure that they wouldn’t be driven to tears or freak out.

Become a Math Genius.

You need to know your numbers cold. Your revenue, projections, where you stand in relation to your competition in the marketplace and any potential weak spots. While media training my client I discovered what appeared to be a real issue in the return of their product. I then traced that back to a problem with the people they hired to do a specific job of pleasing the customers. This seemingly “minor” statistic could present as a major one—a potential deal breaker—even though they had a unique position in the marketplace. No amount of charisma can make up for weak or faulty math.

Know the Deal You’ll Take.

On average, sharks typically take around 20% equity in the businesses they invest in on the show. My clients company was at a bit of a later stage than the typical Shark Tank hopeful, so they planned to offer only 5%—which isn’t as attractive to investors and is a harder sell.

It’s best to know your bottom line on what you would actually accept—which they didn’t have at first. We ran through a number of possible situations that could make the choice difficult so they would be prepared for lots of different variations. Of course, I can’t anticipate every single scenario, but we can prepare for the feel of them and the best, worst and OK choices.

That said, contestants are allowed to “step out of the tank” to discuss a deal before deciding to take it—or not. So while it’s not a deal breaker, the show prefers that you answer yay or nay on the spot.

But then a terrible twist happened…

In between our media training sessions they decided to offer just 1% of the business. When I found out I highly suggested that they revisit that given it doesn’t make for an enticing offer for the sharks.

Then during our media coaching the producer called and cancelled their taping.

As you can see it’s dangerous to make such a change before you’re actually in-studio when you can negotiate with the producer in person before the taping begins.

As of now I don’t know if their session got rescheduled. But I’ll keep you posted!

Curious about who else out there wants to be on Shark Tank. 

I’d love to hear about your product or service…Ping me here.

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Disclosure: Some of the above may be affiliate links that I will be compensated for at no cost to you. They are products or services I’ve either used, vetted or trust. Enjoy!



Hi, I'm Susan

I’m a media coach, martial artist + marketing strategist who helps you communicate your values, mission + message during media interviews to multiply your revenue while building your brand + business. I believe that you don’t need to brag, beg or whore yourself to get the publicity you want. Nor do you need to be an axe murderer, a shamed sports star, or be involved in a sex scandal. There is another way…

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