A line of about 50 people--most of them holding props or suitcases of products--snaked outside an entrance to New York TechDay, a networking and showcasing event for startups held on Tuesday. Some were in suits, others donned professional uniforms like white medical coats, but they all had one thing in common: They wanted to be on Shark Tank.
"When you show up and see everybody in line, you think, 'What do they have, too?' It's a lot of competition," says Melanie A. O'Neil, the founder and president of the woodworking company Rustic Marlin, who was preparing to audition with her husband.
More than 300 entrepreneurs signed up to audition for season nine of ABC's hit show, but Mindy Zemrak, the supervising casting producer for Shark Tank, says there could be as many as 400 with drop ins.
While there's no secret ingredient to nailing a pitch and making it to the next round, here are two ways to get the judges' attention.
1. Get excited
Zemrak's biggest piece of advice to anyone hoping to be on the program is to show energy.
"You guys are the entrepreneurs, the hustlers, the dreamers; you're living the American dream and doing what everyone wants to do," Zemrak told the group about to start the next wave of auditions. "Have passion and be energetic about it, if you guys aren't excited about what you're doing, the producers aren't going to get excited about what you're doing."
2. Focus on your own numbers
Zemrak says entrepreneurs should avoid using phrases that illustrate the size of the industry they are trying tap, instead they should focus on their numbers like revenue or sales. But these tips aren't exclusive to Tuesday's casting call. Entrepreneurs who audition in other cities are given the same advice.
Shark Tank hopefuls had about 60 seconds to present their ideas and were encouraged to make 50 percent of their spiel about themselves and the other half about their business. Participants pitched one of four casting judges in a small booth next to other entrepreneurs and were told they would hear back in two weeks if they advanced to the next round -- an entrepreneur who has auditioned several times says a self-recorded audition tape is usually the next step. In the Shark Tank world, no news means bad news.
After some entrepreneurs presented inside the event space, they walked past the crowded line of like-minded business owners and wished them luck. Others whooped with excitement that they were done and one, in a full bunny costume, mimed wiping sweat off his brow.
"It's not like you're in front of Mark Cuban, they are pretty casual and nice," says Tracy Fox, who pitched herself as a marriage solutions expert and was one of the people to wish the upcoming contestants good luck. "It's a long shot but hey, no risk, no reward, right?"