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From waiting hours to pitch, to a fake lift: The savage production secrets of Dragons’ Den

Hopefuls are given a tour around the Den, but are specifically asked not to sit in the Dragons’ chairs

When we watch Dragons’ Den it’s a pretty slick process, so it’s no surprise there are lots of production secrets behind making the show look like what we see.

The entrepreneurs who take part in the show all go through the same rigorous procedure, with strict rules and ways of doing things when you turn up at the Den. This is a well-oiled machine, that’s for sure. So, here are all the biggest production secrets and behind the scenes details about how Dragons’ Den is actually filmed.

There are loads of auditions and steps before you make it to the pitch

Ok, so what even is the application process for Dragons’ Den like? Edward Hancock, founder of cheesegeek, who went on the show, has revealed the process is gruelling, and there are loads of steps before you make it into the Den.

“It’s a thorough process – video auditions, comprehensive due diligence, form after form,” he told The Sun. “Then an email arrived with confirmation – we had a slot on the very first day of filming the new series. Expect a lot of due diligence – not just around your business, but also you as an individual in the weeks leading up to your appearance on the show.”

Dragons' Den production secrets on BBC

Edward (right) with business partner Richard, via BBC

Entrepreneurs are sometimes approached to be on the show

Not everyone applies to be on the show, though. Sometimes business owners are approached by producers to take part.

You wait up to seven hours to actually see the Dragons

When the big day to do your pitch finally arrives, you spend the majority of the day hanging around, despite being given a specific pitching time slot.

Edward added: “We travelled up to Manchester the night before to avoid any last minute travel hiccups. We arrived at the studio at 7am as we had a morning slot…and the waiting began. We had to wait for seven hours before being taken up to the Dragons. It wasn’t until early afternoon that we got the call.”

via BBC

Hopefuls are given a tour and a dressing room

The wait is long, but before the pitches, hopefuls are given a little tour of the Den and a dressing room. Here they can get ready, relax and practice their pitches. You’re allowed to take some photos to remember your time in the Den, but are specifically told you cannot sit in the Dragons’ chairs.

The wait is long, but before the pitches, hopefuls are given a little tour of the Den and a dressing room. Here they can get ready, relax and practice their pitches. You’re allowed to take some photos to remember your time in the Den, but are specifically told you cannot sit in the Dragons’ chairs.

Ok so this is potentially the biggest of all Dragons’ Den production secrets – and lies – there is. The lift the hopefuls get up to the Den? It’s not real. It doesn’t move them from floor to floor, it’s basically a glorified door. I feel lied to.

Co-founder of skincare brand Delhicious Body, Zara Saleem, said in a TikTok she gets asked about the famous lift all the time. When asked if it’s real, she said: “No it’s not. You just press a button, get in and the doors open on the other end. I was waiting in the lift for a really long time before the doors opened though.”

Dragons' Den on BBC

via BBC

The show is very real, nobody is on-hand to help the hopefuls

We hear it all the time on reality shows, that there are loads of secret extra crew members and producers around chatting and directing the people involved. But, on Dragons’ Den, you really are alone and nobody is there for advice or prompts. Edward from cheesegeek told The Sun there are no advisers on-hand to answer any questions or to give you advice in terms of your pitch, and said the show is “completely real.”

Nothing is re-recorded, you get one shot to nail your pitch

It’s no secret that on reality shows not a lot is that authentic, with scenes being re-recorded and set-up. But the scary thing about Dragons’ Den is that it really is how we see it on the TV: One pitch, one shot.

Edward said: “After our pitch, our question and answer session with the Dragons lasted for one hour and 45 minutes. There are no cuts in the filming, no redos. There’s no staging from the producers or being directed to say certain things. It’s just you, pitching your business to the Dragons, then being questioned – all in one natural, real take.”

He said the only thing that didn’t make it into the final edit of his time on the show was when the man he pitched alongside got in the lift after the pitch and swore “for 30 seconds”. Fair enough.

Pitching on Dragons' Den

via BBC

You have about three minutes to pitch, but can be grilled for hours

It might look like the chats go on for quite a long time to us, but the pitches are each limited to three minutes per business idea. That’s the absolute maximum amount of time an entrepreneur is given, and they’ll be cut off if they reach time.

But, then the Dragons are free to grill the hopefuls for as long as they want. Former Dragon, Piers Linney, told Real Business: “If it’s interesting we will grill them for two hours or more. Because it is your money, it’s reality and you’re not just going to fritter it away, you want to make good investments.

The Dragons aren’t very chatty

Richard, also from cheesegeek, told The Sun the Dragons aren’t exactly up for a chat, and want the pitches over and done with, without any hassle. He said Deborah and Sara were smiling as he walked into the room, but after that it was down to business.

“There are no niceties though, we were straight into our pitch,” he said. Although, he did say the Dragons were less intimidating than he’d expected. “The Dragons genuinely want you to do well,” he added.

Dragons' Den production secrets on BBC

via BBC

Filming goes on for 20 days straight

The Dragons are in the Den hearing pitches for 20 days back-to-back to film one series. So yes, that’s probably very intense for them.

Not all successful pitches actually end up getting investment

So after all that, if you have a successful pitch and bag the money, there’s still a chance it might fall through. Tigermobiles has previously studied 143 companies who made successful pitches across 11 of the show’s series, and claimed just 76 investments actually went through.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

The Dragons’ Den rich list: Just how much money do all the Dragons have?

• All the huge brands and products that were originally rejected on Dragons’ Den