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Pitch Wisdom: My Super Bowl Weekend as an Old Person

February 12, 2010

Part 1 (Saturday, February 6, 2010)
In 14 minutes – more or less the time I expect it will take me to convert a notion I had in the elevator to this post – I will be an old person.

Right now I’m sitting at a picnic table in front of a man-made lake outside the headquarters of Burger King across from the Miami International Airport. I just watched a small boat full of young rowers circle around, pass by and row away again. They’re almost in sync, so I can tell that they’re new at this, but they’ve been practing for at least half an hour. All of them appear to be young, energetic and perfectly thrilled to be rowing around in circles together instead of walking around in circles on South Beach this Super Bowl weekend.

And, in six minutes now, I’ll be an old person. I don’t think of myself as old, sitting here writing a blog post on my iPhone, but I did go to Ross and buy a my first pair of skinny jeans on the way here.

This post is about how sometimes – like now, when those “kids” are out there learning to row in rhythm – virtual is not enough. Sometimes, like in a few minutes, it is necessary to sit, face to face, and share an idea.

I’m looking forward to being on the catching end of a speed pitching session. We’ll be listening and evaluating and providing feedback to the results of a day full of idealism and bonding as volunteer “experts” at Do Something’s Miami Boot Camp.

Part 2 (Tuesday, February 9, 2010)
Fifteen pitches in 60 minutes. What a revelation, one I’ll try and convey in the six minutes I’ll still be on the Coconut Grove Circulator bus headed to my office.

Their ideas varied from AIDS prevention through music in Malawi to after school dance training in Liberty City. Some of them were confident and effusive, others uncertain and hopeful. All of them were young – most in high school and some as young as 13. And, as anticipated, I did feel old, but in a good way.

Part 3 (Thursday, February 11, 2010)
I felt the sum of my years years in the seconds before the conversations started: in the looks of anticipation on their faces and in the deep intakes of breath before they launched into their pitches. After the first pitch, however, I realized that their ideas were so heartfelt and unbelievable they didn’t need my help figuring out how to tell their stories.

No, what they needed most was what I’ve learned over the last 18 months of walking into rooms full of strangers and emerging with pockets full of business cards leading to work full of new clients and a life full of new friends.

What they most needed to learn is the same thing I’d most needed to learn: a pitch is not a static thing. It is not about walking into a room, walking up to someone, and launching into a two-minute speech about your company, yourself, or your idea and waiting for your prey to bite.

This sounds basic, but it is actually really hard not to do. And it is true whether you are a kid with a dream to change the world, a semipreneur like me launching a company in a new market, a pr pro trying to get a reporter to write a story about your client, a guy at a bar trying to pick up a girl, a junior executive working on convincing her boss to let her pursue her idea … or a company trying to engage its employees online.

Here’s a list if pitching tips I shared with the kids who sat across from me last Saturday that I thought might be useful:

1. Read nametags before you start conversations.
2. Introduce yourself.
3. Ask people what they do.
4. Keep asking questions.
5. Listen and find something that connects them with your idea.
6. Make your story your story. Tell it like only you can.
7. Build your pitch around who they are and what they care about.
8. If you run out of things to say, stop talking. Ask another question.
9. Don’t walk away without finding (and MAKING) some kind of ask they can say yes to.
10. Remember, you are not pitching a pocketbook or a corporation or a newspaper. You are connecting with a human being.

A few days removed from this amazing experience and these inspiring young people, I’m back to feeling young again – intentionally parting my hair to the left so the gray hairs shine through in hopes I might actually look older than 17.

What’s different, though, is that I now realize I already knew something I had for a long time been seeking to know. And I know how to impart it to someone else.

I guess they call that wisdom? Isn’t that something that’s supposed to come with age?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Joe Miech permalink
    February 12, 2010 11:25 am

    Ahh, very deep but very revealing. Geez, I’m older than you but I’m still learning from you with your talent to scrounge up new business leads anywhere and everywhere. Keep plugging and pushing forward. Thanks for sharing Angie.

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