By Capt. Peter Shinn
Officer Training School
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (2/5/13) - Business leaders from the community joined Air University staff, faculty and students Jan. 23 to evaluate a series of 60-second "elevator pitches."
The Guard and Reserve Network, or GARNET, sponsored this first-ever AU Pitch Fest, held at the Air War College. Military members and veterans received constructive feedback after pitching their big idea, their qualifications for their next job or any other topic they chose.
Chief Master Sgt. Carl Collins, the Air National Guard's senior advisor to the Barnes Center for Enlisted Education and GARNET's co-founder, said an elevator pitch is what you might say to someone in a position of influence or power if you had just a minute or two of their time.
"Imagine stepping onto an elevator with the secretary of defense or the CEO of a major company," Collins said. "Rather than making small talk about the weather during the ride up to the executive suites, a polished pitch allows anyone to potentially convince that senior leader to continue the discussion in more detail later."
Opportunities to practice and improve brief presentation skills, like the AU Pitch-Fest, are an important part of GARNET's mission to help veterans find meaningful work, according to Col. Edward Vaughan, the Air National Guard advisor to the commander and president of Air University and GARNET's other co-founder.
"Why should Silicon Valley and Seattle have all the fun of pitching business start-ups to potential investors?" Vaughan asked. "Military veterans represent a creative, results-oriented segment of our workforce that can thrive when exposed to entrepreneurial methods and language.
Even if they don't want to start a business, these skills are vital for success in today's job market." A panel of local business leaders evaluated the pitches, which focused on military-related value propositions. Lt. Col. Ron Daniels, Air National Guard advisor to the Spaatz Center for Officer Education, pitched an initiative to expand education programs for military members.
"On-the-spot feedback from experienced business professionals made Pitch Fest a game changer for me," Daniels said. "That feedback translates to my ambitions beyond the military and will make me more effective the next time I have to be persuasive, but brief."
Michael Cameron, a finishing plant manager with Sabic Innovative Plastics in Burkville, Ala., served as one of the presentation evaluators. He said he was impressed by what he saw and heard. "I interview and hire lots of professionals in my line of work," he said. "The pitches here were of great quality. By the end of the session, I think I learned as much as anyone in the room."
Col. Raymond O'Mara, chairman of the strategy department at Air War College, provided additional feedback to the presenters at the event.
"The pitch-fest highlighted the critical nature of the ability to express yourself clearly and organize complex concepts into a coherent message," he said. The next pitch-fest will be held downtown, and organizers hope to include even more local business leaders. Those interested in participating can contact the organizers, Vaughan and Collins, through the Guard and Reserve Network group on LinkedIn.