Recently, I was walking down the hallway of an entrepreneur incubator space and I was watching a start-up CEO “pitch” their ideas to a group of colleagues and mentors.  I was fascinated to watch the CEO practice presenting his ideas and receive real-time feedback with the goal of one day “pitching” to a group of potential investors.  I think there is so much we can learn as school leaders from entrepreneurs, especially when it comes to presenting our ideas to solve a problem in a clear and concise manner that can convince others.

So, what is “pitching” and why is it an important skill for students, teachers, and leaders to master?  How can it be applied to STEAM/Arts Integration and what are some tools and resources you can use to “perfect your pitch”?

In short, pitching is a brief presentation with the purpose of convincing others to do something with your idea.  It is a term that is often used in the business world and an entrepreneurial skill that everyone can learn.  In reality, we “pitch” all the time, right?  We pitch our ideas to our spouse or significant other (“Honey, let me convince you why I think we should go to Italy this year.”) We pitch our ideas all the time to our students, to our faculty, to our leadership team, and to our boss, or the superintendent.  Presenting, speaking, and listening are not only essential 21st century global skills for students, teachers, and leaders, but they are also a significant part of the Common Core that can be integrated across all content areas.

“Pitcherific”

A few weeks ago, I had a fabulous opportunity to meet an innovative, dynamic, and inspiring educator and entrepreneur that has a passion for helping others perfect their “pitch”.  Lauge Vagner Rasmussen is a fascinating guy.  He is the co-founder of Pitcherific.com and an Associate Professor at the University of Aarhus in Denmark where he teaches entrepreneurship and pitching.  Lauge believes that the core of entrepreneurship is about thinking of a problem in the world and then coming up with an idea to solve it.  “Pitching the idea is not just an end process, but the beginning of a recurring process.”  Lauge went on to tell me that he and his colleagues would work with a group of entrepreneurs during what he called “Startup Weekend” in Denmark.

The entrepreneurs would spend fifty-four hours over a weekend refining their idea in order to pitch it to investors by the last day.  Opening pitches were limited to 1 minute and final pitches to judges were 5 minutes.  Out of that experience he said was the need to create a tool that would help others perfect their pitch and be able to give all their important key points about an idea within a strict timeframe.  Hence, Pitcherific was born!

Lauge and his innovative team developed Pitcherific which is a free online tool that allows users to create, train, and improve their pitch.  Take some time and check it out!  The tool is easy to use with three simple steps: 1. set a template and time 2. write the pitch 3. practice.

The most simple is the “elevator pitch” which is illustrated on the online template and is organized around four key areas:

HookMake a catchy start to get your audience’s interest and prepare for the important pitch about your cause. 

Problem-Describe the specific problem, need or cause you are concerned about.  What is the current situation and which persons or organisations are involved?  Why is this situation important to work with?

Solution-What are your approaches to the situation?  How will you solve the problem, cover the need or work with your cause?  Explain how your approach is different and better than other existing solutions? 

Close-Tell about the status and your next. Depending on your goal for pitching in the first place (e.g. a contact or a meeting), ask the person you are pitching to about it and tell what it will mean to you, to get it. 

Pitcherific.com is a great tool that can be easily used by students, teachers and leaders.  Below are some ways to integrate Pitcherific.

  • Leaders could use this tool to practice pitching their ideas for a leadership meeting, faculty meeting, a community/business event, or to their superintendent or Board of Education.
  • Leaders could use this tool with their school improvement team or district level improvement team.
  • Teachers could easily use this tool among their colleagues to solve complex problems during collaborative planning sessions.
  • Teachers could pick an essential question and design arts integrated units/lessons using their own interests and their content standards to solve a problem and design a project in teams or individually and then use the tool to “pitch” their ideas at a faculty meeting.  This could be a great way to illustrate from peer-to-peer how to integrate STEAM.
  • Students could be given a problem linked to an essential question in groups and be given an opportunity to use their integrated knowledge and skills to create a workable solution.  Local businesses and community leaders could be assigned to each group to serve as mentors to help them through their solution and use the tool to perfect their “pitch”.  Then the school could host a “Pitch Night” where parents, community members and business attend and observe each teams “pitch” and act as investors.

Coming soon from Pitcherific will be the option to create your own custom pitches.

Therefore, the sky is truly the limit on how you can utilize tools like Pitcherific to engage students, teachers, leaders, businesses and community members.  In fact, check out the recent article posted by Edsurge.com entitled: Entrepreneurship is Elementary: How Project-Based Curriculum Catalyzed a Community.  One community in New York City connected local businesses with local schools to integrated project-based learning across subjects with part career exploration and part entrepreneurship workshop.   Check out the students “pitching” during “Big Idea Week”.  Super cool!