Have We Got a Product for You: Hoya Pitchmasters Hone Presentation Skills

If you think pitching your start-up idea is tough, let entrepreneurship expert Jeff Reid reassure you:

“You’ve got to remember,” Reid told a group of Georgetown University students recently, “your audience doesn’t care what you’re talking about.”

Okay, maybe that’s not so reassuring, but listen: it’s not that your idea isn’t wonderful, said Reid, Founding Director of StartupHoyas, The Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative. It’s just that investors hear promising ideas all the time. What they really need is for you to identify a problem facing their business—a “migraine problem,” Reid advised, not just a “headache” one—and then explain how your idea is going to solve it.

Reid was the guest speaker at a recent meeting of Hoya Pitchmasters, a student group based at the School of Continuing Studies (SCS) that helps students hone their public speaking and idea-pitching skills. His session was a fun, low-pressure, and often hilarious intro into the art of the sales pitch.

“This is one of the top skills employers want—strong presentation and speaking skills,” said Meg Cohen, Program Director for the master’s in Public Relations & Corporate Communications (PRCC) program at SCS.

Halfway through the class, Reid asked teams of students to compete by coming up with a fictitious product and a creative way for pitching it. Winners would be determined by the class’s applause.

One team proposed a mobile happy hour; another presented a personally customized cup of coffee. But the winning team took the game to a new level of creativity—and silliness. It opened its pitch with a student loudly asking her cell phone:

“Siri, why is my boyfriend such an idiot?”

Checking,” was the reply.

Noting that Siri was useless when it came to such personal questions, the student suggested an app that would use an algorithm to analyze the caller’s texts and emails and provide a more well-informed answer.

Beneath the fun and whimsy was a real message.

“It’s just so important to be able to eloquently and strategically get your point across,” said Kate Jones, a PRCC student who worked with the program staff to create Hoya Pitchmasters.

Jones had taken the “Public Speaking and Pitching” course over the summer. It was a great course, but she wanted to continue developing her skills. So she met with Cohen and they came up with the idea to launch Hoya Pitchmasters.

“We want to give students a chance to practice these skills in public speaking without a grade on the line,” Cohen said.

While the PRCC program hosts Hoya Pitchmasters, the bi-monthly sessions are open to all SCS students.

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