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The Art and Science of the Pitch

By Laura Hess

“Who were you, before you were told who you are?”

Our fellow MSLCE classmate looked up at us and then back down at the little reed of paper. “Who were you, before you were told who you are,” she repeated quietly. Silence.

This was our first class together in Laverne McKinnon’s “Pitching Creative Projects” course. No lecture. Just a slide or two at the very beginning, as we mutually drafted our alliance, our commitments to one another for the duration of the spring session. And then McKinnon guided the class, as everyone withdrew a question from an envelope, to answer in front of each other.

Throughout the quarter, McKinnon steered us through various exercises and self-assessments, as a collective and as individuals. The mission was clear: this was not akin to group therapy – we were not simply engaging in navel-gazing; rather, assignments such as these flexed beyond the mechanics of pitching and, instead, anchored our skills in self-awareness, and emotional and social intelligence. At the heart of the pitch is connection, and EQ fluency directly facilitates and impacts the ability to connect.

With that foundation, we developed the flexibility to craft and adapt the style, tone, and composition of our pitches to most effectively and compellingly fit both the project and pitch recipients. As this process evolved, McKinnon challenged the class to collapse our comfort zones, so as to expand and refine our levels of awareness and connectivity.

Whether focused on an audience of just one or delivered to the entire class, pitches also ranged in content: from the need for design-savvy, affordable wheelchairs, to the virtues of a pro-bono component within an internship program, to a rousing call for a “Field of Dreams” musical (sincerely inspired by the student’s mother).

McKinnon cultivated constructive feedback from students, encouraging thoughtful analysis of the presenter’s persuasion style, credibility platform, target audience, and pitch format, including how the presenter’s solution improved the status quo or ranked superior to available alternatives.

Interweaving these layers of strategic construction with EQ calisthenics, McKinnon created a robust framework for MSLCE students to employ in an array of creative industries, whether for internal projects or as we launch new ventures to potential partners and investors.

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