by Capt Peter Shinn
Officer Training School
2/5/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Business
leaders from the local community joined Air University staff, faculty
and students Jan. 23 to evaluate a series of 60-second "elevator
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
veteran's 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.