Pitch Perfect at Princeton

One of the best free shows in the town of Princeton is the chance to see smart people competing, not on the gridiron but at the podium, presenting their business schemes. The Princeton Entrepreneurship Club sponsors, for instance, a fall event, which calls for one-minute pitches in a program called Princeton Pitch. I attended that November 22 event with speech coach Eileen Sinett, of Speaking That Connects. She was so enthusiastic about the students’ presentation skills that I asked her to write a guest post:

Too often, listening to a series of speakers can be a tiring experience. Not the case tonight, though. I just returned from the Princeton Pitch, hosted by the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club, where I heard thirty (30), one-minute presentations in less than an hour (30 seconds between speakers and a 10 minute intermission) and I wasn’t bored one bit! Students vying for a $1,000 prize to seed their business concept delivered their ideas before a panel of judges and an audience of students and curious community folks like myself. The room was full and the ideas were not only intelligent and forward-focused, but also creative and dynamic.

I was particularly pleased by two presentation best practices I rarely see in business presentations. The first is to pique interest at the start. Too often professionals default to mediocre. Tonight instead of hum-drum, ”vanilla” openings there were a diversity of creative beginnings: Imagine, How would you like…..You want to play, but…… Here’s a way to… Thank you for keeping the audience interested.

The second best practice that made me smile was seeing speaker after speaker stay within the one-minute time limit.

I thought, “Now this is a challenge I will bring to my corporate clients.” Many business speakers have trouble limiting their ideas to 5-10 minutes. They are sent to speech coaches to learn to be more persuasive and succinct. They need to get to the point, hook their listeners and give them a reason to listen. These students did just that, without reading PowerPoint slides or hand-written manuscripts. Bravo Princeton Pitch!

by Eileen Sinett

Editor’s notes: The winners of Princeton Pitch were Guanchun Wang and Zhen Xiang, both PhD students in the electrical engineering department, with their proposal for China’s Netflix, aimed at “providing a competitive pricing scheme to challenge piracy in China.” The next event in the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club competition is Super Saturday for the Tiger Launch, set for February 26.

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