By Meredith Stabbe
When I heard the words “elevator pitch” during our meeting two weeks ago, I immediately imagined standing center stage in front of a hundred judging eyes with nothing but note cards, a microphone, and my boots (which I would be shaking uncontrollably in). What happened during my pitch was nothing like that.
Before the day we were to do our pitches, my partner, Henry, and I practiced multiple times via video chats. After a lot of editing, re-editing, and re-re-editing, we still felt like we weren’t adequately prepared, so we agreed to arrive early to practice. When I showed up at GW a half hour early, I expected no one to be there. I was dead wrong. At least ten of my fellow Fellows were there, already pitching to each other in a circle. I feel bad admitting this, but during the previous meeting I took assurance from the realization that practically no one was prepared. If no one else was ready to present, why should I be?
But when I arrived, the pitches were perfect. The people who had arrived early had clearly been working on their speeches. And so I joined the circle and listened to my fantastic friends work together to make small tweaks to their pitches. After a couple of minutes of listening to rehearsals, Henry showed up and we went into overdrive. We practiced a couple of times while simultaneously consulting others on our wording and assuring our friends that they sounded great. Soon, the rest of the crowd showed up and the world seemed to split underneath my feet.
All of the pitches looked and sounded stunning! Why had I not anticipated this?! I looked around and everyone looked effortless. I was also really surprised by how much everyone was helping each other. They could all have been in the fetal position worrying as much as I was, but instead of doing that they were all listening thoughtfully to each other. The moment I realized this, my expectation of what the elevator pitch would be like changed. I knew that there would be no judging eyes, especially from my peers. I was no longer nervous because I knew that even if I failed miserably, my friends would still support me. This epiphany took a load off of my shoulders. I was no longer nervous or shaking in my boots- instead I was truly excited.
I practiced with Henry thirty or so times with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. I listened to the other Fellows’ pitches so many times that I had them all memorized. We then lined up and entered the room. Everyone gave their pitches as fantastically as they had in practice. When Henry and I pitched our venture, I did feel a bit nervous, but I attribute that to the three cups of coffee I drank earlier that day so that I could function for a full 12 hours. I think we did well. There were a few slip-ups here and there from everyone, but we were all able to finish our pitches. After only a few months as a LearnServe Fellow, I can see how much we’ve all progressed. I can’t wait for our meetings to start again!