First things first, what is a pitch and why is it important? A pitch is the verbal composition of why a product or idea is worth investing or supporting. It’s any creator’s opportunity to convince someone else that what they’ve made is valuable, and that’s important because an idea without investment is merely just an idea.
Introducing our students to pitching went a little something like this:
“Tell me what makes your idea awesome?”
First silence and then a few audible “I don’t know’s.”
“Well, then, tell me what makes you an expert in what you’re building your app around?”
More silence. If you’ve never sat in front of a class of silent middle schoolers it’s akin to walking into a room well after an event has started and having everyone turn and acknowledge your tardiness without a peep. This moment was our cue for a change of tactics.
“If you were having a basketball tournament and Steph Curry walked in and said he wanted to be on your team, what would he have to say to convince you that he deserved a spot?”
“He’s Steph Curry, he’s the best,” one of the boys in the front perked up. Success.
“Oh is he? I don’t watch basketball so tell me what makes him great.”
A little bit of sports infusion helped get the gears going for our Kramer Middle School students, but there was still a disconnect somewhere in the room…
“If it was your birthday and Beyonce wanted to sing you happy birthday and your mom said, only if you could tell her why Beyonce is great, what would you say? Now, how are you Beyonce in your own way?”
Collective chuckles in the room were a solid indication that while silly, they got the point. The first step in creating an effective pitch is to believe that you have what it takes to convince the people around you.
“We’ve all got a little Steph Curry or Beyonce in each of us. We just have to learn how to articulate the things that make us awesome. We sell our ideas by being confident in the way we present them.”
Part of what makes our Luma Lab curriculum unique is our focus on entrepreneurship. Our Luma Lab program is not just a coding class, but a class that teaches students that they can be experts at marketing and sharing their technical creations. Their lives are the inspirations for their work; their mobile applications are solutions to community issues that they’ve experienced. If anyone can explain why their ideas are important, effective and necessary – it’s the students themselves. Moreover to truly master the art of pitching it’s important to teach them that what they’re selling isn’t their solution but their problem.
Our students are learning that telling the story of how the issues they’ve identified are plaguing their lives and the lives of people they know is the most effective way to sell their ideas. They’re employing Logos, as they present clear reasons why the issue needs solving. Utilizing Pathos as they tell personal stories that showcase the issue they’ve selected. And Lastly, they’ve learned Ethos by truly identifying what makes them the Steph Curry or Beyonce in their selected problem area and articulating their expertise.
There’s something to be said for infusing pop culture in the classroom with new concepts. Whether Beyonce and Steph are your favorites or Rihanna and LeBron are more your speed, making the topics relatable and showing the students that you care enough to bridge the gap between your lesson plan and their day to day lives can make all the difference. Merging learning the three types of persuasion appeals with a little pop culture made the message go over more easily.
We’re still working on perfecting their pitches to make them “pitch perfect” (another pop culture reference not lost on our students) but we’re off to a great start with everyone getting in touch with their inner Beyonce and Steph Curry. As our students highlight the things that make them special, it’s incredibly powerful and critical to continue to find ways to help plant and grow these seeds of confidence in them. They’re learning that the problems in their communities deserve to be solved, and that their stories are riveting and can be a great tool in developing a pitch. There’s more to be done but for now, I’m happy to report that our students know that they have what it takes to pitch with the best of them.