As Chairs of YAF Philadelphia, we are charged with staying up to date with the current issues and challenges facing the emerging professionals under our umbrella. We are particularly concerned with helping young professionals overcome skill or experience gaps that may cause them to be overlooked or undervalued by potential employers. In our search for this form of “mispricing” within the community, we found that many recent graduates have limited experience articulating their ideas to audiences outside the academic sphere.
Our response was to create an event that provided the opportunity for up and coming designers to pitch a project to a panel of seasoned professionals in return for constructive criticism. We believe this simulated environment helps participants achieve the necessary oral skills to succeed at the next level. It also prepares them with intellectual agility, exposes them to pragmatic concerns, and gives them the confidence to speak comfortably to an unknown audience. These same skills often translate into a coherent interview, the ability to communicate within a team environment, and ultimately the ability to convince a client that their design solution is a viable one. As part of this simulation, participants were required to give a 30-second introduction that was designed to pique the panel’s interest. This real-world constraint forced them to be as persuasive as possible and prompted the title of the event, Elevator Pitch.
The event itself was broken into three phases: The initial Pitch, a longer prepared presentation, and finally a Q&A/feedback session. Phase I served as the classic example of having 30 seconds to make a first impression worthy of hearing more. In our simulation, we allowed them to continue as planned, but we made them aware that the initial time frame might be their only chance to make a convincing argument. When they proceeded to Phase II, they had an extended period of 4 minutes and 30 seconds to give additional information and explain the bones of the project. They were allowed upwards of 20 images to make their point and were directed to include only the most pertinent information to do so. At the end of their 5 total minutes, the panel of professionals had the opportunity to interact with the presenters, asking both follow up questions and providing feedback where they could improve in the future.
In this particular round of presentations, we had two Thesis level undergraduate students repurpose their academic presentations for outside criticism, one Master’s candidate present his idea for a wearable architectural device, and two professionals discuss their project for a public installation in a local park. All received great feedback on how they could improve, but it was clear that the initial 30-second constraint was a challenge, in addition to answering questions that many clients would be concerned with, like total cost.
For the full presentations (including feedback), please visit the following link: http://www.youtube.com/user/runtimeHD/videos. The 4 presentations that are a part of our event are: Auman & Hartwig, Nam Il Joe, Brian Johnson, and Britt Chapman. For a 90 second overall glimpse of Elevator Pitch, please see here: http://bit.ly/Pj2elY
In order for our event to run as smoothly as possible, the Young Architects Forum Committee Chairs – Jeffrey Pastva and Denise Thompson – served as the point of source for organization. This included securing a venue, committing a diverse panel of jurors, creating/advertising/administering a Call for Entries, securing additional sponsorship as required, and finally promoting the event to the community.
Of those tasks mentioned, the most pertinent and time intensive stage was the Call for Entries (CFE) process. Since we thought this topic spanned the entire spectrum of academic and professional education, the CFE was broadcast to all area architecture students and young professionals. Potential applicants were asked to produce a 150-word synopsis of their proposed presentation, as well as a few example slides. At the conclusion of the CFE, we selected the applicants who we thought would best represent themselves and who would benefit the most. These presenters were then given instructions to help vet their proposed presentations in preparation for the actual event.
Elevator Pitch was held at the showroom of Garden State Tile, a local floor finish distributor in Center City Philadelphia, to an audience of 50 architecture + design enthusiasts. It was moderated by YAF Co-Chair Jeffrey Pastva and featured 3 knowledgeable sources for feedback. They included the following people; George Smith, Christopher Stromberg, and Denise Thompson.
George is currently a Director at development firm, U3 Ventures. We really appreciated his outside eye for architectural issues at a macro scale and his expertise helped him act as a typical client.
Christopher serves as an adjunct faculty member at Philadelphia University, in addition to owning his own practice. He brought an expertise that includes both an instructional and practical view.
Denise Thompson is an architectural practitioner as well as an acting member on multiple committees within AIA Philadelphia.
For Elevator Pitch to reach our desired level of participation we relied almost entirely on In-Kind donations. To help make it possible, the following sources have been listed alongside what they contributed:
Garden State Tile allowed us to use their showroom to accommodate our audience. To help ensure a proper event, this included audio amplification equipment, seating, Juror/Moderator Table and projection screen.
Garden State Tile and Co-Chair Jeffrey Pastva chipped in to provide enough snacks and drinks for those in attendance.
RunTimeHD was our sponsor for digitally capturing the event and providing edited videos as a result. The videos included both edited renditions of each presentation, as well as a full arc of the event.
Additional Audio/Visual Equipment:
Francis Cauffman provided the use of a projector for each presentation.
Visiting Critic is a continuing series of thought provoking observations from architectural insider Jeffrey Pastva - Editor in Chief at YAF Connection, Communications Director for the AIA National Young Architects Forum and a Project Architect at JDavis in Philadelphia. His critical eye will cover everything from the state of architectural education to the future fate of the profession. Expect ideas in your inbox bi-weekly.