Andrew Norman has a disarming affect on people, which is probably what has made him great at interviewing some of the biggest names in music over the years. Maybe it has something to do with his small-town origins in western Nebraska or his warm laugh and the casually rolled-up sleeves of his hoodie. More than anything, it’s his open recognition of his fear of public speaking. He said he used to be sick for days before presentations. Now he makes multiple pitches for grants and sponsorship as the Executive Director of Hear Nebraska, a nonprofit he founded to cultivate Nebraska’s music and arts community to promote globally.
Of course, his journey from western Nebraska to Hear Nebraska was not without many challenges. He often faced forks in the road: one path lead to money and leisure and another path lead to hard work and challenges. He worked as the managing editor of Omaha alternative newsweeklies Omaha City Weekly and The Reader before earning his master’s in environmental journalism at Michigan State University. After graduating, Norman considered two internships in Washington, D.C.: a well-paid internship writing press releases for the Environmental Protection Agency or a non-paid internship covering Capitol Hill for Congressional Quarterly.
He chose the internship that would most challenge him and began queuing outside of the Senate Chambers to catch Senators for quotes. One time, Norman was collaborating with another person on a story and had to get a quote from a well-known Senator. When he was called to ask his question, he froze with fright, but was able to get his question off, though he didn’t really get an answer from the spinning politician. As he describes it, he took a leap off the diving board, just like when he joined The Reader or went to D.C. He continues to take those leaps carving out a position in his non-profit as the Executive Director. His greatest advice then is take leaps off the diving board; do things that challenge you.
I don’t take elevators very much anymore. Whether I’m at work, in school or at home, there’s always a stairwell that’s more convenient, more active and quicker to climb. Though stairs may be more tiring to climb, pitching someone your business idea in the span of an elevator ride is definitely more challenging.
Like climbing the stairs, you’re definitely out of breath by the end of your 60 second spiel. You’re so focused on covering all your bases (i.e. your market, pressure point, competitive advantage etc.) that you have to be careful to not stumble over your words, talk too fast or worst of all – get lost completely. Nothing says “I don’t know what I’m doing” more than having to start your pitch over again. You have to remember that you’re selling yourself as much as you’re selling your product or idea.
When I began drafting my elevator pitch, I watched a lot of pitches from the University of Dayton and the University of Utah. I especially took notes on a pitch for a travel companion website called TravelBlender and another pitch for an item identification app called Mach 3 ID. Like in the Mach 3 ID pitch, I wanted to bookend my pitch with an anecdote. For my app FreshShelf, that anecdote consisted of a busy working mom trying to preparing dinner for her family.
Finding the statistics that were memorable and expressive was the next step. A quick search with key terms revealed that the average American family of four throws away more than $2,000 in spoiled food. An app like FreshShelf would save families that money. Furthermore, 69 percent of moms in the U.S. use smartphones, which makes an app like FreshShelf accessible to those who most need it.
After weaving these statistics into the pitch, I practiced, practiced, practiced so that when it came time to deliver my pitch, I wasn’t never. I did get caught on one part, but I quickly recovered and finished on a high note. I definitely learned that practicing in front of others is the best way to be confident with your pitch. A good elevator pitch can take you to the top floor.