The Art of the Pitch

Feb 16, 2024

Coloring outside the lines to drive innovation in government procurement.

By Sana Hoda Sood

The Art of the Pitch

In the ever-evolving landscape of government procurement, the alignment between industry, academia, and government stands as a pivotal determinant of success. Pitch days, emerging as a dynamic instrument, have played a critical role in facilitating the convergence of these sectors.

At the National Contract Management Association (NCMA) Government Contract Management Symposium (GCMS) event in November 2023, Tradewinds hosted a session titled “The Art of the Pitch” to drive this convergence forward, with an artistic twist.

Tradewinds is a suite of tools, services, and contracting vehicles designed to accelerate the procurement and adoption of artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) and data analytics technologies across the Department of Defense (DoD). Within this suite, the Tradewinds Solutions Marketplace is the DoD’s digital hub of post-competition, readily awardable, five-minute technology solution pitch videos.

As such, Tradewinds knows a thing or two (or 199, the number of award-ready pitch videos currently available on the Tradewinds Solutions Marketplace) about the power of the pitch. During the past year, 13 of these pitch videos secured government awards through the Tradewinds Solutions Marketplace, underscoring its effectiveness.

Against this backdrop, the Tradewinds Solutions Marketplace, a catalyst for innovation and streamlined procurement processes, aptly hosted the “Art of the Pitch” event. This session shed light on the pivotal role played by pitch days as effective procurement methods.

The Art of the Pitch

Dolores Kuchina-Musina, Ph.D. (left) and Rosa Johnson (right) led the session.

Setting the Stage

“The Art of the Pitch” session was facilitated by the Applied Research Institute (ARI) Director of Contracts Rosa Johnson and by Dolores 
Kuchina-Musina, Ph.D., Assessment Lead at the Tradewinds Solutions Marketplace for ARI.

With decades of experience across government and procurement, Johnson and Kuchina-Musina set the stage for a dynamic session with an introduction to pitch days, offering their unique perspectives on the intersection of procurement strategy, acquisition authorities, technology focus areas and more.

They were joined by guest speaker Lori-Ann Rissler, who shared her experiences and insights. She worked for 11 years as a Government Contracting Officer, including being on the original team at Kessel Run, where she organized the Kessel Run Pitch Day.

The Art of the Pitch

Team members collaborated to examine 10 pivotal pitch considerations to develop their strategic visions.

Pitch Perfect

During the two-hour session, participants organized into cross-functional teams and pored over 10 pivotal pitch considerations, ensuring that each decision contributed to their strategic vision:

  1. Objectives of Your Pitch Day: Teams meticulously defined the goals and outcomes they aimed to achieve with their pitch event, aligning them with the overarching mission.
  2. Geographic Location: The geographical setting was considered, impacting accessibility, logistics, and the potential reach of the event.
  3. Month, Day, and Time: Teams discussed the optimal timing for their pitch day, taking into account factors such as fiscal year calendars and potential scheduling conflicts.
  4. The Venue: Participants explored suitable venue options that would best accommodate their objectives, audience, and logistics.
  5. Participating Government Agencies: Choices for government agencies taking part in the pitch day were thoughtfully selected, ensuring relevance and alignment with the event’s goals.
  6. Partner Organizations (Government, Venture Capital, Academia, Industry): Teams carefully identified partner organizations that could enrich the event with expertise, resources, and networking opportunities. This step epitomized the integration of industry, academia, and government.
  7. Technology Focus Areas: Participants scrutinized technology focus areas, considering options such as AI and machine learning, data analytics, and cloud computing, in line with their objectives.
  8. Authorities for Awards: The process of awarding was detailed, including the authorities responsible for making these awards.
  9. Award Values: Teams decided on the values of their awards, seeking to incentivize innovation and excellence.
  10. Name of the Pitch Day Event: The session concluded with teams devising memorable and impactful names for their pitch day events, encapsulating their purpose and vision.

Working collaboratively in their teams, participants discussed, debated, and decided on their preferences for each pitch consideration. The aim was to ensure that each choice cohesively contributed to the overall strategic vision.

The Art of the Pitch

Alexis Shellow, Ph.D. (left) was one of three government judges of the art creations. Dolores Kuchina-Musina, Ph.D. (center) and Angela Cope (right) are also shown.

The Confluence of Art 
and Strategy

What truly set “The Art of the Pitch” apart was its fusion of art with the pitch development process. After completing all 10 pitch considerations, teams met the artist on site, Brian Tarallo. He brought a unique sensibility to the session – he is a talented artist with a DoD background.

Through a five-minute presentation to Tarallo, the teams communicated their vision, goals, and plans for their industry pitch day; Tarallo then transformed it into a one-of-a-kind piece of art.

After each team provided their vision, Tarallo got to work. Setting up his art station in the halls of the Marriott Bethesda, where NCMA’s GCMS was taking place, he began drawing live. With each marker stroke, he captured the messaging, imagery, and vision of each team.

To the delight of attendees who stopped to watch and take pictures, he worked his magic to translate the teams’ pitch day visions to plans on paper, infusing artistic flair into the strategic vision, producing a visually captivating representation of the pitch session.

In a matter of hours, blank paper had turned into visual displays of ideas transforming words into vision, mission, and purpose.

The Art of the Pitch

Brian Tarallo, who fused art together with the pitch development process, is the Managing Director of “Lizard Brain” and a certified professional facilitator who specializes in visual methods. He works in the federal and state governments, defense, engineering, and healthcare industries. He has served armed forces, DoD, and IC agencies as a visual facilitator since 2009.

Knocking It Out of the Park

In less than 24 hours, the teams’ pitch day plans had been fully crafted into art – and it was judging time. The art remained displayed on the walls, and the stakes were high – bragging rights and eternal glory. An esteemed panel of VIP government judges – Quentin McCoy (Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office), Polly Hall (Department of Homeland Security), and Alexis Shellow, Ph.D. (Department of the Interior) convened to judge the artwork.

These judges evaluated the final products based on criteria that included strategy, compliance, and artistic flair. Three awards were up for grabs:

  1. The Masterpiece Award – Best Overall, recognizing the team that best demonstrated a deep understanding of strategically tailoring a pitch day for government clients.
  2. The Artistic Fusion Award, celebrating the team that most effectively collaborated with the artist, creating an artistic portrayal that seamlessly blended strategy and art.
  3. The “People’s Choice Award,” voted on by GCMS attendees, awarded to the team that designed a pitch day resonating with the crowd, blending legal expertise, strategic finesse, creative flair, and innovation seamlessly.

At the end, one team stood victorious – sweeping up all three awards! Congratulations to Team Building Trust – Hannah Huffman, Lee Showers, and Emily Hsu! Judges were wowed by their meticulous strategy, collaborative planning, attention to detail, and the clear communication of their vision to the artist.

The Art of the Pitch

GCMS attendees voted for the “People’s Choice Award.”

A Home Run

“The Art of the Pitch” session hosted by Tradewinds at NCMA’s GCMS was a master class in pitch day development, providing a creative framework for crafting successful pitch events. The session demonstrated the synergy between strategy, art, and cross-sector collaboration, showcasing how pitch days serve as a bridge between industry, academia, and government to foster innovation and efficiency in government procurement.

We look forward to coloring outside the lines (while remaining compliant, of course) and continuing to paint a vivid picture of the future of government procurement. CM

Sana Hoda Sood is a marketing and communications professional based in Arlington, Virginia. She is supporting communication efforts at The Applied Research Institute and was part of the planning and logistics team for the Tradewinds Presents: Art of the Pitch at NCMA’s GCMS 2023.

This article appeared in the February 2024 issue of Contract Management magazine, published by the National Contract Management Association. Used with permission.

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