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VETS24 Pitch2WIN Competition

May 31, 2024 | Blog

Pitch2WIN Competition


Upon registering for the NVSBC’s VETS24 conference, I learned about the opportunity to enter their annual Pitch2WIN competition. While not something I would typically leap at the opportunity to participate in, the free coaching, the underlying need to develop a strong company pitch, and the cash prizes were enough to tip the scales to give it a go.

Gloria Larkin and her TargetGov team host the event and provide free pitch development coaching to interested participants. Thinking that I would at least get the free coaching part out of it, I booked a call with Gloria and set about drafting our company pitch according to the event guidelines.


6 Sentences in 90 Seconds


Sounds easy, right?


While I could easily get the required information neatly compiled into six sentences, and even talk quickly enough to work in some “power language” in ninety seconds, the pitch fell flat. It was just an information dump. 

Copy and content writing is my wheelhouse. Written words. White space. Storytelling. Read-at-your-own-pace, not on someone’s timer. This was going to take some work to segue my style to a timed oral presentation.


The Coaching Advantage


I wish I could recall precisely what Gloria told me on that initial coaching call. It was gentle and kind, yet clearly let me know I had missed the mark.

Use a hook. Tell a story.

Ah! The age-old concept of serving a slice of pie instead of cramming the audience’s face in one. Give them just enough that they want more.

Time to cut a lot of what I thought was essential information out of my existing 90 seconds and replace it with just a few key items. If we had to boil down our team’s expertise, capabilities, and experience into just the most vital things that set us apart from the competition, what were they?


Key Differentiators


There are three things that set Orbital Project Management apart from other PMO companies:

First, we have a proven track record for RESCUING FAILING PROJECTS. Setting up an efficient PMO at a project start isn’t always easy. Some projects have so many moving pieces that process maps can begin to resemble string art in the wrong hands. But you know what’s harder? Fixing someone else’s mess. And we have done that. Incredibly quickly. And more than once.

Second, we have A PROPRIETARY PROCESS for how we do that. Because our team is ridiculously awesome. We know each person’s strengths. And we have the emotional intelligence to navigate the process while minimizing stepping on toes.

Third, our past performance speaks for itself. Not only have we managed BUDGETS TOTALING OVER HALF A BILLION DOLLARS in the past 5 years, we have delivered on-time results with LESS THAN HALF A PERCENT IN BUDGET VARIANCE. And that includes making up for the budget and timeline deficits we rescued projects from.

And…Done. It doesn’t matter how many software platforms we have expertise in. Or the years of experience our team has. Those are just numbers. Data. Just like every other PMO company can produce. We needed to include just the parts that make us stand out.

Like when our CEO, Jennifer Heffler, referred in passing to how we prevent projects from turning into dumpster fires. If that got my attention, it might grab an audience’s as well. Needed to figure out how to work that gem in somehow.


Video Submissions


The next step in the Pitch2WIN competition was to record a 90-second video of our company pitch for the initial round of judging. The top 10 entries would be selected to compete live on stage in Orlando during the VETS24 conference.

Ugh, right?

With Gloria’s expert coaching, we had a strong pitch developed. Wasn’t that enough? Did I really need to memorize it flawlessly, record a video, set up a company YouTube channel, and risk being selected as a finalist to embarrass myself on stage?

Well, I guess I did. I’m not going to lie…Dell Technology’s $4,000 cash prize for first place may have had something to do with that.


Preparation and Memorization


My phone battery is having trouble holding a charge since the beginning of May, and I suspect that had something to do with the number of times I used the stopwatch to time myself reciting the pitch. Over and over and over and over. I had to get not only the words right, but the inflection, the pauses. And the 90 seconds wasn’t forgiving for even the slightest variance.

Ask my boss about my perfectionist tendencies, but don’t tell her I spent the better part of 8 hours getting this pitch down to a T. Once I could recite it half asleep, it was time to record that initial video for submission.

So, I did a quick dive into how to get a PIP (picture in picture) image of our company logo into the background on YouTube. Then I shoved everything off my desk so it didn’t show in the background. Took my office art down from the wall. Precariously balanced my phone on a tripod in the shag rug. And went for it. Like two dozen times. Okay, maybe three dozen. Emergency sirens, dogs barking, people talking, cars driving by with radios blaring, my rooster crowing, you name it…it happened. I started over.

Finally, I just called it good enough. Uploaded our pitch video to our brand spanking new Orbital Project Management YouTube channel, and submitted the application to TargetGov with the link. Then prayed.




You have been selected as one of the finalists for the VETS24 conference Pitch2WIN competition.

I read those words from a hospital bed on May 14th.

I was five days into my second stay at Cleveland Clinic that month for a bizarre immunological reaction that continued to worsen and had not yet been definitively diagnosed. Three specialties were following my case and weren’t sure what to make of it. I was supposed to board a plane for Orlando five days later, and they weren’t even discussing a discharge plan yet.

I promised myself that if I made it out in time, then I was getting on that plane. And I did. I had to stop on my drive home from Cleveland to buy new clothes to accommodate my 15 pounds of steroid weight gain and cover painful and unsightly skin lesions from my ongoing immune battle. But that wasn’t going to stop me.


VETS24 Conference – Orlando, FL


I showed up to the Rosen Centre on Sunday, looking nothing like myself, with sutures in my leg and a suitcase full of floor-length dresses with the tags still attached. Still recovering from a vancomycin-induced acute kidney injury and battling an ongoing adrenal crisis with sugar, salt, steroids, and hydration with provisions from the Walgreens next door.

And still reciting that pitch in my mind as I drifted off to sleep.

From the very first pre-conference session I attended, I realized VETS24 was going to be different. Having been a military spouse for over two decades, I was well aware of the type of community veterans develop and support one another through.

But would it be similar in competitive business scenarios?

Turns out the answer to that is a resounding YES!


Pitch2WIN Live Competition


Tuesday afternoon arrived and the ten finalists assembled in the Executive Ballroom for instructions on the live competition. Mental notes: three judges on the stage, Gloria hosting, stand at the podium, countdown clock on the floor within view, buzzer at 90 seconds, called in random order, get judge’s feedback…

And so it began. Really interesting companies, unique products and services, research-proven results, existing federal contracts for past performance, excellent competition.

More important than the cash prize is the ridiculous level of visibility that comes with the event. From the moment I finished the competition, I was approached by people congratulating me, asking to connect, offering teaming ideas, and even prime contractors (some of my KEY targets) stopping me to figure out how we can provide services on their existing contracts. Hallways, elevators, training sessions, restaurants…I was approached literally EVERYWHERE.

The Pitch2WIN event is a game changer for companies looking to enter or expand their reach in the GovCon space. It was worth all the discomfort and time investment, and then some.


The Winning Difference


Ultimately, two key factors gave us the edge we needed to win:

  • Gloria’s coaching on how to draft a stellar pitch
  • Practice ad nauseum

If I had a dollar for every time I said, “Hi, I’m Kelly Warren, Marketing Director for Orbital Project Management…”

Oh wait, I do. For all 4,000 of them.

Because we didn’t come to tell the same old story.

We came to tell ours…

And we are just getting started.


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