When Sangs, CT’s beloved Features Editor (and employee at iZone) messaged me about participating in Pitch Imperfect, I honestly didn’t know what to expect.

However, I was easily swayed by her Slack-direct-message flattery, and the premise seemed fun for a good story, so I immediately signed up and forgot about it for two weeks. What I was not expecting was to be immediately thrown into one of the greatest displays of UR culture and community, and to (spoiler alert) win one of the “!!! good prizes!!!”.

Pitch Imperfect, as a concept, is one of the smartest things I’ve ever seen devised for the UR student body by a University-run organization. Here’s the premise: get a bunch of people to sign up to present slides that they won’t see until they present. There are 30 seconds per slide, and the clock starts once you start your spiel. Three staff members serve as judges, and everyone else in the audience gets a cowbell to incessantly ring when a presenter says something they like.

The rest — what you pay attention to on the slides, how you interact with the audience and judges, and how you say what you say — is all up to you. The slides are humorous by nature — one presentation started with a slide that just said “Chicken,” leading the audience to immediately whoop and holler — so the goal for most participants ended up being to make the audience laugh as much as possible, myself included.

So, what makes this event so smart? For students who are heading into job and internship interviews, this is a fun and safe way to get comfortable with public speaking and on-the-fly thinking. Not everyone is gifted with a sense of timing and conciseness, and often those are the skills that are hardest to hone without practice. Thus, by offering this event, iZone helps not only give people the opportunity to try out public speaking in a silly space, but also gives those who choose to participate an audience who will support them unabashedly, cowbells and all. You get to improve your improv, so to speak.

My personal experience at the event, while stunted (I had to leave in the middle of the event to cover another event for the CT — the grind never stops!) was incredibly fun. I noshed on free pastries, rang my purple cowbell to the high heavens, and lightheartedly commentated during the presentations with the occasional supportive “so true, bestie!” Even if I hadn’t won the event, which I learned while on the shuttle to Eastman via Instagram DM from a friend who also attended, I would have considered it a complete success.

If you’re given the opportunity to go to Pitch Imperfect the next time it’s hosted — senior Prajita Shrestha, who was part of running the event, noted that iZone has done this program in prior years, so I definitely see it returning — I would highly recommend it. Go with some friends, ring some bells, and get out of your comfort zone.

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