Kennesaw State students take elevator pitches to the next level with TK Elevator

KENNESAW, Ga. | Dec 19, 2022

Kennesaw State University sales students learned the true meaning of “elevator pitch,” when they were given 60 seconds to sell their personal brands while traveling 420 feet in the air on TK Elevator’s fastest elevator in Atlanta.

A group of 24 students in the Michael J. Coles College of Business’s professional sales team traveled to TK Elevator’s North American headquarters to see who could deliver the most effective elevator pitch to company executives.

An elevator pitch is a summary of a person’s background, skills or business ideas brief enough to be delivered during a single elevator ride. It is a valuable tool in the salesperson’s arsenal.

Each student stepped inside one of the building’s iconic elevators overlooking The Battery Atlanta and pitched themselves as a potential new hire to TKE’s sales team. Students had until the elevator reached the top floor to complete their pitch. TKE Executive Vice President of Sales Kevin Robertson, Director of Training and Development Paul Harrison, Sales Manager Daniel Gross and Atlanta Branch Manager Adam Luckey judged the pitches.

“We threw everything we could at them from a stress standpoint,” Luckey said. “It’s hard enough to shorten your personal brand to 60 seconds, but we stuck them in a glass box 420 feet in the air with potential employers and cameras in their faces. It was stressful, but they all handled it well.”

KSU marketing student Avani Shah, who is also working toward a Master of Business Administration through Kennesaw State’s Double Owl program, took home first prize. She credits her win to a last-minute decision to record herself practicing her presentation.

“I was there in the morning thinking about how to focus on getting the judges’ attention,” Shah said. “I decided to film myself and watch it. I figured, if I get bored watching myself, then they are going to get bored listening to me. After that, I was able to break it down into chunks that made it easier to follow.”

Shah, who plans to open a yoga studio and consult on health and wellness marketing, said perfecting her elevator pitch will allow her to market herself more effectively in the professional world.

“Talking about ourselves is our favorite thing to do until we’re asked to do it,” she said. “Then you forget everything you know about yourself. It’s very important be able to talk about yourself in a way that’s engaging but not self-absorbed.”

The idea for TKE’s competition came from Brent McCulloch, associate director of the Center for Professional Selling and a lecturer in Kennesaw State’s professional sales program. He has partnered with TKE for the past three years, including leading students on tours of their facility and inviting TKE executives to class to discuss sales careers. He saw this as an opportunity to strengthen his relationship with one of the world’s leading elevator manufacturers while teaching students the value of selling themselves.

“It’s a very competitive environment out there for the great jobs,” McCulloch said. “If you have a rehearsed, eloquent statement that explains the value you bring, an effective close and are comfortable asking for a follow-up, that sets you exponentially ahead of the pack.”

While the event was a competition, the sales team spent the week prior rehearsing together and offering each other advice for improvement.

“We took advantage of the week to give feedback to each other and practice in an environment where we feel safe trying things outside of our comfort zones,” said Thomas Rowen, a professional sales major who took second place. “This practice, along with the guidance from (McCulloch), was an integral part of our success in the competition.”

The event concluded with a party on the top floor of the test tower, where TKE presented the first-, second-, and third-place finishers with keepsake LEGO brick models of the tower built in February 2022. Each statue is affixed to a pedestal made in the Coles College’s 3D printing lab.

Luckey said hosting the elevator pitch competition was one of the many ways TKE plans to continue its relationship with Kennesaw State, which it sees as a vital recruitment effort.

“Over the past few years, we’ve built a true headquarters campus in Atlanta with three buildings,” Luckey said. “We are really looking at KSU as a school that helps us fulfill a lot of the roles we are looking for. As we grow our presence in North America, we need top talent. And we’re seeing it at KSU.”

- Patrick Harbin

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit