I’ve been fortunate to win 6 pitch competitions since starting Xceptional. From the Google Impact Challenge through to the Australia final of Pitch@Palace in Perth last week, it has been humbling to see how the story behind our business has connected with so many.
I use the word fortunate very intentionally. I truly believe that lots of factors, such as the timing of the idea, are more critical than anything I can take credit for. We seem to have stumbled on an ideas whose time is now.
Despite this success, or maybe because of it, each time I get on stage causes me increasing levels of anxiety. Last Friday in Perth was no exception.
As I stood behind the curtain backstage, I was shaking and my hands were sweating. I was convinced I was going to forget my lines. One of the event staff gave me a reassuring smile and that was just enough to instill a small degree of confidence to at least get my feet walking towards the lights.
Minutes before, I had missed the group photograph because I was off in a side room frantically going through my pitch one last time. I had made some last minute changes, based on suggestions from the Duke of York. While these were great suggestions my neural pathways were now confused as two sets of well memorised but similar lines intertwined.
My colleague, Kurt, was such a support to me throughout the event. I can only get up and do these pitches because I have an amazing team around me. He flew to Perth to ensure I had the support I needed to get through this.
Walking out, I was instantly aware of the strong lights and the sea of people all staring at me. The moment of walking out on an intimidating stage – especially at a place like Government House – makes our fight or flight response kick in.
This is why many people start a talk by scanning the audience. Our brain is checking for lions and tigers. As practiced, I overcame this impulse by intentionally locking eyes with one person and giving my opening story to them.
Why do I keep doing these pitch events when I find them so challenging? Because of the amazing array of contacts and attention that they bring. And at the end of the day this results in more autistic people getting jobs.
We met someone who could connect us with a sizeable grant. A lady who works in recruitment with an autistic daughter came up to me afterwards. I met a man working as a chief scientist at a large business that was looking for digital staff.
I get up on that stage because each time I see the huge impact on people’s lives.
If you know someone who is autistic who is looking for work in IT or data please connect us with them. For those in Sydney we have an assessment workshop coming up in November, with registrations closing this Sunday, 13th October.
And if you are interested in hiring through us please get in touch.