Tom Ryan says the Asheville Talent Jam was born out of necessity.
Entrepreneurs in Western North Carolina weren’t connecting with one another, says Ryan, the Kauffman Foundation’s WNC Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and Catawba Valley Community College. They were either searching to hire specific talent and saying they couldn’t find it, or seeking their own jobs and coming up short. Traditional job fairs weren’t doing the trick. Ordinary networking events were falling short.
“My head was exploding, because the talented person, or the job, was right there,” Ryan says. “The mechanism for connecting people was really broken.”
So Ryan held Asheville Talent Jam last November. He offered people the chance to make 1-minute pitches, either for specific jobs or specific needs. And he held it at Highland Brewing, because Asheville is Beer City, after all. Some 400 people showed up. Ryan was turning people away who wanted to make a pitch.
Asheville Talent Jam returns from 6-9 p.m. on March 21. This time, it will be held at Highland Brewing, and the pitch spots are mostly filled. That doesn’t deter Ryan, who expects 450 people to turn out. Here are five things to know about the event:
-The event will be a high-energy affair. There will be dueling microphones and people will have creative pitches. At the first event, one woman broke into song, Ryan says. “We want to capture that kind of excitement and translate it into an event on a scale that’s meaningful.”
-You don’t have to get up in front of a crowd. Ryan says Isis Music Hall, with its upstairs balcony and other separate spaces, offers people plenty of opportunities to get away from the stage and crowd and still make a connection.
-Your pitch will be recorded (audio and video), and the plan is to add it to a directory on thetalentjam.com where anyone can find it later. So be clever and put yourself out there, Ryan says.
-This won’t be the last Talent Jam. Ryan says he’s planning on making Talent Jam a quarterly affair.