Three people will vie to win the Great Communicator Tournament, a contest that offers three cash prizes annually $10,000, $5,000, and $2,500 to millennials who can craft the most inspiring elevator pitches for libertarian-oriented political messaging.
The only question now is which of the three finalists: Charles Blatz, Jim Pagels, or Ben Klutsey, chosen yesterday out of twelve semi-finalists, will win which prize.
Blatz, a video producer who was a theater major, co-wrote and starred in Hungry People, The Musical, an off Broadway performance that explored homelessness in New York City. Pagels is an economics researcher and journalist who likes to do visual presentation of data, like sports scores. Klutsey is a researcher in international finance regulation at George Mason University.
The three finalists face off tonight at the D.C. Improv, a venue in downtown Washington, in the heart of the K Street corridor.
The contestants will be delivering messages — ones that are supposed to be inspirational, aspirational, and humorous — that would lead to a lot of pink slips for the lobbyists nearby. The judges are Fox News contributor Guy Benson, Federalist writer Molly Hemingway, and PR maven Beverly Hallberg.
Semi-finalists are picked from 100 entrants from around the country who submit videos, and the finalists are picked in a round of extemporaneous speaking trials. “There are three rounds with different topics and four competitors in each. One finalist is chosen from each round, for a total of three finalists,” McKenzie Snow, one the semifinalists cut in the last round of competition, explained. Snow, an education policy wonk, runs a local Toastmasters group in D.C.
Blatz feels good about is chances because of his background:
“It’s always a toss up when you go live. That’s why I love theatre because it trains you to be ready for anything in the moment. you have to be ready for any unexpected thought, stutter, or slip up. When you’re going live, there are no retakes.” This year’s finalists were from Kentucky, Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, and D.C.
The finalists were announced Tuesday night at a happy hour at the libertarian Cato Institute.
Three years old, the tournament in previous years held its finals in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Denver, Colorado. But Wednesday night, if you’re in D.C.and needs some inspiration in this election season, you can get a free ticket from the sponsoring non-profit, ThinkFreelyMedia.
Bruce Majors is a Fellow at the American Media Institute.