RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Wake Forest University’s Babcock Graduate School of Management certainly does put a different, literal spin on “elevator pitch.”

After hearing from founder Bob Young about the challenges and opportunities in entrepreneurship, MBA students from around the country will square off for $85,000 in cash and prizes this weekend in Babcock’s 10th annual “Elevator Competition.”

The hook is the literal elevator round – 29 competing teams get 2 minutes in an elevator ride in a downtown Winston-Salem skyscraper to make their pitch to actual venture capitalists. The survivors move on to the money round.

UNC-Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flager and Duke’s Fuqua have their own competitions, each with different features. And UNC’s entrepreneurship program is putting student teams through their paces this weekend. The three all have appeal.

However, it’s difficult to imagine a more pressure-packed two minutes than the

Now in its 10th year, the competition has to be more keen than ever for the cash and prizes as well as the boost in business-plan credibility, given the state of the economy.

Young, the co-founder of Red Hat and the builder of self-publishing powerhouse Lulu in Raleigh, will have much wisdom to share. But if I were one of the MBAs, I’d be sure to quiz him about the “top 10” do’s and don’t’s for making elevator pitches.

In addition to making the elevator pitch, teams also have to provide detailed business plans and be prepared to make a formal presentation if they make the finals.

While VCs will question them during the more detailed part of the competition, they also can interrupt team presenters during the up-and-down stage. Only the quick-witted, well-briefed MBAs will survive.

By the way, each of the teams must include at lease one student seeking an MBA or undergraduate degree.

Three Wake Forest teams will be competing along with teams from Yale, Rice, Illinois-Chicago, Arkansas, Johns Hopkins, Virginia, Georgetown, and many other schools.

The theme: “Plan, pitch, profit.”