This summer, companies will have the opportunity to pitch their deals in front of a panel of judges. The panel, made up of those with cash to potentially invest, will provide feedback on the pitches. Sound like an episode of ABC's Shark Tank? It's not.

It's Piranha Pool, a new event that will be featured at the Alliance of Merger & Acquisitions Advisors' (AM&AA) Summer Conference, held at the JW Marriott in Chicago from July 22 to July 24. AM&AA will pre-select three participants for the Piranha Pool segment.

AM&AA expects up to 550 dealmakers to attend, including private equity investors, investment bankers, lawyers, accountants and other deal professionals. The organization was founded in 1998, and is made up of certified public accountants, attorneys and other corporate financial advisers. Members are generally focused on buying and selling businesses in deals valued between $5 million and $500 million.

Education will be one of the main focuses at this year's conference, according to the organizers. "We've found there is a big need for education in the private company marketplace because this hasn't ever been taught in business school," says AM&AA founder Michael Nall. Several of the event's breakout sessions are aimed at educating dealmakers, Nall says, including a current market update on July 22, which will focus on market conditions, availability of capital, valuation multiples and hot industry sectors. The event features a host of breakout sessions, which are expected to have 50 to 75 attendants each.

The conference will include breakout sessions and workshops with topics including preparing for a sale, post-merger integration and IT, finding sellers, what strategic acquirers are looking for, business development companies coming to the forefront, a franchise industry view of middle market M&A, international deal sourcing, the anatomy of a deal and the power of social media.

Dealmakers, when not in a breakout session, can still network. "This is a place for people to connect," says Nall. "It's a place for people to learn and earn more together."

AM&AA has a mobile application that attendees can use to find each other. Those who are registered for the event will receive push notifications and be able to connect with each other by messaging through the app.

Other highlights of this year's conference will include going to a Chicago Cubs vs. San Diego Padres game on July 23 at Wrigley Field. "It'll be a chance for out-of-towners to experience a real Chicago tradition," Nall says. The Cubs game is the only event that people who aren't registered for the conference are welcome to join.

Before the Cubs game, also on July 23, AM&AA will host the Deal Bash, an updated event where investment bankers set up tables and dealmakers jump from table to table for networking and deal sourcing. The event aims to allow investment bankers to showcase what they specialize in and what they are looking for in terms of deals.

Keynote speakers include Jones Day's Andrew Sherman, who will speak at noon on Tuesday, July 22; Patrick O'Keefe, CohnReznik's chief economist, who will break down the state of the economy and how it will impact M&A transactions over the next two years, on Wednesday, July 23; and, also on July 23, Steven LaTourette, president of McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies, who will talk about how dysfunction in Washington D.C. affects dealmaking and about the taxation of carried interest.

Session Spotlight

More details on a handful of sessions and special events featured at AM&AA's Summer Conference.

Tuesday, July 22

* Becoming a Winning Seller/Adviser - Preparing for the Transaction - With the abundance of capital in the market, this workshop is aimed at the companies that are not yet ready to go to market. The session aims to teach people how to improve a company's profitability and increase market value.

* Mastering the Transaction Process - The program will be put on by Matt Kauser, a senior managing consultant with BKD LLP; Sid Shaver, managing director at Statesman Corporate Finance; and James Hill, chairman of the private equity practice of Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff.

Wednesday, July 23

* Keynote: Economic Outlook and Impact on M&A and Capital Markets - Patrick O'Keefe, CohnReznik LLP's chief economist, will break down the state of the economy and how it will affect M&A transactions over the next two years.

* State of the Market - Hosted by Jason Bolt, senior associate at Columbia Financial Advisors and Robert Brown, managing director at Lincoln International.

* Where are the Sellers? - Hosted by Justin Kaplan, partner at Balance Point Capital Partners, and Molly Simmons of Tonka Bay Equity Partners LLC.

* Post-Merger Integration and IT - Hosted by Nitin Kumar from PwC.

* Lunch Keynote - Steven LaTourette, president of McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies, will talk about how dysfunction in Washington D.C. affects dealmaking and about the taxation of carried interest.

* BDCs Coming to the Forefront - Hosted by David Magdol, chief investment officer, Main Street Capital Corp.

* A Focus on Middle Market M&A - A Franchise Industry View - Hosted by Anthony Calamunci, attorney, Roetzel & Andress LLC

* Deal Bash - Investment bankers will set up tables to showcase their areas of expertise and connect with other dealmakers about transactions they may be working on or seeking.

* Chicago Cubs Game - The Cubs take on the San Diego Padres at historic Wrigley Field, and conference attendees may enjoy the rooftop space, Beyond the Ivy

Thursday, July 24

* Piranha Pool - Companies will pitch ideas to a panel of judges and receive feedback

* Washington Update - Hosted by Chris Blees, partner, Biggskofford PC

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