The Quick and Dirty Guide to Case Competitions

Exciting news! Last week my MBA team won a campus-wide case competition! If you’ve forgotten what a case competition is, read this. I thought I’d share some quick tips for giving yourself the best chance at winning some dough:

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Snazzy clothes, firm handshake, big smile – time to get our case competition on!

  1. Choose your team based on qualities: If this is a high-stakes competition, work with trusted peers. This is not the time to get closer to that looker from your finance class, but rather to bring out the big guns with people who have similar work styles as you. You’ll recall I dropped out of a case competition because my teammates’ qualities did not align with mine.
  2. Also choose your team based on skills: Although it might be tempting to only work with your besties from your marketing focus, your team won’t be well-rounded enough to handle all areas of a case. My recommendation is to have one marketer, one operations person, one finance person, and one strategist or entrepreneur. (Remember, the smaller your team, the fewer people you have to split the prize money with).
  3. Financials, financials, financials: These will win or lose the competition for you. It almost doesn’t matter what your idea is – if your financials are correct and presented clearly (not in a messy Excel spreadsheet), you’ve got a chance. If your idea is amazing but your finances are off, you’re not going to win.
  4. Tell a story: It doesn’t matter if your case competition is about manufacturing hairspray or zoning laws in Boise – you need to find a way to tell a story through your presentation. In other words, do not say, “We are group 19. We recommend you manufacture hairspray. This is important because…” But instead, “When I was blowdrying my hair this morning, I reached for my hairspray and it was gone,” and give the judges an image to keep in mind as you build up to why they should manufacture hairspray. The person who opens the presentation should introduce the story, it should be mentioned throughout, and the closer should wrap it up.
  5. Practice the presentation: Don’t wait until the day of the event to run through your presentation. The best ones have scripts and are choreographed. Typically my team and I will divide up the presentation and we will each be responsible for writing our own script. Then we come together and make sure it flows. We also practice how we will stand, switch off speakers, and answer questions at the end.

Hopefully you were able to glean some tips from this! Do any of you have helpful case competition advice? Any success stories? Any questions?

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