Seven Tips for Winning Case Competitions

The case competition has become a cornerstone not just of business school, but of many university and even high school experiences as student contests expand the education space at all levels. Many students are – however – unfamiliar with how case competitions function, let alone how to effectively prepare for them. Here are 7 tips for winning case competitions.

1. Be human-centric.

Get out there and talk with people! It is critical to do secondary research. Wherever feasible, you should base your ideas on solid primary research. When you are able to reference interactions with folks who are “living the problem,” the judges will be more than pleased. One partner reminded us that “CEOs are humans, too,” and that their own unconscious biases and hectic schedules may impede them from finding a holistic solution to all problems.

2. Know your numbers

It’s always pleasant to answer to a judge’s dubious inquiry with, “Yes, and we have statistics to back it,” during Q&A time. If you’re going to respond quickly, be sure you’ve done your homework. While just relevant figures should be supplied, an appendix is a useful addition for all the numerical material you might wish to use during follow-up questions. Also, make sure you practice speaking convincingly about how you arrived at your final figures.

3. Maintain a laser-like focus

When it comes to tackling an innovative problem, there are always a lot of intriguing options. The most compelling solution is often the most successful strategy. Explain why you picked it and flesh it out in depth for the audience. A single, profound, and well-studied answer will wow the audience far more than a series of wide and superficial ones.

In most winning presentation, the teams suggested solutions ideally positioned to solve unique subproblems of the overall case. They were able to demonstrate that they had done the hard work of prioritizing results for the case-company by focusing on one of the many current pain issues.

4. Aesthetics

It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of a visually appealing presentation. Your audience will be aware and engaged as a result of this. Simple design features and straightforward, clear slides will go a long way. Don’t be afraid to be creative with graphics and vivid visuals if you want to take it a step further. Succesful teams bribe the audience, by employing clear slides with beautiful and coherent graphics.

5. Think of actionable solutions

Finally, judges want ideas that seem real — ones they can put into action quickly, within their existing budget, and are pleased to share with internal stakeholders. Make a detailed plan for how you’ll launch your project, including how much money you’ll need and what current resources you may use.

You can always lay out a plan for how your solution may improve and expand as you scale if you want to add some sparkle (three, five, or ten years down the line). Succesful teams concentrate often present an implementation-plan in their presentation, to show a glimpse of what a “full-scale” version may look like. This let the judges see how their idea may have an immediate impact and how it may lead to something bigger and more significant.

6. Focus on story-telling

Business language and figures may appear impressive, but if the assessors aren’t engaged, they may overlook your solution’s ingenuity. Storytelling may help you stand out from the crowd and connect with your audience. To showcase how this solution will impact the lives of consumers and stakeholders, share passionate and impactful tales from personas or real individuals you interacted with. Following the first advice, speaking with individuals in different parts of the problem will allow you to tell interesting human stories.

7. Have fun

Make sure you have a good time! That may seem corny, but if you’re not interested in the subject area, it’s difficult to imagine and build out a commercial solution under time restrictions. Find teammates with whom you like spending together and let your excitement shine on pitch day.

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