What: Invest half of a weekend challenging yourself! Develop, rehearse, and deliver a business presentation with the help of professional coaches and compete for $2,500 in prize money. This 25-hour mentored experience begins with the announcement of topics on Friday afternoon and culminates with the final round of presentations on Saturday afternoon.
When: Friday, February 21, 4-11 PM and Saturday, February 22, 8 AM-5 PM
How will it work? Registered students arrive in Snead Hall by 4 PM. Each student receives a topic with background research (yes, you can trade!) and begins to design a 3-minute presentation. You work all Friday evening to design a compelling presentation (with support from presentation consultants), Your outlines are due by 11 PM. (There’s a prize for best outline!)
Don’t worry! Food and beverages will be provided. See the schedule for more details.
Saturday morning, bright and early, students will arrive back in Snead Hall to begin rehearsing in small groups under the guidance of presentation coaches. Early in the afternoon, all students compete in Round 1 in front of a panel of judges from the business community. Top presenters in each topic will move forward to Round 2, competing for cash prizes. Contestants who do not move forward to the second round become judges for the Competitors Choice category.
Best Outline: $250 & Competitors Choice: $250
Must be enrolled as VCU School of Business Undergraduate major or minor.
Participants are required to be present for the entirety of the event, Friday, February 21, 4-11 PM and Saturday, February 22, 8 AM-5 PM.
Presentations are limited to 3 minutes in length.
Presentations must include an element of story and recognize and address the ethical considerations of the subject.
Participants are expected to dress in Business Professional attire for Day 2, Saturday, February 22nd, for rehearsing and competing. (Friday is casual.
Registration: There is no fee to participate in this experience. Click here to Sign-Up as a competitor in the 4th Annual Creative Communication Competition.
Workshops: Every Friday leading up to the competition, there will be FREE workshops for participants in Studio BE (Snead 1212) from 11-11:30 AM, 1/17, 1/24, 1/31, 2/7, 2/14.
Frequently Asked Questions
To help you out, we have gathered the most commonly asked questions. Click below!
What is the time limit for presentations?
The total length of your presentation should be no longer than 3 minutes. When you reach 2 minutes and 30 seconds, a timer will raise their hand to let you know you have 30 seconds remaining. If you reach the 3-minute mark, you will be asked to stop.
Why do I only have up to 3 minutes?
Three minutes is ample time to communicate your message. If you need more time, it means that you are unsure of what you are trying to say.
Can the presentation be informative?
All presentations are informative. An effective and engaging presentation will take it to the next level. The best presentations will hook the audience in and leave them with a clear call to action and/or carry-out message.
What are the topics?
Topics will be assigned to presenters on Friday, February 21st at 4:30 PM.
Do I have to stay in Snead Hall on Friday?
Yes. All participants must be in the building for the entirety of the competition, Friday 2/21, 4 PM - 11 PM & Saturday 2/22, 8 AM-5 PM. There are faculty and peer consultants on duty Friday night to work with participants.
Is a slideshow required?
No, but you may use one. Your slide show must be ready to go for reviewing during your coaching session. You will be given further instructions during coaching.
Will there be a clicker for the slide show?
Yes. You will submit your slideshow in advance which will be pulled up and ready to go.
Can I use other visual aids?
Yes. As long as you practice with them during coaching.
Will there be a microphone?
Will my presentation be recorded?
Yes. For Round One there will be a volunteer in each room to record your presentation on your device (phone). Make sure you have a full charge and plenty of space for the recording. The Finals Round will be professionally recorded and made available to participants after the competition.
Will I be introduced?
Yes. An emcee will introduce you by name and announce your topic.
Will there be an audience?
Yes. You can expect an audience of your peers, School of Business faculty and staff, and judges.
Who are the judges?
To be announced at a later date. The judges from previous competitions include VCU School of Business Alumni and Business Professionals from the Greater Richmond area.
Can finalists or winners from previous competitions apply?
Yes! We hope you will!
Can I win in more than one category?
Yes. All Finalists are eligible for the Competitor’s Choice Category.
Can a team or group enter?
No. Only solo presentations are accepted for this competition.
Do I have to dress up to compete?
Yes. You should plan to dress in business professional attire. You can discuss what to wear during your coaching session on Friday evening. Friday is casual.
Are participants eligible for prizes if they don’t make it to the finals round?
Yes! Participants who don’t make it to the Finals Round are eligible for the Best First Draft Outline prize.
Why must there be an element of a story in my presentation?
The answer is simple. Any other way will be dry, dull, and uninspiring. If you want to sell your idea, propel your audience into action, or make them reflect more deeply on something they already know, tell them a story. Humans are hardwired to listen to stories. Stories make us feel and help us see. And, best of all, they’re easy to remember.
If stories are so impactful, why do I see so many presentations filled with boring facts and useless slides?
This is your time to make a clean break and start anew. Learn a new habit. Present it the way that the best presenters in the business do it.
“The effective use of storytelling in organizations involves crafting and performing a well-made story with a hero or heroine, a plot, a turning point, and a resolution.” - Stephen Denning
“Management fads may come and go, but storytelling is fundamental to all nations, societies, and cultures and has been so since time immemorial.” – Stephen Denning former director of The World Bank, author, The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of the Business Narrative
1. Start with your carryout message.
Pick a story that demonstrates values of lesson’s without having to name them directly. One of the best things about stories is that they illustrate rather than state. After your story is finished, you can point out the lessons you think are in it, but these lessons will have more impact if they are revealed through the actions within the story.
2. Make sure it’s relevant.
When you choose to tell a story, make sure it’s relevant to the situation at hand. It’s best if the story is authentic and close to you, but other people’s stories can sometimes be just as effective if you frame them well.
3. Who is your main character?
A story isn’t a story without characters. Traditionally all good stories have a protagonist and antagonist. AKA, a hero and a villain. Clear characters help an audience follow the story and relate on a personal level. Your stories should include a clear main character.
4. What’s the conflict?
Conflict helps your audience know what the big problem is. In our opening story about the bank CEO’s, the big conflict was the financial crash. In Wayne’s story it was the fact that the casting director’s kept saying “no” to him. In the Target story, there were two sources of conflict: Dad getting fired, and the son’s inability to complete the task within his given work time. Without conflict, there is nothing to overcome, no journey for your hero or heroine to take.
5. Use descriptive words and short pieces of dialogue.
Using descriptive words brings your story to life. It makes it more vivid. Dialogue makes your story more immediate. When you can include short pieces of dialogue, your audience will experience it live in in person. Your goal is not to narrate something that once happened but to help your audience know what it was like to actually be there when it happened.
6. What is the Climax?
The climax of the story is when it comes to a peak, when the action has created maximum tension. In the first example the climax comes at around the time the storyteller says, “you don’t dare take your eyes of the road cause all turns look the same and the laps begin to bleed together.”
You’ve all heard, “And they lived happily ever after. The end.” While cliffhangers can make for great sequels, all good stories will have a clear ending that brings everything to a conclusion. The audience needs a resolution or they will leave wondering what happened and take it upon themselves to fill in the blanks.
8. Write out the entire story or at least write down key words and phrases.
It’s easier to shape and edit your stories once you see them on paper. It may seem time consuming at first but, in the long run, writing them down will actually save you time and make your stories FAR more compelling. You can also use one story for many different situations.
Still having trouble coming up with a story to tell? We have some more advice below. Be sure to check out the story examples to get started on your story!
Where do I start to find a story?
Right now you might be telling yourself that you don’t have many good – or appropriate – stories. That’s not true. You create stories every day. That means you have thousands at your disposal just based on your life alone. There’s a story in everything you do. When you pick a story from your own life, it will be easier for you to remember and therefore create more impact on your audience.
The way to do that is to make a list of personal stories and keep them in a file or notebook. You don’t have to write out each one in full but you should make a few notes to help you remember.
Your Whole Life is a Story and it can be related to business.
There’s a story in everything you do. For instance, maybe:
Your car died and you knew you’d be late for work. When you went to make a call, you realized your cell phone was dead. Things went downhill from there.
You found a lost dog on the way to work. You called its owner, changed her day and were late to work. You almost got fired.
Your parents wanted you to major in business but you didn’t want to at first. Now you are passionate about your degree track. Why did you change your mind?
Your parents called to let you know they were getting a divorce. It had a direct impact on the number of classes you can take but you are determined to graduate on time. What did you do?
You had a bad incident with a customer at work. How you handled it and what you learned is your story.
You noticed a co-worker “sloughing off” at work and you informed your boss.
You noticed a co-worker “sloughing off” at work and you decided to confront her/him yourself.
You noticed a co-worker “sloughing off” at work and you decided to take on her/his work because you thought that it would reflect poorly on the entire staff.
Notice how the same story can be crafted a little differently to reinforce your carryout message?
What happens if I can't find a personal story?
It’s almost impossible to come up short when looking for a business-related story. However, if that happens, ask friends and family, use the internet, or do whatever possible to find a story that reinforces your message.
If you use someone else’s story, you can still make it personal. Here’s an example of how you might transition to a story that you found on the Internet:
“When I was growing up, my parents always taught me about the importance of choosing the right word to express my thoughts. I can still hear my mother say “Think before you talk, Shantell.” My father would always say to me “Choose your words carefully.”
Too often we don’t use the right words to say what we want and when that happens all kinds of bad things can happen. Well, last week, I came across a compelling story on business.com about a company that turned its loss into a gain just by changing one single word in its mission statement. I think it’s appropriate that I share it with you now.”
Story Example to Guide You #1
Carryout Message: To reassure and encourage them to move forward.
This is a true story. Several years ago, one of the nation’s largest banking systems held their annual meeting in Richmond. It was a very fancy event. The room was filled with VIP’s from the world of finance. The spread of food was impressive, as was the list of speakers. Part of the day’s events included presentations by banking leaders about their plans for the upcoming year. The final two speakers in particular stood out – one because his presentation was very bad; the other because his presentation was really good.
Both speakers were presidents and CEOs of units within the banking system. After lunch they were brought up one after the other to describe lessons learned from the recent financial crash and to solve problems that were still happening.
The first speaker put up a slide with 27 points that caused the financial crash. He started at point number one and droned all the way up to number twenty-seven. The facts were accurate but by the time he got up to point number four, everyone was bored.
The second speaker didn’t talk about the 27 points. Instead he told a story.
Unbeknownst to almost everyone, he’d been racing cars as a hobby for nearly 20 years. He placed the audience behind the steering wheel and described what it feels like to go 205 MPH in his Porsche 911S.
“The minute you turn the ignition, you can feel the 420 horsepower engine rumble. As soon as you step on the pedal, your body begins to sizzle, not out of fear but because you feel the adrenaline shoot through your veins. And, by the time you get to 180 – 190, you have no concept of time or speed. You see the dashboard, full of gadgets and gauges but if you want to keep your speed, you don’t dare take your eyes of the road cause all turns look the same and the laps begin to bleed together.”
We all sat on the edge of our seats. Along the way, he also talked about the importance of knowing everything about the car, everything about yourself, and everything about the other drivers. Then he tied it all back to the findings in the report:
“When I read these 27 points that caused the crash, I thought about car racing,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to keep up your speed and pay attention to every detail along the way. You have to to go fast on the outside but slow on the inside. One small oversight and you’re done. I ask that each of you to do the same as we move through the next quarter. Those points are important but we must keep our eyes of the end of the race.”
The message was the same in both presentations: “We need to move full-speed ahead but pay attention to details even when things are changing quickly.” The first speaker presented a list of points on dull slides while the second one chose to convey his message by telling a story.
Story Example to Guide You #2
Carryout Message: To share his values with new employees.
Here’s a story that Michael Dell, founder and chairman of the $23 billion Dell Computer Corporation tells quite often.
The father of my best friend was a pretty avid stamp collector, so now naturally my friend and I wanted to get into stamp collecting, too. To fund my interest in stamps, I got a job as water boy in a Chinese restaurant two blocks from my house. I started reading stamp journals just for fun, and soon began noticing that prices were rising. Before long, my interest in stamps began to shift from the joy of collecting to the idea that there was something here that my mother, a stockbroker, would have termed “a commercial opportunity.”
I was about to embark on one of my very first business ventures. First, I got a bunch of people in the neighborhood to consign their stamps to me. Then I advertised “Dell’s Stamps” in Linn’s Stamp Journal, the trade journal of the day. And then I typed with one finger, a twelve-page catalog and mailed it out. Much to my surprise, I made $2,000. And I learned and early, powerful lesson about the rewards of eliminating the middleman. I also learned that if you’ve got a good idea, it pays to do something about it.”
Mr. Dell uses this story when wants people to know that he sees life as a business opportunity. The story gets a lot of buy-in because it lets his employees know that he starting thinking like a businessman at the young age of 12. The story humanizes him and also allows them to see that what he did back then directly shapes the way he thinks right now.
Story Example to Guide You #3
Carryout Message: Defines the way he works.
Last June, my father was laid off from his job at the Portsmouth Naval shipyard. I can still remember him walking in the door and saying, “I’m sorry, James, I wanted to help you pay for college but I was laid off today. And he broke down and cried.
I told him that I would figure it out somehow. I didn’t really believe what I said but I didn’t want him to feel bad.
Within a week I got a second job at night at Target tidying shelves and putting things back in their right place after shoppers make a mess of things. You know what it’s like to find a box of thawed-out fish fillets under a pile of linens? People throw stuff into their shopping carts all the time and then decide at the last minute that they don’t want it.
Anyway, about three days after I started, my boss Mr.Schmidt says “Kevin, you gotta tidy up at least six departments per night or I’m gonna have to let you go.”
Six departments is a lot but I went in early just to get the job done cause I really needed the money. He didn’t even know I worked the extra hours cause I didn’t punch in until I was supposed to start.
One morning as I was getting off work I got a call from my sister to stop by for breakfast on my way home from work. With my eyes barely open, my sister told my niece Lexi to join us at the table for breakfast.
“Ah, ah, Lexi. You know the rules,” said my sister. “You gotta clean up before you eat.”
Lexi then threw all of her farm animals into a shoe box, her blocks into a padded milk crate, and her dollhouse furniture into a milk crate and she joined us at the table.
Bingo! I told Mr. Schmidt my idea of placing a few large containers near the check-out lines labeled ‘groceries,’ ‘home products’, ‘linens,’ etc. so that people could easily drop what they didn’t want into these containers. We also posted signs around the store saying that there are containers near the check-out lines to deposit things if they change their minds.
You know what? It actually worked. It’s not perfect but it really cuts down on how much time it takes to put those items back.
He actually gave me a $1.75 raise per hour and told me I could work there anytime I needed extra money.