Last week, I had the pleasure of participating as a judge at the Massachusetts District 5 DECA competition. DECA is an international association of marketing students preparing to position themselves as entrepreneurs and leaders in the business world. I was an active member of the organization as a student, so I was happy to volunteer and spend a few hours catching a glimpse of the marketers of the future.
Let me start by saying that this competition is no joke. The pace is fast, the standards are high, and in some cases, so are the nerves. Here’s an overview of how it works.
- The students are grouped by category they’ve picked to specialize in, such as advertising campaign, merchandising, and professional selling.
- Each participant was given a meager 10 minutes to review a case study and develop a pitch based on it.
- Next, the competitors were ushered into a room that resembled a large speed dating arena, with a judge seated at each table.
- After locating their assigned judge, they had 10 minutes to assume the role of a specific character in the case study and present a flawless business pitch about the scenario their character is challenged with, offer their solutions, and answer tough questions from judges.
- At the 10-minute limit, they handed over their notes to the judge and left the room.
- Judges took a few minutes to fill out scorecards and feedback sheets, and then the next herd of students rushed the room.
- This happened about 12 or so times before we were done. It was a busy day!
What young marketers are made of
The students I met were impressive. Some were extremely polished in their presentation skills. Some, somehow in the few minutes they had to prepare, managed to create visual props to support their pitch, and some displayed creativity and maturity that I hadn’t realized was possible in a 16-year-old.
Of course, there were a few that struggled, either because they were so nervous they could barely get a word out or because they were so worried about keeping within their time that they rushed through their pitch, missing key components. Some lacked in their presentation, but their understanding of concepts and ingenuity came to life as they responded to my questions.
The ones that struggled the most were inspiring, nonetheless, because they did one of the most important things I can think of when it comes to business. They showed up, and they gave it their best shot.
What do MSPs have to do with it?
This experience served as a nice reminder to me of some of the fundamentals of business communication and pitching. And, it actually got me thinking about some of the MSPs that we work with through the Partner program at Intronis.
Similar to the variety among the students I met with at the DECA competition, the MSPs we speak with run the full gamut when it comes to years of experience, size of business, sophistication when it comes to their sales and marketing programs, and more. Some are seasoned entrepreneurs, polished presenters ready to give a crystal clear 30-second elevator pitch that has been perfected over the years. Others are new to the world of prospecting and pitching potential customers and are still figuring out how to effectively articulate the value they offer.
The good news is that, like the students that competed last week, our MSPs are faced with a great opportunity to turn their successes and failures and the feedback they receive into learning experiences that help them to improve over time.
Practice Makes Perfect
If I end up judging again next year, I will recognize a few faces, and undoubtedly some of the competitors who struggled this year will have hit their stride a bit more. They’ll have incorporated the feedback they received, determined what worked or didn’t work for them this year, and they’ll be in a better position to score high and achieve recognition among their peers at school and within the larger DECA community.
Some of them will have had the chance to perform in the next round of competitions based on their strong performance this year, and might even become a scholarship recipient, helping further their training at college. Either way, a commitment to continuously improving their performance will serve them well in their careers — just like it does for our MSP partners.
Focusing on the changes we can make, big or small, to help us produce better results every day is what it’s all about in business. And when a business opportunity or endeavor doesn’t go quite as planned, it’s important to dust ourselves off, remind ourselves that practice makes perfect, and try again.