As 2020 comes to an end (thankfully), the CaseCom team challenges you to try something you’ve never done before in the new year. Perhaps, maybe entering a case competition?

Wait. You never participated in a case competition before?

Well, you’re in luck! Here are five tips for preparing for your first competition!

1. Select the Right Event

When selecting a case competition to enter, there are three criteria to consider: convenience, difficulty, and subject matter. Convenience is a big requirement for me personally; how long is the case competition, do I have time for it? When is it, does it conflict with my classes? Where is it located and how far do I have to travel? The last question isn’t quite so concerning anymore as most case competitions have shifted to an entirely virtual setting for the time being. However, the other questions are still valid as you won’t enjoy the experience if you burnout due to conflicting obligations. Difficulty should be a consideration for beginners. If you're new to case competitions, try picking an event with a broad subject matter. For example, I would recommend picking a competition with a general strategy case over one about stocks and investments (unless you are familiar with that topic!). Additionally, look for smaller competitions as there will be fewer competitors and you will have an opportunity for more one-on-one help from the event organizers and mentors. Lastly, the subject matter should be interesting to you. Case competitions are a huge time commitment, so you might as well choose something that interests you. For example, if you’re interested in marketing, try looking for a marketing case competition.

2. Have some Background Knowledge

Once you’ve selected your case competition and have registered, familiarize yourself with the subject matter. While you won’t know the details of the case beforehand, you can look at the cases from years prior or do some research on potential industries and strategies that you could potentially encounter. For example, if you’ve entered a case competition about technology, do some research on trends in the tech industry (blockchain, machine learning, fintech), typical tech users, and more! You won’t have a lot of time once the competition starts, so having some general background knowledge can help with generating ideas and implications while reading the case.

3. Sign-up with an Experienced Friend

Case competitions can be overwhelming for beginners, so it's always nice to sign-up with a friend or two. Typically a case competition team consists of four people. Most events will allow you to sign up with a pre-established group and/or be assigned a group randomly. However, don’t fret if you are randomly assigned a group, it will be a great opportunity to meet new people and learn different techniques for approaching case competitions. Regardless, hopefully you have at least one experienced person in your group as even the best teams are always tight on time. Having someone familiar with the case competition framework will help your team to save time by quickly establishing a direction and a game plan to utilize the preparation time efficiently.

4. Establish a Framework and Slide Deck

It is not necessary to have a comprehensive framework, but if it is your first case competition, understanding how to structure your presentation might be helpful and save you time when you’re in a crunch. There are many frameworks out there and I actually encourage you to make your own; one that you’re most comfortable with. However, here is the basic presentation structure I like to use:

  • Problem/issue identification

  • A brief overview of recommendation

  • The rationale for the recommendation, which includes internal, external, and quantitative analysis

  • Action plan and implementation timeline

  • Risk and mitigations

  • Summary and conclusion

  • Appendix, which includes financial calculations and statements, and additional research

If you think you will be short on time and will need more for analysis and discussion, you could prepare a slide deck template in advance. No need to build one from scratch either, just search online for some professional or company-specific templates or ask your case competition friends if they have some deck templates.

5. Get some Sleep!

Last but not least, make sure to get some sleep the night before because you’ll be lucky if you get any during the competition!

Hopefully, those tips were helpful and we wish you luck on your first case competition! Follow us on our socials (@casecomapp) and sign-up for our Insider program to be notified when we release our next blog post. Want to learn more about CaseCom’s features? Check out the main site and read our previous article: "How to Host a Successful Case Competition"