By Adam Krynski and Molly Ryanmiller
Throughout January 2021 we competed against nine other teams in a marketing case competition hosted by Barilla, the world’s largest pasta producer, and the Kellstadt Marketing Group, a student organization at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business. It was the perfect experiential learning opportunity we were looking for as MBA students: the chance to directly apply class concepts, work in teams with other students, and present a solution and receive feedback from Barilla representatives and Kellstadt faculty who served as judges.
Our mighty team of two, Pasta La Vista, came to the competition with diverse backgrounds and little marketing experience. We wanted to tackle a project outside of the classroom with the goals of learning new skill sets, meeting some new friends and gaining additional professional experiences. In the end, we ended up doing that and more—we took home the winning prize!
Below are six key takeaways from our experience. We hope these tips help set you up for success so you too can walk away with a win at your next case competition.
- Try something new and outside of your comfort zone
Case competitions are a great way to explore learning opportunities beyond the classroom, and this was an important goal of ours coming into graduate school. We were interested in pursuing a case competition that allowed us to develop a strategy for an industry that we were both unfamiliar with, so we ended up walking away with new skills as well as a stronger network within Kellstadt.
- Manage your time effectively
As most graduate students would agree, time management is a crucial key to success. When participating in a case competition, you need to set aside time outside of work, school and your personal life to be fair to your other teammates and deliver a product you’re proud of. We utilized a group chat for frequent communication and Zoom for solutioning. These regular touchpoints before deliverables were due worked very well for holding ourselves accountable.
- Don’t shy away from communicating with the company
Communicate with your team but also with the company whose business challenge you’re trying to solve. As with any life challenge you may be facing, there are some unknowns. In this case, Barilla provided us with certain facts and left out others. In case competitions, it’s an unspoken rule that the company expects teams to not only do their own research outside of what’s provided, but also circle back with them for clarifications. Ask questions, share ideas and ask more questions.
- Help the judges visualize your solution
Attention to detail is key when preparing how you will deliver your solution. In our executive summary, we approached the deliverable with a “less is more” attitude. While we made sure to answer all questions from our kickoff meeting and challenge guidelines, we didn’t provide too much detail or solutioning. In our presentation, however, we went a step further by providing additional research, actionable insight and visuals such as graphs and tables, so the judges could truly envision what our idea would look like throughout the entire lifecycle of our recommended strategy.
- Use a confident and natural presentation style
Be professional but also be yourself. If you’re too rehearsed, you’ll come across as if you’re reading directly from your notes. If not rehearsed enough, you’ll come across as unprepared. While you want to make sure you’ve outlined your speaking notes ahead of time, leave some room to be conversational.
- Have fun!
At the end of the day, this experience is meant to be fun. Get to know your teammates on a personal level and you’ll not only walk away with a great experience, but with some new friends too.
Adam Krynski is pursuing his MBA with a concentration in strategy, execution and valuation at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business while working full-time in corporate finance. He likes to take road trips and take his dogs to the Lake Michigan beach on sunny days. He is excited to cook a new meal with his new pasta prize pack.
Molly Ryanmiller is an MBA candidate at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business and president of the DePaul Consulting Club. She graduated from Indiana University, Bloomington in 2014 with a BS in informatics, a concentration in public health and a minor in communication and culture. She currently works as a global data and analytics consultant at Deloitte. In her free time, you can find her facilitating mindfulness and meditation classes at Deloitte, riding in a spin class, learning about interior design and out on adventures with her dog Zoey.