The IGNITE Case Challenge is an exciting event that provides first-year MBA students with the opportunity to help Wisconsin-based start-ups solve real business problems. Students are able to meet directly with the business owners and ask relevant questions before setting off in teams to collaborate on impactful presentations. This was an exciting opportunity to apply course concepts, utilize our business acumen, and refine our presentation skills in a real-world environment. The most rewarding aspect of the project was knowing that our presentations would have a positive impact on Wisconsin’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, as each company would select one team’s solution to incorporate into their business plan.
One of the unique aspects of the Wisconsin School of Business is the opportunity to work with diverse students across multiple specializations. My group consisted of students from Brand and Product Management, Real Estate, Operations and Technology Management, and Marketing Analytics and Insights. Drawing from our unique skill sets, my group engaged in a creative brainstorming process wherein we identified many inventive ideas and solutions. However, it quickly became apparent that good ideas were just the foundation—and that the next step was to craft a strategic framework that would translate into a powerful and succinct presentation.
Crafting presentations is all about refining core messages to create compelling arguments. All teams were paired with a second-year MBA student, who served as a consultant on the project. After delivering a trial-run of our presentation, it was clear that revisions to the structure could improve the presentation’s overall quality. The second-year consultant suggested removing solutions that did not address central business questions. Additionally, he suggested utilizing McKinsey’s Situation-Complication-Resolution (SCR) framework. By re-working our presentation around this framework, we noticed a significant improvement in our collective ability to tell a concise story around the actionable recommendations we proposed.
Visual design is another crucial aspect of effective presentations. In-browser tools like SlideGo and Canva are useful tools that can easily add visual “punch” to any presentation. While content is important, the presentation must be well-organized and easy to follow. Avoid wordy slides and instead illustrate your points with photos and infographics. These tools helped us organize our presentation as a visual representation of the SCR framework. When paring down a presentation to its essential elements, you’ll find yourself asking, “Does this content add value? Does this drive home the core message of the presentation?” While content is certainly the most important aspect of any presentation, there were times when my group altered content based on the visual flow of the presentation. We found the constant interplay between the storytelling structure and visual design to be one of the most interesting aspects of designing the presentation.
Ultimately, what is so special about the IGNITE Case Challenge is watching it all come together, and the satisfaction of knowing your efforts can directly impact Wisconsin-based businesses. It’s an intense process where all aspects of the full-time MBA program really start to “click.” Working collaboratively with cross-specialization teams and gaining hands-on experience addressing real business problems is what makes Wisconsin’s full-time MBA program so rewarding.