Imagine Cup 2010 Malaysia – Presentation Tips and Tricks

Congratulation again to all team that successfully enter the final round and preparing to go for Pulau Langkawi. I bet everyone must be very excited now.

Today I want to share my personal experience (team experience too) on imagine cup presentation (for software design category). This is my personal point of view and it is NOT related with any Malaysia final round guideline or what so ever. I would said, take it as a reference only. Although 10% marks is allocated for presentation, but my advise is presentation make up 70% because a poorly presented solution will never attract people attention.

Overall presentation:

  • Presentation script / storyboard. It is highly recommended to script what to present or write a presentation storyboard. Carefully plan what should be included in the script because presentation time given is limited. Include problem, solution, system demo, research, etc into your script and arrange according to your need. A good presentation start with a good planning. Review the script again and again when practice. If your team member is not good in English, find some one who is good to correct the script to make it perfect.
  • Interactive / Role playing presentation. A lengthy of introduction and solution explanation by each team member one by one then follow by a system demo, such classical presentation will only make the judges fall asleep. Add some creativity in the presentation such as role playing (example one act like student and explain what is the problem while another give the solution). Judges are expecting a smooth and natural presentation like watching a movie yet they are provided with all information about the solution thought the movie. Let’s give the judges some surprises through out the “show” and prevent them from falling asleep.
  • Make it simple. The judges usually came from different professional field with different background. Some of them might no understand the scientific term you using, make it simple so that everyone can understand. For example, if your solution target to solve TB disease, just mention TB will be good enough for everyone to understand, and don’t give scientific name where it is hard to pronounce and hard to understand.
  • Practice make perfect. There is no short-cut to make a perfect presentation. Practice until you remember the script without the paper (Many people tend to direct read from paper if they got the paper in hand, which is very bad). Practice until no more la, lu, lo, ok, a, etc (although no point given for language speaking, but judges will be annoyed and give a bad impression). A smooth presentation is possible only if a lot of practice is done, so go practice the script even you are in the washroom!
  • Backup plan. Always have one or two backup plan in case something go wrong. Prepare a backup machine, video record your software solution (especially for application that required Internet connection), have a local hosted server (if your web is hosting at other places on the Internet), take all installation software needed, bring your own wireless broadband and etc. Murphy’s law – “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”.
  • Prepare for Q&A. Try brainstorm questions that judges will ask after listen to your presentation. For example like detail break down of cost, competitor analysis and etc. If those information that judges ask for did not cover or not detail enough in the presentation, put all in the appendix slide. Surprise your judges that you are fully prepare to answer any question they might throw to you. Try to do several rounds of presentation to others before final like lecturers, you might collect ton of interesting questions for final presentation Q&A preparation.
  • Deploy the solution. Well, I personally feel very annoying to see competitor present their software solution through the magic click of Debug (F5) button in Visual Studio. It look very unprofessional and sound like software might crash anytime. If the software solution is an desktop application, build that application into executable file and run directly from the executable file when present. If the solution is a web base application / site, deploy it to a server or at least to localhost and direct access to the site when present. Execute using debug button also cause the application run slower, take time to restart (when something go wrong during presentation) and whole world will know when error pop up!
  • Hide all bugs! It is understandable that no software / application is 100% bug free especially application that build it such a short time, but you definably don’t want the bug show up during presentation and spoil the party. Execute the software according to the script at least one to make sure no bug. If got, fix it! Make good use of try catch in C# to kill all the bugs! If something go very wrong during presentation, just close the application and execute it again or refresh the web page (That is the good of deploy your solution), stay clam and don’t panic because judges won’t know what actually happen if you hide it well.
  • Live demo. It is highly recommended to do a live demo of your system during the presentation time unless your solution using a something big that unable bring to the stage, for example a car! Using video recording or screenshot of your system and show it during presentation will not help you gain much point because judges know student are smart enough to mock up those things. Do not give a lame excuse such as hardisk crash and all project gone, you sure will BOMB by judges on the spot!
  • Presentable dress code. Yes, you can wear formal dress with coat, but it doesn’t mean it is a must. Synchronize with other team members to wear the same dress to show your team work to the judges. You can even have your own custom made team T-shirt. If you act as doctor, wearing doctor coat will add you some creativity point too.
  • Be confident. When you presenting, the stage is all yours. Be confident in yourself and your solution. If you can’t even make yourself believe in it, how you gone make other believe in it. Practice make perfect!
  • Don’t distribute booklet for the judges! It is very commonly to see presenter distribute booklet or something for the judges to read before presentation start. This distract the judges concentration on your presentation as some of judges might reading your booklet when you presenting. You always have the chances to disturb booklet or provide more information to them when they visit your booth.

Presentation slide (I only list out those important point that require extra care, those not in the list doesn’t mean it is not needed or not important to put into presentation slide):

  • Define the problem. It is your mission to tell the audience how serious is the problem that your solution is trying to solve. For example, everyone know TB disease kill a lot of people, but how many actually? So do some research on the problem and tell the audience XX,XXX numbers of people killed every year because of this disease. Emotion appealing way of present your problem sure will give you a great boost on your presentation, but try not to spend too much time on this as some of the judges already know how serious of the problem it is and spend long time on presenting the problem make them bored.
  • Solution Impact. This competition is all about how your solution can create the impact that can change the world. The judges not just care about how your solution impact the users, they also can about how many users your solution can impact. Define who is your solution target users and how many of them. Remember to pump in some research data / number in order to claim your point. Is best to target on users in Malaysia first before users at other countries (Solve your own country problem before you can solve other countries problem).
  • Solve the right millennium goal. Know the detail of the millennium goal you trying to solve before you claim it. Many competitors claim that they solve one of the targeted millennium goal but in fact they are not. For example, Goal 2: Universal Education is ensure everyone will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling. If your solution is targeting secondary school student, then you fail to achieve the goal. Try to re-strategies your presentation and solution if you found that you had target the wrong goal. Claiming that your solution can solve all / most goals does not win your any extra points, but you are only making fun of yourself in front of the judges. Concentrate on your target goals. No single solution can solve the whole world’s problems.
  • Project sustainability / Business value. Hot question that will definably ask by the judges. It is highly recommended to show how the project can sustain during the presentation, for example by government funded, collaboration with business partner, by startup and etc. Try to avoid becoming open source as the reason for your project sustainability, because only a few open source projects are able to sustain and most judges knew that. Be sure you have the prove if you said your project is funded by some organization. “Project build to solve the millennium goal, but unable to sustain themselves; it soon will becoming another millennium problem.“, quote from one of the judges during Imagine Cup 2009 Malaysia final.
  • Competitor analysis. Do a simple search whatever there are some similar solution out there or not. If there exist similar solution, do a competitor analysis or you can even compare with old method with your new solution. don’t assume the judges know nothing about other products out there, they knew it. Show why your solution is more better than others, what feature your solution have while others don’t. Most ideas presented are not unique but you can make your solution unique.
  • Research, research and research. A statement without proof are merely just a sentence. It is always better to tell “XX,XXX number of people killed by TB and $X,XXX,XXX had been spend on this each year.” then “Many people killed by TB and many money spend on this each year.”. Judges usually only believe on real number. Please DO NOT create those fact by yourself. If your application interface also did some research according to user feedback, that is also a research, show it!
  • Make it simple and interesting. Dress up your presentation slide with picture and not just words. This is not a lecture time, no body will want your slide to go home revision. Make your slide simple with picture that let people understand easily and you present and explain it in more detail. “Don’t read out from the slide, you think I can’t read it out my own?” quote from one of my friend who is experience in presentation.

Phew, what a long list. Hope the one who read my blog post still stay awake. I guess this are the tips that I can came out from my mind now. Will add more if I think of any.

by Ooi Keng Siang

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