Key Presentation Skills Learned from the Hult Prize

By Ingrid Cazalis, Global MBA 2013-2014, France

The Hult Prize was an amazing competition that I recommend not only for MBA students, but for all ESSEC students. It is open to all and a single school can present a team in all six regional finals. The experience of working in a team to create a social enterprise was a real challenge, not only for the group but on an individual level. Since my group members have already written about their experiences, as team captain I would like to take the liberty to offer some advice for future Hult prize competitors.

1/ Sign up in November and take the challenge! By November you will have three months to get to know your classmates, so be sure to pick a team with whom you can work well. You’ll spend over 100 hours working together! It’s also important to find the right balance between extroverts vs. introverts, creative vs. cerebral, etc.

2/ What you write in your first essay, for the initial selection among 10,000 applicants, can be different from the project you will finally create. We lost quite some time struggling on this part.

3/ Everything is in the storytelling. This is true for Hult, but for any presentation as well. How do you want to capture the audience? How do you create a connection? We created our own character, Maria, whose story we followed during our 12 minute speech.

4/ On that note, 12 minutes is really short. We recommend making 6-8 slides and speaking only 7-8 minutes in order to leave 4 minutes for questions. It’s key to leave time for the jury to ask questions, because they will support you if you make it to the second round.

5/ Don’t forget to present yourself; not just “we are from ESSEC Business School,” you have to find a creative approach to connect with the jury and present individually. It only takes 20 seconds, but it helps to give a good first impression. We personally decided to take a funny approach; Richard presented each of us with one adjective to describe our personality. I was lucky that mine changed from the “grumpy” leader to the “forceful” leader.

6/ As I mentioned, we are a team, so demonstrate it on stage. We saw too many teams with 1 speaker and 4-5 other members hiding behind the podium, not even smiling. There was no connection. Some people may advise you to have only 1 speaker, but we disagreed. One speaker is monotone and, after so many months of work, it is nice to get the chance to participate. If you decide to go with more than two speakers, make sure the transition is smooth. We got a super remote to click through our presentation so we could focus on the speech.

7/ Finally, some teams forgot to focus on the main subject. This year, the main question was clearly why you need USD $1 million and how you can reach 25 million people. Some teams did not answer these two questions and the jury asked them to stop on the first round before the end of the 12 minutes.

Our key advice for future Hult competitors, or for any other presentation situation: Storytelling, figures, and Power Point creativity. Keep it smart and simple.

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