How to Prepare for a Business Event

With the New Venture Championship competition less than 24 hours away, anxious feelings of anticipation are sure to be running high among the graduate business student community. Not only does this event present an opportunity for the winner to expand their ideas, but it also presents a chance for students to get their name out there among the greater Portland business community. As always with an event such as this, there are certain preparations in the hours leading up to the competition that can be taken to make the whole experience easier.

1. Have your resumes handy. It never hurts to have a few resumes or business cards on hand in case you make a connection with someone at NVC. Don’t present them to everyone, but if the timing and relationship is right, who knows? You might meet your next employer!

2. Research your judges. After the first day of competition, it is a good idea to research the people judging you. Nothing big—you do not need to know how many cats he or she has—but having some knowledge about where each judge works or what his or her credentials are couldn’t hurt.

3. Avoid the late nights. This one seems like a no-brainer. Even at the event, in order to be the best “you” possible, avoid the late night bar visits. Of course it is a good idea to go out and grab a drink with your teammates and fellow competitors to relax, but keep an eye on the clock!

4. Get up 30 minutes earlier than usual. This extra time will allow you to have some time to yourself before you are in competition mode. So, go ahead, browse the New York Times over your morning cup of joe before your roommates wake up. The extra time to breathe will bode well later in the day.

5. Don’t stress. You have been preparing for this event for months on end, so you’re as ready as you’ll ever be. Cut the late night presentation sessions—it’s time to face the music: are you ready for NVC, or not?

Written by Nicole Hyslop

UpStart Bootcamp

I saw a Twitter post recently that got me thinking about the exciting elevator pitch round soon to take place at the 20th annual New Venture Championship. “5 tips for crafting a killer elevator pitch” tweeted by @upstartbootcamp was an informational article with smart recommendations for nailing elevator pitches. Check out the other posts on the UpStart Bootcamp blog also offering great tips for business plans here.

About UpStart Bootcamp

Upstart Bootcamp is an online school helping entrepreneurs build a successful foundation for their startup businesses. David Ronick and Jennifer Houser founded the company; two entrepreneurs who share a passion for building new ventures and helping other entrepreneurs succeed. The old versus the new “rules” of entrepreneurship had a large influence on why the two founders decided to create UpStart.

Old rules – A number of years ago, the old rules were the only rules. Money was cast toward business plans with unproven results and questionable advancement. If a startup business required a change in direction, it took painfully long amounts of time to change course and redevelop. Any technology began from scratch, which was expensive, and getting attention from potential customers was difficult and time consuming.

New rules– Luckily, times have changed. The new rules are in place allowing business plans to take flight more efficiently and with much less capital. Social media is used as a tool for consumer attraction. Any needed technology can be rented, saving money and time. It is part of UpStart’s goal as a company to help entrepreneurs learn how to take advantage of the new rules of entrepreneurship so they can build the best foundation for their new ventures easier and faster.

UpStart Educational Materials

As any MBA student competing in the New Venture Championship knows, presenting the plan during a pitch deck is what persuades potential investors. “Hit the Deck,” written by UpStart co-founder David Ronick, is a highly recommended guidebook all about the pitch deck. The book contains numerous tips and tools for presenting the finest business plans, as well as informational Q &As and numerous interviews with successful entrepreneurs/investors.  Other educational materials offered on the UpStart website include referrals for professional service providers and private entrepreneurial coaching.

Written by Hannah Moore

Sponsor Spotlight

At New Venture Championship, sponsors make all the difference between a small-scale competition and the production that we are able to put on. Columbia Sportswear, the title sponsor of NVC, recently displayed its dedication to the competition and educating the students who run it. 

Allen Hall Public Relations and Allen Hall Advertising, student-run agencies based out of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication, are given an opportunity like no other through NVC. The competition provides students in each of these agencies the chance to gain hands-on experience in the public relations and advertising worlds. Both agencies assemble teams of students to manage NVC’s brand across the media.

A few weeks ago, students on the NVC accounts at AHPR and AHA were granted yet another opportunity to step up to the plate—they were asked to present the competition’s budget to Tim Boyle, CEO of our title sponsor, Columbia Sportswear.

While presenting to Mr. Boyle, it became clear to us that the graduate students who participate in NVC must set aside hours of careful planning for their presentations to the judges. After speaking in front of Mr. Boyle and a room full of peers, I can confidently say that we took away several helpful tips:

  1. 1. Preparation is key. We only had one week to pull together a respectable presentation for Mr. Boyle, so we felt the heat. I can only imagine what NVC hopefuls feel as the anticipation for the competition builds. By outlining a list of talking points and filling in the blanks with your own knowledge of your business plan, you will not sound rehearsed or robotic.
  2. 2. Be mindful of your audience. Presenting to a sponsor of NVC was very similar to what the actual contestants will be doing. Be aware of who you are speaking to, be sure to make plenty of eye contact and allow for questions. Proper annunciation and a steady pace are key, and it is important to avoid commercial-y, sing-song tones.
  3. 3. Anticipate. This point is aimed at the question-and-answer portion of a presentation. At the end of our allotted time, Tim Boyle had several in-depth, thoughtful questions for us about the budget for NVC and where certain funds were going. Although we had not prepared for his level of interest in what we were saying, we knew the account well enough to field any fly balls. For those presenting at NVC, it is crucial to brainstorm ahead of time about what might be asked of you and your idea so you can prepare the best possible response.

In addition to Columbia, other NVC’s other sponsors are Tektronix, Blue Star Gas, Kryptiq and Oregon Entrepreneurs Network. Each sponsor is affiliated with a particular round of the competition, and its employees and executives are encouraged to attend each event. NVC looks forward to future partnerships with these sponsors, and is excited about potential opportunities for new companies to join the team!

Written By Nicole Hyslop

Tips For the Young Entrepreneur: Preparing for a future business plan competition

As a young high school student, a prestigious business competition like New Venture Championship might seem too intimidating and you might never feel like you could compete at that level. While the pressure, critique and intensity of the plan is not for the faint of heart, there are ways that a high school student with a growing interest in business can prepare for a business plan competition in the future.

  1. Get involved in business clubs. Most high schools provide clubs for many different groups and interests. If you are interested in business, find a business club and get involved. Do not just become a member by signing up but never going to the meetings; instead, let the club be a full immersion into the world of business and embrace the opportunities that the club provides. If there is an opportunity within the club to take field trips pertaining to business and networking opportunities, take it. If there is an opportunity to take on a leadership position within the club, take it. Even if you think that you may be too shy to handle leadership, take it on with full force. Anyone can be a great leader with the confidence to do so. If you practice, you will get better.
  2. Take a speech and debate class. A huge aspect of the business plan competition is the presentation. If a team has great presentation skills and can demand the attention of the audience, their plan is perceived to be better. Some people are natural speakers, but the rest of us need practice and a little coaching. Taking a speech and debate class in high school will help coach you to a better presenter. Although the class may seem scary initially, it will pay off to have the type of practice and instruction that makes you the best speaker you can be.
  3. Job shadow or get an internship. Many businesses offer an internship program that can provide real world business experience. Although in each business class you can learn a lot about business plans and marketing, what you learn in the real world by watching, observing and interacting in a business environment provides an experience unlike any classroom. Job shadowing can help you understand what a business professional actually does and help you gauge the standards and abilities you may need for the business world.
  4. Study great business professionals. It is important to have role models in your field of interest. That is why it is vital that you study other business professionals and see what made them so successful. It is also just as important to pay attention to business professionals’ mistakes in order to better prepare yourself to not follow the same path. Research, research, research. Do your best to truly understand the business world and what makes an idea phenomenal.

Written By Tara Gremillion

    Frequently Made Website Mistakes

    We all have an opinion about how a good website should look.  When your up-and-coming business is ready to launch a website, it is vital to recognize site visitors’ likes and dislikes. Simple factors can contribute substantially to the number of hits the site receives.

    Have a look at these common website mistakes and a few tips on how to avoid them:

    Long pages & long sentences

    • People hate scrolling too long to find what they are looking for. The longer it takes to get your point across, the more likely it is that website viewers will get distracted. Avoid this by creating several tabs or pages within your site, and consider adding a search bar.
    • Long sentences have the same effect as never-ending pages. Concise sentences help visitors stay focused and intrigued.

    Technology overuse

    • Many businesses go overboard with different technologies in an effort to make their site look nifty.
    • Avoid Flash intros and tacky background audio. These can cause potential customers to leave the page within a few seconds. They can take a long time to load, and they generally take away from the website’s main purpose.

    Not giving instructions

    • Whether you want visitors to participate in a survey, sign up for a newsletter, or follow you on Twitter, show them where and how to do so in a clear and distinct way.
    • It’s also user-friendly to have multiple clickable links in many places around the site. Consider having a “HOME” link or a clickable logo on the side bar, the bottom of the page, and the top navigation bar, that always takes you back the main page.

    Not changing colors for visited links

    • When your links don’t change color after they’ve been clicked, it’s easy for visitors to get disoriented when navigating the website.
    • Make it easier for users to know which pages they have viewed by changing the colors of visited links.

    No About or Contact page

    • An About page can provide the background of your business or more information about what the company does.
    • Always include a Contact page so that people who have questions about your business or website have a way of getting answers. Providing a business address, phone number, email address, and other contact information is helpful for users and adds a degree of trust and accountability to your company.

    No credible domain name

    • People who see a web address similar to http://www.mydomain.freehost.com are going to assume you are unprofessional. Purchase a domain name that will be easy to find, and do not publish your site to the web until you have one.

    “Under Construction”

    • This is frequently seen when a website is going through changes; it’s a statement you never want people to come across. Similar to the lack of a domain name, visitors could question whether you are serious about your business and its portrayal on the web.
    • If your website isn’t active, do not make it available to the public at all.

    Written By Hannah Moore

    Tips for Standing Out Among Competition

    The idea of presenting a business plan can be daunting and overwhelming for most people.  Even more, immense pressure is added when you realize that you will be not only be presenting but competing with other strong business groups with great innovative ideas and passion for accomplishing their goal. For this competition, it is important to not only have an outstanding business plan and present well, but to stand out among competition and be just a bit brighter and more confident. Here are a few tips that are important reminders on how to stand out among competition and have a great presentation:

    1. Demand attention in the room. It is important, when presenting, to speak confidently, clearly and with enthusiasm.  Be interesting; you need to speak with passion, energy and excite the crowd with your fantastic ideas. When you speak with enthusiasm and passion, the audience will develop positive associations with your plan. If you show you are passionate and excited, they will be too.

    2. Have less text in your plan. Your business plan should show graphics, charts, visuals and tables. You need to not only be able to tell but show what makes this plan great and why it works. Only using words, the plan can be empty, but data and tables and graphics prove that your plan is more than just research but something implementable and understandable. Plus, it makes it interesting and enjoyable to read. A diagram will make more sense than a long wordy paragraph.

    3. Take risks. Good business plans anticipate possible challenges and hurdles. It is important to plan for a variety of scenarios to deal with possible obstacles. Creating a business plan is not about avoiding risks, but understanding possible challenges and managing them in a proactive manner.

    4. Maintain your uniqueness. It is important to understand and research competition, but make sure you stick with what makes you unique and different. Learn from your competitors’ strengths, but don’t model yourself after them. Understand their past mistakes and work to avoid similar ones. Research the competition and use that information to improve your plan.

    5. Get other opinions. You can benefit greatly from presenting the business plan to multiple professionals in the industry. It is important that you use the resources and the intelligent people around you to create the best plan and presentation possible. Just a few constructive comments could really improve upon and impact your plan to touch upon a point you never realized. Plus, the more you practice,the better and more confident you become.

     

    Written By Tara Gremillion