Key Takeaways from my First Case Competition

The 5th annual Graduate Management Consulting Association of McGill’s Case Competition

During the first two weeks of May, I had the opportunity to participate in the Graduate Management Consulting Association’s (GMCA) annual case competition. I actually tried my first case competition, the Desautels Preparatory Case Competition, hosted at McGill, just over two years ago. The two events differed substantively, notably the Desautels event lasted an afternoon and was for CEGEP students. In contrast, the GMCA competition lasted a week, was attended primarily by graduate students, and had several lead up events.

As a student in the Faculty of Arts, I jumped at the opportunity to try an event that was outside my area of study, in the field of business. Notably, the GMCA targets students outside the Faculty of Management to participate in its events to try and better prepare non-business students for jobs in consulting. Furthermore, despite targeting graduate students, undergraduates were welcome at the event. The organizing team did their best with the lead up events to prepare competitors for the case, nonetheless, I still have several key takeaways for anyone considering trying a case competition for the first time.

Have a goal when you sign up for the conference. Having a reasonable goal will help you to make decisions about the amount of time you are willing to invest in the competition. However, I would not recommend signing up for a new activity if you are not ready to make a significant time commitment, since your team mates will be counting on you to contribute. Perhaps you want to network, try something new for fun, or fill your time. In moments when the going gets tough, your goal will help to motivate you to keep working.

Try to make sure someone in your group has a solid understanding of how to predict basic financials in a convincing manner. This may sound obvious or perhaps daunting if you are in a field where you rarely interact with numbers or accounting, but it is key to impressing the judges. This type of information is not easily available on the internet, so a business student or someone who knows how to do this would be an asset for your team.

Make sure only one person works on the power point. As for any presentation, in order to ensure professionalism, the text styles must be consistent throughout. The best way to do this is to make sure one person edits and finalizes the slides, they will be the one who ensure the theme is consistent throughout. There are many slide samples available online, allow them to guide your presentation structure or inspire you.

Overall, I would recommend trying case competitions to other students; they provide an interesting perspective on the world of business and allow you to learn about a topic you may know little about. I ended up practicing group work, research, public speaking, and business, all skills which I may need in the future. By using them, I can also identify areas which need practice or that I like less.

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