NUS MBA 13 September 2017

Top 5 tips to improve your presentation skills

Leading up to Connexions, a NUS MBA flagship event organised by Career Services Office, MBA students are invited to participate in elevator pitch challenges specific to Consulting, Banking and Finance, Tech and General industries.

Each session, a panel of judges consisting three to four industry partners will assess up to 30 students who are pursuing careers in that particular industry. Students have one minute to impress the judges and the top three winners of each category will present at Connexions.

Mr Ajay Sunder, Vice President for Digital Transformation, APAC from Frost & Sullivan, who was part of this session’s judging panel, shares his thoughts on the recent Consulting elevator pitch event. This session saw Stephanie Kopas, Zhou Jiazhen Vera and Fang Yu emerge as winners.

Mr Ajay Sunder (third from right) with the winners of the Consulting elevator pitch challenge

First of all thanks to Vidya and Sybi from NUS Business School’s Career Services for inviting me to be a panelist for this interesting Consulting pitch competition. It was quite different from the Consulting case study pitches I’ve been involved in the past. And though initially I was a bit reluctant to go half a day for such a judging panel but am glad as was a good exposure for me as well meeting the bright and young batch of MBA students.

The format of the session was simple but unique. Each of the students had a minute (strictly) for the Elevator pitch i.e to describe themselves and they had to pitch themselves as effectively, as innovative-ly and as completely as possible as why they are an ideal Consultant..

The judges could then give their views to each participant on their pitch.

I was joined by 3 great panelists:
1. Dr Jochen Kraus – Simon Kucher & Partners
2. Jasmin Sim – Deloitte Consulting
3. Prof Andrew Karl Delios – Head of Department, Strategy & Policy, NUS Business School

Walking in to the session, I was a bit curious if one minute was too short and how different and varied can the pitches be. After all, the participants are all just into their 2nd month in the MBA course.

It was absolutely fascinating as to how different students used the one minute. From describing their personal side to their passions/adventures and packaging it all in a minute to make the pitch towards how they can end up making a good consultant.

The background and experience of the participants was as expected – diverse and rich. What was commendable was the fact that the batch was only in its second month but seemed very confident and eager. The overall quality of pitches was top notch.

Some comments which were observed throughout and for the sake of students who are interested in improving, I’m putting these thoughts across:

a) Open posture
Be mindful of where your hands are . Do not keep your hands folded when talking to an audience. Also one aspect which I could feel many participants feel a bit weird is how to use their hands or rather how much to use your hands. My advice is keep the hands free flowing, use it for gestures if it helps. I understand it feels awkward as a speaker but believe me, the audience finds it more natural.

b) Tone
A monotonous tone is boring and works against you. You may have the best story to tell but if you do not share it with enthusiasm then chances are nobody is listening. And if you are having a conversation with someone you think may hire you or is a potential client, you want the person to stay excited or interested to continue the dialogue.

c) Never start with a “Sorry”
You have a story to tell and that’s why you are presenting. So make it as interesting as possible. As my fellow panelists Dr Kraus said, “Don’t apologise – Period.” One thing which I would like to highlight again to all participants is that there is no standard consulting background i.e there is no template you have to adhere. In fact, you may have a different background, then make that your strength (and some participants did do that).

d) Keep observing and practicing
As Prof Delios later highlighted, each of the 25 pitches should be taken as a learning experience. Watch your friends pitches and beyond the feedback given, observe for yourself what else you could have improved. You have to constantly innovate and improve. What could I have said differently, how could I have said differently, how should I change my message depending on the audience. My simple advise to all students would be join as many avenues in the next 14 months of your Business school journey where you have to present, in whatever forums. Presentation is a skill which you develop with practice. And you have to find your own voice, your own style. Copying someone’s story or style doesn’t work, So Vincent the Facebook popular dog worked for one participant as that was her genuine personal side but may fall flat for someone else.

e) Language
Again Jasmine highlighted a very good point – the participants coming from English speaking countries/English speaking backgrounds hold an edge. So for other participants for whom English is not the first language, you may have to make that extra effort.

Congrats to everyone for the initiative and hope the session was useful for all the participants. I wish all the very best to all the students ahead.

Ajay’s post first appeared here: Article was edited for clarity.