Three Things to Think About When Prepping for Competition

One of the many roles I play through my involvement with DECA is that of a judge.  I have had the pleasure of judging at both the high school and collegiate levels, including many times at Collegiate DECA’s International Career Development Conference.

The unique ideas and presentations that each student brings to the competition keep me coming back to judge. Judges take great pride in witnessing the time and dedication DECA members invest in bettering themselves outside the classroom.

Any judge undoubtedly has suggestions as to how members can achieve higher competition scores. Here are three of my own:

  1. Know how you are being evaluated.

    A majority of competitive events test your knowledge of “performance indicators.” These are key items that you will need to incorporate into your presentation. But why are these so important? Five of the six areas on which we judge your performance are these exact indicators. The final area on which you are judged is your overall presentation. Some members create their presentation around performance indicators, while others use what I call “trigger words” to indicate to the the judge that they are addressing a specific indicator.

    It is highly recommended that you visit the events page on or to look at sample cases and evaluation forms.

  2. To PowerPoint or not to PowerPoint?

    Most Collegiate DECA events begin with preparation time, during which members are given their cases and create their presentations. One concern of mine is how members use that time when working with PowerPoint. Like me, most judges I’ve worked with focus more on the substance of your presentation than on the “cuteness” of slides. Also, don’t use your slides as personal notes; instead, remember the “Rules of Sixes” for PowerPoint presentations (no more than six words across and six bullet points down).

    If you decide to use PowerPoint, consider the space where you will present to the judge. I recommend putting your laptop or tablet off to the side. The judge will follow your eye contact and cues. If you glance over at your PowerPoint, we’ll follow your eyes and look at it, too.

  3. We know the roles.

    If you have competed before, you know that the time you have to present goes by quickly. You need to start addressing performance indicators right away. The judges know what their roles will be when you walk in the room, just like you know what your role will be. The same can be said for the background of the role-play, so it is not necessary to begin your presentation by stating each other’s roles or summarizing the situation. Just as you prepare for your event, judges prep for our roles, too.                                                                                                                   

The best competitors are those who enter the judging booth, greet the judge with a professional handshake, introduce themselves, and move right into their presentation. Always end your presentation by trying to make the close or schedule a future meeting with the judge. Remember to smile and shake the judge’s hand upon finishing.

The judges are there to help you grow and will be your biggest cheerleader.  They are not there to make competition seem intimidating, but rather to make it a positive learning experience. This is your opportunity to interact with people currently working in your possible career field, so take advantage of it!

Believe it or not, many employers view DECA’s role-plays as part of their companies’ interview process. I have had friends tell me that their participation in competitive events helped them land the jobs they were hoping for back when they were members. 

Who knows, the judge sitting across the table could be your future boss.

Follow Kevin Ramsell on Twitter @asaprkevin.

Categories: Business Simulations, Case Studies, Collegiate Competitive Events, Compete, Home Page Compete, HS Competitive Events, Presentation Prep, Role-Play, Strategies