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Understanding Case Competitions with Kim Perdue

Case competitions are great experiences, but jumping in and doing them can be pretty daunting. Last Monday, EY consultant and UW Foster alumni Kim Perdue guided us through the ins and outs of a case competition--here are her tips!


1. Establish team dynamics prior to the case kick-off

Your team is the most important part of a case competition. Depending on the case, teams are usually a group of 4 people. Whether you are signing up as an individual or as a team, make sure you do the following...

- Have a well-rounded group of people to work with

  • Various areas of study/majors

  • Different skill sets

  • Shared commitment level and expectations

- Meet up with your team before the case to get everything in order before the case actually starts

  • If this is the first time working with your team, take time to get to know each other better and understand each person’s work style

2. Understand the general structure of a case presentation

While all solutions are specific to each case, every case is structured in this general format...

1. Restate case charge: Give the judges context of the situation without going over a minute in your presentation

2. Solution : Share the solution upfront

3. Decision Matrix: Use case specific decision criteria to explain why your solution is the best out of the other options

  1. Show the judges that you did consider other options but further explain why your option is more viable in the solution details

Above is an example of a decision matrix -- the decision criteria can change case to case. Decide what factors to judge your solutions with amongst your team members.

4. Solution Details

  • Target market/personas (usually used for more product based cases)

  • Financials: Understand how to calculate cost, NPV, and ROI

  • When presenting, don’t go too into how you got these numbers, but be prepared to explain your methods during the Q&A!

  • Risks and mitigations

  • Implementation Timeline: How long your plan will take, Indicate milestones!

5. Conclusion / open to Q&A

Since this is not a strict guideline, tailor the presentation to the case at hand and tweak as needed.

3. Form a realistic and nuanced approach

Your presentation is just as good as your solution, so make sure your ideas are well thought-out and viable. Some general tips are:

  • Begin by brainstorming and including every possible idea

  • Rank these ideas with a decision matrix

  • Assign a team member to play devil’s advocate

    • Once you agree on a solution, have someone in your team try and poke holes in your solution

      • Having someone point out any flaws can help create an even stronger solution as you work to fix these flaws

      • Playing devil’s advocate can also greatly help during the Q&A as you can better anticipate the kinds of questions the judges will throw at you

4. Know your resources

UW offers a wealth of resources to use for case competitions. The researching process can be confusing, so know what databases and online resources you want to use before heading into a case.

  • Recommended databases

  • Graphic and visual design resources

    • Canva (to easily create visuals)

    • Pinterest (for slide design inspiration)

5. Have fun with it!

As stressful as case competitions are, it is important to take care of yourself. Even for shorter cases like the 24- or 48-hour cases, remember to sleep and do not pull an all-nighter for a case! Presenting your solution is just as--if not more--important than the actual content you created. Being confident and well rested is vital to performing your best and tackling the Q&A with a clearer mind.

With these tips we hope you can tackle your next (or first!) case competition more prepared. As always, stay safe, stay healthy, and we hope to see you soon!

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