Three folks got lucky when the winning MegaMillions lottery ticket number turned out be theirs. Skill, knowledge, preparation, and presentation had nothing to with winning. Winning the lottery was purely a matter of luck.
That won't be the case on April 11, 2012, when the finalists in the VT KnowledgeWorks Entrepreneurship Challenge compete to take home a trophy and thousands of dollars in start-up services for the best business concept. They'll need to do something a bit more decisive than rely on luck.
The entrepreneurs need to commit to winning.
When I entered the VT KnowledgeWorks Open Business Concept Competition in 2010 and made the final cut, I realized that if my business idea had enough merit to get that far, then it was good enough to win the competition. So, I decided to develop what I thought would be a winning strategy built on these 3 Ps: Preparation, Presentation, and Passion.
I followed Guy Kawasaki's presentation guidelines in his book, The Art of the Start. I kept my presentation to 10 slides that primarily focused on the size and scope of my target market, the need I planned to meet/problem to solve, financials for the business, and my expertise. I kept the amount of text on the screen to a minimum with a font large enough for everyone in the room to read comfortably no matter where they were seated. I researched my facts and knew them by heart.
I already knew that reading text from the slide show is a standard "no-no" unless you are repeating something to make a point. I took the data from my slides and turned it into an engaging narrative about the solution I was pitching. I made eye contact with members of the audience. I sought empathy, understanding and connections.
Passion – loving what I do – came out in the way I spoke, the tone of my voice, as well as what I said about Smart College Visit and, also, in the way I responded to questions. I smiled – a lot. After all, it felt wonderful to have the opportunity to tell a couple of hundred people about my company. I embraced the moment and tried to make the experience as exciting for them as it was for me.
Was I surprised when I won? Yes and no. There were many good ideas presented by others who were also passionate about what they wanted to create. But market and concept are also critical components and Smart College Visit definitely had both. Still, the odds of winning a business competition are much better than the odds of winning the lottery, especially when you're prepared, present well, and are passionate about your business, service, or product.
Z. Kelly Queijo, founder of Smart College Visit, Inc., won the Open Business Concept Competition at the 2010 VT KnowledgeWorks Entrepreneurship Summit.
Smart College Visit, Inc. is a Blacksburg, Virginia-based higher-ed marketing company focused on mobile app and mobile web development with a special interest in creating travel and location-based tools and services. SmartCollegeVisit.com, a college search and college visit planning portal, has been listed in the Top 100 education advice blogs and as one of the top 5 college visit sites. You are invited to follow her on Twitter @collegevisit and to read more about Smart College Visit on Handshake 2.0.