What Is a Business Case Competition?
A case competition is an event where students come together to present solutions to real-world business problems. These competitions are increasingly popular among both BCom and MBA students, as they provide an opportunity to apply classroom knowledge to real-life situations — experiential learning at its best!
The competition format can vary, but some common elements include:
- Teams of students are given a business case, a real-world problem faced by an organization or an idea they’d like to explore. The case is presented in written form and may include additional materials such as financial statements, market research or other data.
- The teams then have a set amount of time to analyze the case and devise a solution. This can range from a few hours to several days.
- Once the analysis is complete, each team prepares a presentation with its proposed solution and supporting information. This presentation is typically given in front of a panel of judges who evaluate the teams based on criteria such as the feasibility and sustainability of the solution, the quality of the analysis and the persuasiveness of the presentation. In many instances, the panel includes representatives of the company highlighted in the case. Some competitions also include a question-and-answer period, where judges ask specific questions about the proposed solution or analysis.
- At the end of the competition, the winners are announced and may receive prizes such as trophies, cash awards or job opportunities. Outstanding students may receive invitations to an exclusive event to network with their case sponsor.
Overall, the format is designed to simulate real-world business situations and provide students with a hands-on learning experience. At the Telfer School of Management, we run our own internal competitions and we send students to competitions at other universities.
"As a long-time case competition coach, I see first-hand the growth of students who participate. It is an opportunity for students to gain real experience in analyzing information, strategizing and presenting their recommendations. There is no substitute for the experience they gain, and it shows in their confidence and personal development."
— Matt Archibald, Director of undergraduate programs, Telfer School of Management
What Does a Typical Case Presentation Look Like?
A good case competition presentation should be well organized, clear and engaging. Here are some key elements usually included (Be sure to understand the specific requirements of your case competition.):
Start with a clear and concise introduction that sets the stage for the presentation. Introduce your team, the case purpose and your proposed solution.
Clearly articulate the problem statement and the key challenges faced by the organization. Provide context and background information that helps the audience understand the issue.
Present your analysis of the case problem, including your data or research. Use analysis tools to help illustrate your points. Some analysis tools include:
Financial analysis: Analyze financial statements and other data to understand the organization’s financial health. This can help you identify areas where your proposed solution can improve financial performance.
Consumer behaviour analysis: Look at individuals’ or groups’ actions when purchasing and consuming a good or service. This can help ensure your solution meets the needs of a target population segment.
SWOT analysis: Analyze the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Human resource analysis: Examine the company’s talent management strategy, including recruitment, retention and training.
Cultural analysis: Often used where there’s a request to expand abroad. Gather information about local culture, history, traditions, social norms, values and other key cultural factors that could affect business, such as language and social class.
Present your proposed solution. Explain how it addresses the challenges identified in the problem statement. Make sure your solution is practical, feasible and sustainable. Highlight the potential benefits to the organization.
Outline a clear, actionable plan for implementing your proposed solution. Include a timeline, key milestones and risks or challenges that may arise during implementation. If a budget is provided, explain how it will be allocated.
Summarize your key points and reiterate the importance of your proposed solution. Emphasize the potential benefits to the organization and any competitive advantages that your solution may provide.
Be prepared to answer questions from the judges or audience. Make sure you have a deep understanding of your proposed solution and can provide thoughtful responses. Short answers are best. Judges have limited time for questions and you want to ensure that nothing is left unsaid or up to their interpretation.
Deliver your presentation confidently and with enthusiasm. Use clear, concise language, maintain eye contact and use visuals effectively to engage your audience. Pay attention to your body language, tone of voice and overall delivery, to ensure you’re conveying your message effectively.
Why Participate in Business Case Competitions?
Participating in a business case competition is not only a great experiential learning opportunity, but also a lot of fun. Most competitions include a social element, networking opportunities and often a closing awards gala to celebrate your accomplishments and those of others. These are opportunities to apply skills and learn outside of the classroom, grow as business leaders, network with peers from across the country — or around the world — and build lasting relationships.
Students cite the following benefits most often:
Working with peers, building valuable teamwork skills
Adding interesting experiences to their resumés
Applying knowledge learned in the classroom to real situations
Networking with judges, students from other schools and industry representatives (often recruiters)
Improving business communication skills
Learning time management and stress management techniques
"Looking at my undergraduate degree, case competitions stand out as the most memorable experiences. I’ve learned the most about business, met many of my friends, grown a lot as an individual and had the most fun! My involvement in both regional and international competitions has been my favourite part of my undergraduate degree and has been instrumental in my personal development."
—Aisha Gheriani, Telfer BCom student
Getting Involved in Business Case Competitions
There are many opportunities for both BCom and MBA students to get involved throughout the year. There are specific challenges or categories in all business fields, including human resources, accounting, finance, marketing, operations, strategy, leadership, entrepreneurship and more!
Examples of competitions that Telfer has competed in include:
Jeux du Commerce
The Jeux du Commerce is a bilingual interuniversity event that has brought together students in Eastern Canada since 1989 for academic, athletic and social competitions. Goals include fostering relations between the next generation of businesspeople and companies, creating lasting links between participants, developing initiative, and encouraging healthy competition and, above all, excellence.
Each year, Happening Marketing (HM) brings together nearly 600 students from Ontario and Quebec universities, teachers and industry professionals for a weekend featuring the largest marketing competition in Eastern Canada. The competition has different components: academic, sporting, social and participatory. The academic portion is divided into five cases of different marketing sub-specializations, as well as a knowledge quiz.
CaseIT brings together top undergraduate students, distinguished professors, experienced industry professionals and a dedicated student body to challenge conventional thinking among future leaders in business and technology.
The Financial Open is the largest academic competition in finance and accountancy in Eastern Canada. Bringing together more than 350 students from RÉFAEC universities, the competition aims to promote careers in finance and accounting, in addition to providing a place for students to meet and speak with key industry players.
“Case competitions add incredible value to the university experience. They’ve let me put the theory I’ve learned in my university courses into practice, strengthen my communications skills and learn to create high-quality deliverables under tight deadlines. Case competitions give you access to the real-world of business and offer unbelievable networking possibilities. Beyond career benefits, these competitions have allowed me to meet passionate students involved in university life. I’ve formed professional relationships with these people, in addition to making lifelong friendships.”
— Caroline Lafrance, Telfer BCom student
How to Get Involved
Telfer offers a variety of courses to help you prepare for academic case competitions. We recommend ADM 2381: Business Communication Skills to learn the basics such as vocabulary, proper hand gestures and body language, best practices when building a presentation slide deck and succeeding in Q&A sessions.
If you want to learn about how you can get involved as a student competitor, case subject or coach, email Telfer case competition head coach Stephen Daze or go to the Telfer Competitions Committee Instagram page.