Texas Style

“Texas Style” is a unique format of case competition presentations which has been likened to a board room. 2 minute intro, 20 minutes Q&A, 3 minute conclusion. Sound scary? Well it is!

As many of you know I am the Co-Chair of the Alberta Energy Challenge (AEC). AEC 2013 is a case competition that takes place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada at the University of Alberta. It brings together teams from all over North America to talk about current issues in energy. Teams get 36 hours to put together a presentation to solve a 1 or 2 page case.

One thing that seems to stump some teams time and time again is the Texas Style format. How on earth does a team prepare a PowerPoint slide deck for 20 minutes of open Q&A?!?!

I’ve had the pleasure of working with and watching some of the best Texas Style presenters on the circuit. I myself was part of last years winning team at AEC 2012 and we absolutely nailed the presentation!

The keys to making your presentation successful are simple to learn but difficult to master: a clear and concise introduction, a menu slide that leads judges to ask the right questions, and a Q&A strategy on who will answer what question.

1. The Intro
The introduction is potentially the most important part of a Texas Style presentation. In 3 minutes you have to make sure the judges are crystal clear on what your ideas is and why it’s the best.

Normal case presentations have a little bit of fluff at the start: intro of the members, description of the problem, pictures of your cat — SKIP IT! You don’t have the time! Briefly mention the problem, then jump straight into your solution. At the end of the first minute they should know what your solution is. Dedicate the first half of minute #2 to a timeline or an outline of your solution going through the key milestones, and then the last half should briefly touch on the financials and then have a mini conclusion.

If you are lucky the judges will have followed along and when the time keeper let’s the judges know that they may start asking questions they’ll have something to ask — however if they don’t BE PREPARED TO CARRY ON. Make sure you are ready to talk about something in case no questions are asked.

Frequently the reason judges don’t ask questions right after the 3 minutes is because they still have no idea what exactly your solution is. Make sure that your 3 minute intro is a complete pitch that can stand on it’s own.

2. The Menu Slide
One of the key components to your presentation will be your menu slide. This will be your master slide and should be clickable. Try to organize it in some fashion so it’s easy for you and the judges to look at. Try to use titles for the buttons which are readable and demand attention. If I have room, I like to put in questions — How much will it cost? instead of Costs. This will subtly tell the judges what questions to ask.

Sometimes I will even embed clickable questions inside the slides themselves. So when I click on a slide about costs, and I have a line item on insurance, the word insurance will be hyper-linked to a slide about insurance. The judges want to ask questions that you have the answers to, it makes the presentation flow smoothly. Obviously if there’s a hole in your presentation, judges will pounce on it, but generally they will play along.

3. Q&A Management
The worst thing I’ve seen is when a question is asked and no one has the answer. There are essentially two ways to run a texas style competition:

– You can either make sure that everyone knows which slides are theirs and have a designated person to take questions for when you have no slide.

– Or you can use the quarter back method, where one individual takes ALL the questions and passes it off to other team members based on their expertise. The QB is almost like the MC, he does the intro and the outro and directs the flow of questions. Sometimes this works better when there are a lot of judges.

At the end of 20 minutes you’ll get 3 minutes to wrap it up. If there is an outstanding question, answer it briefly then run through your prepared conclusion.

Texas Style case competitions are among the most challenging and most rewarding style of presentation formats. Remember, more so than a normal presentation, Texas Style is an art form. So make your next Texas Style presentation into a masterpiece!

Warm regards,

Aaleem Jiwa

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4 thoughts on “Texas Style

  1. Awesome post Aaleem. Having competed and placed at the McCombs International Business Challenge in Austin Texas where this format originated I think you nailed it. One main point to add in is the concept of push back. If you have really good judges, they will attack and attack your solution looking for weak spots. One of the main focuses for this presentation style is to see how well you know your idea and how effectively you can stick to your guns. It’s crucial to toe the line between sticking to you guns and pushing back when a judge is wrong and admitting when you haven’t thought about something enough.

    People can smell bullshit a mile away so when you’re wrong or didnt think of something, admit it. When you do know what you’re talking about and a judge is trying to call you out, challenge them, articulate why you’re correct and own it.

  2. Great post Aaleem. Another thing to note is the difference in how the questions flow in Texas vs Traditional presentations. In a ‘normal’ presentation, you hit the Q&A period and take the questions as they come, answering each question and then waiting for the next. In Texas style, you can’t just stand around for the entire middle of the presentation waiting for the next question.

    I would suggest managing the Q&A period by answering the question and then tying it back to your presentation (Eg: “yes we have addressed your concern by doing X, which leads us to our next point which is…”). This keeps the flow of the presentation much smoother, as you can control where the presentation goes at the end of each question, as opposed to having the judges dictate where it goes (which can derail your presentation or waste time).

  3. Having been involved in AEC last year, and competed Texas style myself in the past (JDC-W) I have to compliment you, Aaleem. This article is right on.

    The decision between running a QB system and having designated fields for Q+A is a difficult one. As with football itself, the QB is a very specialized position and needs to carry the team if that system is chosen. For teams with less experience it may be worth a try early on in practices, but if it does not feel right then don’t force it. A team without a good QB can still be competitive if the team has a good game plan and performs greater than the sum of its individual parts.

    Best of luck, wish I could be there this year.

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