A framework for a powerful presentation at Imagine Cup

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You’ve come so far

Whether you’re heading to regionals or you’re in early stages of putting together your Imagine Cup project, you’ve put a lot of time and thought into the ways your project will help people. You understand the competition requirements and what judges are scoring you on, and you’ve ensured that your project hits those marks. Congratulations on your success so far!

 

Now let’s look at a specific presentation framework that can help boost you to the next level. Putting together a compelling and engaging presentation shows that you can sell your idea, which is essential to the future success of your project. Consider each step in your Imagine Cup journey as another opportunity to refine and perfect your presentation. This presentation framework can keep you on track.

 

1. Tell us the problem, and why we should care about it

We need to understand the context for your project. For example, “Cats don’t use words when they communicate. But their humans would really like to know what they’re thinking and whether they’re in pain or need help.” With this bit of context, we understand the problem you’re working with. If your problem statement was only “Cats don’t use words when they communicate,” we wouldn’t have enough information to understand the problem you’re trying to solve. We also need to know why we should care about this problem. You’ll find that most of the time we care deeply about problems that affect the greater good, or that affect a group that is generally underrepresented.

 

Remember that your audience and the judges don’t have as much background information as you do about your project. Providing a little too much background is better than not providing enough.

 

2. Put yourself in the story

We need to know why this problem matters to you or your team. Passion makes a big difference in how people will receive your project. And it makes a big difference in the dedication you will carry through after Imagine Cup is over.

 

You might say, “When I was a child, my cat followed me everywhere. When she was diagnosed with feline leukemia, I realized I was going to lose my best friend without knowing anything about her thoughts on things like chasing the red dot and wrestling. I also thought that if she’d been able to tell me she was in pain earlier, I might have been able to help her.” Now we in the audience are invested in your problem and its solution because we understand the emotional connection you have with it.

 

In fact, you might even make us emotional about the project, which is an advanced pro skill and something you can be proud of.

 

      2a. Put your audience in the story (optional)

This can be tricky, given the 3-minute limit on your presentation, and should be attempted only by super confident presenters or those who have a clear connection between their project and a general audience. For example, “How many people here have a cat? ... And how many of you are dying to know what your cat is thinking?”

 

You’re not waiting for specifics from the audience, but the second you engage their mind in this thought, you’ve given them a kind of ownership of your project. They’re in it with you and will be hoping for your success.

 

3. Tell us your solution

This is where you get into both the practical and technical details about your project, and—because diversity and inclusion are judging criteria—highlight how your solution addresses populations or needs that tend to be underserved. “I realized my cat was actually making very distinctive vocalizations in response to what I was saying, and she was also doing things with her facial expression, her ears, and her tail. She was communicating.” You’ve set up the practical approach to the problem. “So using the camera and video on my phone, I applied Azure cognitive services to recognize and categorize specific vocalizations and expressions. Over time I created a bank of cat sounds and expressions, and labeled them, so that Seeing AI, Hearing AI, and Text to Speech would learn to recognize them.”

 

It's helpful for us to know your thinking process and how you arrived at your solution. Here, you can briefly touch on any mistakes you might have made—solutions that flopped or directions that set you off on something new. Keep this sidebar brief, but if you can bring this in, it will add richness to your presentation.

 

      3a. Be deliberate about your big reveal

“I created an app that translates cat vocalizations and expressions into spoken language.” Make it as crisp and clear as possible. Give this statement a little space, with a pause before and after, to emphasize its importance. Recognize that this is the first time your audience and the judges have ever heard this statement, and even though it’s old news to you, treat it like a big announcement. Because it is.

 

      3b. If possible, demonstrate your solution live

This is the most compelling way to show the viability of your project. Bring your cat in a carrier, put her on the podium, and activate the app to translate her vocalizations and expressions for the audience. Enable the text-to-speech through the microphone so the audience can hear your cat “talking”: “Where am I? What’s happening? When’s lunch?”

 

      3c. Give us the details on your solution and the technology you used

Stats, the Azure services you used, any specific outcomes. “Through Azure cognitive services, I categorized 24,000 different instances of cat vocalizations and expressions. With 150 people using the app, this library is growing every day and the AI is getting smarter. Now when I’m in bed and my cat stands on my chest making noises and flicking her tail, I get out my phone and record her actions so I can translate them into words. The text-to-speech will tell me things, like “It’s cold outside but I want to go out, anyway. When’s breakfast?”

 

4. Tell us how your project will get to market

Be clear about the revenue model. How will your project pay for itself and be a sustainable business? What’s your plan for marketing it? “We’ve been marketing this app through veterinarian practices. We give it to the veterinarians for free, and they end up liking it so much that they tell their clients about it. Cost is just $9.99, so most pet owners are happy to give it a try.” (For more ideas on how to get crisp on this part, check out our business and innovation tips.)

 

5. Say “thank you”

A strong ending to your presentation is to simply say “thank you” to your audience, and then stop talking. It’s not a good idea to trail off with “and so yeah, that’s what we created and that’s ... the end.” Practice being confident with a simple “thank you” at the end.

 

Next, practice

After you’ve created your presentation using this framework, commit to practicing it. Practice in a setting as similar to your final presentation as possible: standing up, with at least a few people in your audience, and speaking out loud, with a timer set to 3 minutes. A minimum of 10 run-throughs on the entire presentation, spaced over several days, is ideal for making adjustments to optimize, committing your narrative to memory, and delivering with confidence.

 

Check out these presentations from 2019 Imagine Cup World Championships, and follow the 2020 competition journey on Instagram and Twitter.

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