How to organize a business plan competition - Guide

Entrepreneurship and startups are the new buzzwords among engineering and MBA students all over India. Everyone wanna startup! I guess that's the reason almost every college event these days has a dedicated slot for business plan competition. I've began believing that many students think it's 'cool' to have a line on their resume that says "participated in b-plan competition' or 'organised a b-plan competition". Or have the colleges made it compulsory for the students to participate in such competitions or organise one? I don't know.

Having been to several such competitions as a judge, I thought it's necessary to write a post that informs the business plan competition organisers how to successfully organise a business plan competition.

Step 1: Plan At Least 1 Month In Advance, Inform Everyone & Accept Entries Online

Now I'm not going to tell you how many rounds of eliminations you should have or what's going to be the structure of your event. One thing that you SHOULD keep in mind is to inform all the potential participants about the competition and get their business plans. Accept their entries in the following format -
  • What problem does the startup aim to solve? (50 words max)
  • How does the startup want to solve the problem? (50 words max)
  • How does the company want to make money? (50 words max)
No power points, no crap! Force your participants to write answers to these questions. Don't let them add 51st word to their answer to any of the above questions. This will save you a lot of time and eliminate crappy plans.

Final PPT Format:

Inform the participants that their final presentation should NOT have more than 10 slides, and the font on the slides should be 30px minimum. This will make the participants write only important points in their slides. Useless essays describing fake revenues and projections can be eliminated altogether.
  1. Problem
  2. Solution
  3. Market Size
  4. Existing Competitors
  5. What are areas where you have edge over competition and vice versa
  6. Revenue Model - easy to understand revenue model
  7. Marketing strategy
  8. Team members
  9. Growth plan
  10. Big ass 'thank you' slide.

Step 2: Select the judges and inform them well in advance

Select and invite 3 judges to the event. Write following email to them as invitation -

Mail Subject: Invitation to judge business plan competition at <college name>
Mail Body:

Dear Mr. <surname> OR Ms. <surname>,

I am <your firstname lastname> from <college name> and I am writing to you as the event in-charge of our annual business plan competition <competition name>. My team and I will be be honored to have you as one of the judges for the <final / elimination> round of <competition name>. Please find the event details below and confirm your availability.

Event Schedule:
Date: <day> <month>, <year>
From: 2:00 PM Till: 7:00 PM
Venue: College auditorium

We look forward to hearing from you.

Regards,
Firstname Lastname
B.Tech | XYZ Semester | +91-phone-number


D-Day Arrangements:

1. Make a polite reminder call to all the invited judges at least 3 hours in advance. Tell them you are waiting for them and the event will start right on time. Request them to be present at least 15 minutes before the event starts.

2. Ask all the participants and the audience to be present 30 minutes in advance. Make a strict announcement (an honour it) that those who do not show up within time will be eliminated. Stick to schedule.

3. Load all their PPTs inside a folder on your desktop and name them in the order of the presenting teams: 01-startup-name.pptx, 02-startup-name.pptx and so on. Ensure that you put up a minimalistic wallpaper on your desktop and remove all your latest torrents and downloads.

4. Put up a nice white cloth on the table; if your college doesn't let you access the nice looking tables. Put up small flower pots, a bottle of water, notepad and pen for each of the judges. Ensure the chairs provided to them are comfortable and don't make unwanted noise.

5. Wear formal clothes (your college t-shirt will do) and ask the participants to dress properly. Business formals are good. Tell your participants that they are participating in a local business plan competition and they are not just as cool as Zuckerberg yet.

6. Ask your juniors to be present at the college gate so that the invited judges don't have to request the guards to let them in. Communicate well with the judges and make them feel special. If you can arrange for a car - go for it.

7. Ensure that the judges get a dedicated parking space to park their car.

8. Get the audience and participants in their seats before the judges arrive at the venue. Once the judges have occupied their seats, brief them about the rounds, marking scheme.

9. Ask the judges whether they'll prefer tea/coffee or cold-drinks. If you're going to serve them food - go for the most regular ones (Samosa works always). If required, ask them whether they'll prefer veg or non-veg dish. Don't make assumptions.

10. Inform the presenters that they'll have just 5 minutes to talk about the company and the rest of the time should be allocated to the judges. If anyone group talks for more than 5 minutes, immediately ring a bell.

11. Don't just vanish in thin air. Thank the judges before everyone leaves. Be there with them judges till they've left the college premises.

I can go on adding a lot more points; but this will ensure that you've organised the event well. If you have specific questions about organising the business plan competition, ask them below. I will be happy to answer them for you. Best of luck!

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