Creative competition hones students’ presentation skills

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Contestants in the School of Business’ first Creative Communication Competition including, from front left, winners Vanesa Luis-Guerra, Tammie Goode and Sara Falzone.
You won’t get very far with even the greatest idea if you can’t present it well. That’s the thinking behind Creative Communication by Design, one of the original winners of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business’ EPIC Challenge.

This year, Creative Communication by Design launched its own challenge for students — the Creative Communication Competition. On Feb. 3, 15 School of Business students competed for cash prizes by presenting on everything from fuel cells and whiskey to 401(k)s and tattoos.The event was a pilot for what the team hopes will become a larger, annual event, said team member Shannon Mitchell.“The Creative Communication by Design team develops School of Business graduates to be great creative problem solvers who can sell their ideas to investors, colleagues, clients and customers,” she said.

Contestants in the competition all completed the School of Business’ Winning Presentations — a course in which professional actors teach business students techniques to improve their communication and presentation skills. The friendly competition gives these students a venue to hone their skills after leaving the course while generating a common understanding of what a great presentation looks like among students and faculty. It further develops VCU business students as excellent presenters.

Interested students first submitted a one-paragraph description of their topic. After an initial screening, they received one-on-one coaching from Marisa Guida, course coordinator for Winning Presentations. Students whose skills were not competitive were not permitted to go forward.

Tammie Goode, a junior marketing major, won the prize for best overall presentation for “Qatar Leadership Exchange.”

Marketing senior Vanesa Luis-Guerra presented “VCU Backpacking Abroad Program,” which won the award for the most persuasive presentation.

Sara Falzone’s “Stuck at the Sunflower Table” earned the senior marketing major the award for best use of story in a speech.

Judging the competition were Alison Linas, assistant commonwealth’s attorney for Hanover County; Ryann Lofchie, chairwoman of The Frontier Project Group of Companies and CEO of Frontier Academy; Suzanne C. Makarem, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing; Regina Nguyen, director of marketing and property manager for SugarOak Management; S. Douglas Pugh, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Management; and Sammy Santosh, account manager of Torx Media.

Creative Communication by Design comprises Mitchell, Guida, Laurel Adams and Sam Seeley from the School of Business and Aaron Anderson and David Leong from the School of the Arts.

In addition to coaching students on writing and presentation skills, the Creative Communication by Design team proposes developing capacity of faculty members to inspire creativity in their students and elicit great communication skills, and continuing field research on best practices in business communication to bring the results back to the classroom.

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