The Velvet Sledgehammer

Friday was my most humbling day as a business school student.  After six weeks of intense work, we presented our findings to a panel of “judges,” including professors, industry professionals, and a former student.

It was a bloodbath.  To paraphrase some of the greatest hits in the feedback we received….

  • “Your presentation feels like b-school presentation” one judge commented, in what would be the opening salvo.  At first, I thought this might be a compliment, but I soon realized it was a criticism.
  • “You have too much information, I was lost by the end” remarked another judge.
  • And my favorite comment of the afternoon, “I have a statement and a question.  You should have sales projections for each product for each of the next ten years, including cash flows.  What are your sales and cash flow projections for each product for each of the next ten years?”

After a few moments of awkward silence, the judge expressed exasperation at our inability to recite these figures from off the top of our collective heads.

  • “That was a question.  Are you going to answer?”

At that moment, a thought ran through my mind:  “How do you say ‘uncle’ in Swedish?”

Final Presentation

Members of the “Stamo” team deliver findings to a panel of judges

While most of the feedback was delivered with the subtlety of a sledgehammer wrapped in a velvet sheath, it was nonetheless well received.  The judges were right.  Our presentation has too much jargon – especially for an audience where English is a second language.  We presented a market segmentation analysis of seven target markets, which is simply too much to for an audience to digest.  And there is no doubt that we need to include a schedule of sales and revenue projections.  Frankly, it’s an embarrassing oversight.

With the benefit of a few days of reflection, our experience at the hands of the judges was exactly I what I expect from a business school – direct, candid, meaningful, and insightful feedback.  There is no doubt that our final product will be vastly improved because of our time in front of the judges.

Besides, a dose of humility now and then is always a good thing.

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One thought on “The Velvet Sledgehammer

  1. My first thought, was, ” did the companies provide this financial info to the
    group for their use?”. My second thought was, “good thing that the team
    had a trial run with the ‘judges’!”

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