5 Things We Learned in Mini 4

“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts …” — William Shakespeare, As You Like It

The spring semester has ended, so for Tepper MBA’s, that means it is the end of Mini 4! Four Minis down, only twelve more to go! And so it is time for the next post in the “5 Things We Learned this Mini” series. In this blog, I identify the most critical takeaways from the Mini:

  1. Presenting Naked Connects You with Your Audience
  2. PBC Helps You Make a Difference in the Pittsburgh Community (Part 2)
  3. Optimization Helps You Model Real-World Problems
  4. Designing Effective Slides Adds to Your Message
  5. Friday Lighting Talks Provide Opportunities to Meet Fellow MBAs

Also, if you haven’t already, check out the previous installments of “5 Things” for Mini 1 and 2 and Mini 3.

1. Presenting Naked Connects You with Your Audience

woman speaking on stage at a conference

In our Management Presentations class, Professor Clara Burke helped us become more influential presenters by presenting in the naked style:

“Presenting naked means connecting and engaging with an audience … in a way that is direct, honest, and clear. Naked means putting your audience first. It means being transparent and taking a chance by allowing yourself to be vulnerable and exposed. Being naked involves stripping away all that is unnecessary to get at the essence of your message.” – Garr Reynolds, The Naked Presenter

The major takeaways for Naked Presenting are as follows:

  • Presentations should feel like a conversation with the audience and not a performance to the audience.
  • Powerful presentations should target both the logical left (data, facts, etc.) and the emotional right (experiences, feelings, etc.) brains.
  • Arouse powerful emotions using “a relevant story, image, or data that is unexpected or surprising.”
  • Connect with your audience by facing them, smiling, and maintaining eye contact.
  • Create a dynamic presence by varying your body language, facial expressions, and hand gestures.
  • Own your unique voice by changing pitch, volume, and rate of speaking and selectively using silent spaces and pauses.

2. PBC Helps You Make a Difference in the Pittsburgh Community (Part 2)

love your neighbor

Last Mini, I wrote about my experiences for Pro Bono Consulting (PBC), a Tepper organization that pairs up MBA students to volunteer for local Pittsburgh non-profits and small businesses. My team of first-year part-time students (Sofia Eliseeva, Alex Fattore, Shelby Livengood, Caleb Lyman, Joe Nardi, and Juma Sankar) was partnered with our client, Brookline Teen Outreach (BTO). The non-profit is focused on developing social-emotional learning (SEL) for school students while also engaging them in activities and their community.

We were tasked with helping BTO identify a strategy for expansion into Pittsburgh and beyond. This Mini, we created an engagement strategy focused on urban schools and after-school programs. Our solution recommended that BTO reach out to prospects, generate brand awareness, acquire customers, nurture customer relationships, retain customers through continuous follow-up, and advocate through partnerships. We documented our solution and presented it to our client. We also presented our solution to the Tepper community at the PBC Community Leadership Symposium.

After the experience, I would highly recommend PBC for students interested in applying their business skills to volunteer and consult for real non-profits or small businesses. You will connect with individuals in the local Pittsburgh community. I had the opportunity to visit our client, BTO, and meet their exceptional staff at their community center in the Brookline neighborhood.

3. Optimization Helps You Model Real-World Problems

Optimization is the process of making the best or most effective use of situations or resources. In our Optimization class, Professor Willem-Jan van Hoeve showed us how to create mathematical models of real-world problems that we solved using Excel to find implementable solutions. We had to understand various algorithms enough to solve issues and identify opportunities.

When examining an optimization problem, we had to define the following:

  • Variables – the decision to be made
  • Objectives – the goal of the process, which was generally to maximize or minimize some value or function
  • Constraints – the limits on variables, which is in the form of greater than, less than, or equal to

Then, we used Excel solver to get solutions and determine the sensitivity of those values. We applied optimization to solve problems such as employee scheduling, air traffic routing, and manufacturing production in class.

4. Designing Effective Slides Adds to Your Message

man presenting in front an audience

Also, in our Management Presentations course, Professor Burke showed us how to design slide decks that supplement our presentation and not be the focus of the presentation. When it comes to slide decks, audiences can focus and understand slides that are easy to read, provide a strong header, contain great graphics, provide examples, and so on.

Then, you can design slides that “aid, not lead” your presentation:

  • Designate Slides to be Supportive: First, plan your presentation out, and then create slides to provide visual aids or display examples.
  • Maintain Control: Setup the slide deck to animate the text to display while speaking. And avoid pausing while transitioning between slides.
  • Refocus Attention on You: Reorient your audience by including blank slides and directly interacting with them. If using Zoom, you can ask the audience to decrease the slides shared and increase your presenter view.

5. Friday Lighting Talks Provide Opportunities to Meet Fellow MBAs

zoom meeting

This Mini, the Part-Time Graduate Business Association (GBA) started holding weekly virtual B**rs every Friday night. Typically, B**rs is a longtime weekly Tepper tradition for students and faculty to gather, drink beer, and eat food in-person on Friday evening at the business school in a casual, social setting. Every week, virtual students are meeting on the Tepper Commons on Gather to connect with one another.

Also, we are using this as an opportunity to learn from each other, as the GBA has organized “Lightning Talks,” or short informal peer-to-peer talks to kick off B**rs. Topics for lightning talks can range from professional interest areas, personal hobbies, etc. Recently, students have presented on the Archegos Capital implosion (Bryan Dulog PT ‘22), How to find your perfect martini (Shelby Livengood PT’ 23), and Tepper finance resources (Hasan Rahim PT ‘22).

For more of my work, check out the previous posts in the “5 Things” series for Mini 1 and 2 and Mini 3.