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HIGH SCHOOL FED CHALLENGE CHAMPIONSHIP "HOW TO" GUIDE
Effective Delivery and Preparing for the Q&A
 
 
Basic Presentation Rules
  • Students may refer to, but not read from, notes or scripts.
  • Each team member must play a substantial role in making the presentation and answering judges' questions.
  • More than one team member may answer a judge's question.
  • Team members may "huddle" to formulate a response to a judge's question; however, lengthy and excessive conferences may result in points being deducted if it significantly limits the number of questions posed.

The Fed Challenge will help you develop the presentation skills needed to perform well before any audience: speaking naturally, making contact eye, listening to and answering questions effectively.

Familiarity with the material is extremely important. The best presenters speak naturally because they really understand the information.

Although a script may make students feel more comfortable, judges are paying more attention than in the past to whether students understand the basic concepts and information. Thus reciting or memorizing a script is not likely to help convince the judges or result in a high score. Hand-held cards to remind you of basic concepts or facts can be useful—although they probably should contain only a few words; cards that contain complete text tend to result in recitations, which don't convey deep understanding of the material and thus may cause the team to be penalized by the judges.
Tips for Practicing and Developing Communications Skills
  • An effective speaker makes eye contact with individual members of the audience. Doing so allows the speaker to develop a relationship with audience members. It also allows the speaker to check for signs of comprehension or confusion.
  • An effective speaker is loud and clear. The speaker should address his or her remarks to the person farthest away in the room. He or she should also slow their natural speaking rhythm and enunciate each syllable.
  • An effective speaker pauses for a second in the articulation of a point for emphasis and to give listeners a chance to catch up.

  • An effective speaker gestures naturally and knows that exaggerated hand motions may distract listeners.
Use of Computer and Other Visual Aids

While most teams will create their presentations on a computer, preliminary and semi-final round competition participants use paper copies only; a computer will not be available. Thus, participants should rehearse their presentations with paper presentations. One tip is to make sure to "talk" the judges through the charts, for example, by saying "Please turn to the chart on page 5," or "If you flip to the next page, you will see . . ."

Whether using paper handouts, the speaker should:

  • Describe for the audience as explicitly as possible what it is seeing. For example, "What you see here is a chart showing real GDP over the last two years, with time measured in years on the horizontal axis and real (inflation adjusted) GDP in percentage terms on the vertical axis."
  • Then, interpret the visual for the audience. For example, "As this chart of rising real GDP clearly shows, the economy may be in real danger of overheating."
  • With charts having fewer than four bullets, the speaker may wish to read each point aloud first before elaborating. On the second reading, the speaker should try to keep his/her remarks to a few sentences.
  • With charts having four or more bullet points, omit the initial word-for-word reading; instead explain each bullet point immediately after reading it out loud the first time, taking the audience down the chart one bullet point at a time.
Answering Questions

The most difficult part of the Fed Challenge is answering questions from the panel of judges. The challenge begins with the questions themselves and the team's ability to grasp them. If the team is uncertain about a question, it should immediately ask that the question be repeated or clarified. Also, a team member may wish to write the question down as it is being asked. This minimizes confusion by forcing a team not only to "hear" the question but also to "see" it. After understanding what is being asked, the challenge becomes formulating a response. Teams may want to have a previously agreed upon strategy about who will answer at least the first question to get off to a good start.  Teams may also employ the following strategies:

  • Huddling. The team literally huddles to pool knowledge and to decide who should answer the question. One respondent's answer can address one facet of the question, and a second respondent's another facet. Or a thought expressed by the first respondent can receive elaboration from a second. Just be sure the second respondent doesn't undermine or contradict the first. When done well, huddling promotes cooperation and teamwork. Huddling can also hurt a team by slowing it down and taking time better spent on formulating a good answer. Here, too, practice can help.

  • Designating. Team members respond to questions, or aspects of questions, in their designated area. The challenge here is to ensure the participation of the entire team. This can be helped by having one respondent begin with his contribution to the first question, having another respondent take the lead with the second question, and so on. It also can be helpful to designate a team captain or leader not only to monitor the contributions of fellow contributors, but also to galvanize the team during periods of distress or paralysis.
February 2011