Preparing for your Imagine Cup Software Presentation

So you’re presenting your world saving, ground breaking software to a panel of live judges in a few months, or maybe a few days? Here are a few tips to help you in preparing for your nerve racking presentation.

Structuring your Presentation

Make a story, make it simple, make it fun. Remember, your judges may vary in energy levels and personalities, some may not even hear half of what you are saying, some may fall asleep and some may be really excited to see what you have. A fun and energetic presentation appeals to the majority. To be fun, it has to be simple, you are trying to present your concept that you already know so much about to someone who has no idea what you are doing. Build a story around your software, demo it as someone using it. Does your software make you lose weight? Tell them how John was overweight by 10lbs then goes in front of the kinect every day for a week and lost 20lbs. Ensure your story flows and everything ties in with all components of your software. Additional tips for structuring:

  1. Add statistics, graph and charts. Some judges may not realise the magnitude of how important or devastating the problem is that you are trying to solve until you give them some statistics.
  2. Simplify. Take away as much as you can, simplify the information output. You developers may want to show every single feature you've built, this makes your presentation long and boring. Show them the core points, how users would interact with your software, what is the core benefit of using the software. No need to explain every item on the settings page, no need to show them the 5 different ways you can filter a list. Let the UI speak for itself. No need to explain an algorithm, instead tell them how it solves the problem.
  3. Animations to depict concepts are good. Is your concept hard to explain? Bring along a short video or animation to help you tell your story.
  4. Practise good communication skills. Body language and tone are more important than your words. You need to make yourself and your team likeable. Unless you are presenting something super innovative like a mind reader, chances are the judges are buying into you and not so much the software. There is a great pod-cast series called `The Public Speaker's Quick and Dirty Tips for Improving Your Communication Skills` that should help you.
  5. Be prepared. Practise! Practise with your whole team, video it, watch it back, get feedback from your peers. Use your 15 minutes wisely. (this does not mean that if you can tell your story in 10, you should drag it out to 15). Try not to read, do not read from the slide, a paper or anything, you should know your software and be able to just freely talk about it using your script guidelines.
  6. Present to peers, let them do a QA. This way you get an idea what questions judges will ask you. If you can, try to cover these questions during the presentation.

Fail-proof your Presentation

Now most of you will not have rigorous quality assurance for your software (unit, integration tests). Your software is prone to crash, and judges don’t like to see a crashed software then sitting and watching you guys panic and fumble around for a few minutes. I’ve seen whole presentations go to shambles because of this.

  1. Back-up machine. Back-up your software and presentation materials on a separate and ready to go machine. If your first machine goes down, it takes 10 seconds to swap out the monitor cables and get going again.
  2. Back-up data. Ensure you have a standard set of data in your system that you have used and tested with. Restore to this data after every presentation.
  3. Screen shot or video your software demo. This is a fail-safe procedure if your software crashes. Bring up the image of what should be on the software and explain it. Have a team-mate dedicated to getting the system back up while you present using the images then switch back over to software demo seamlessly.
  4. Pre-fill forms. Do you have forms that accept data? Don't type it, add an invisible button or keystroke to pre-fill this form with the data you require.


After doing a web search for other blogs like this, I came across a similar and informative post by  here :