如果演示乏味，即便是金点子，能够治好全世界最严重的绝症，听众可能也会无动于衷。“我们当时似乎让评委不时地惊叹，”TNG Pharmaceuticals的首席执行官詹尼•考宾称，他们是去年的冠军、来自路易斯维尔大学（University of Louisville）的团队。“他们感叹的是产品的粗糙。但我们最后让他们露出了笑容。”TNG推介的是一种可解决角蝇之害的牛疫苗，角蝇每年给养牛业造成的损失高达10亿美元左右。
Sure, you may have a brilliant business idea that could very well change your industry, maybe even the world some day. But, as plenty of budding entrepreneurs learned Thursday at Rice University's Business Plan Competition, a solid idea alone will not win you much in praise, prizes, or, most importantly, investment.
On the first day of Rice's competition, which is widely touted as the largest and richest of all business plan competitions, a panel of previous years' winners and finalists gathered to discuss what it actually takes to win the top prize. As it turns out, the ideal qualities in a successful business plan competition team are not all that different from those you'd want to see in any solid business group. Here are a few highlights that emerged from their conversation:
Razzle and dazzle them
Even a profitable solution to some of the world's most serious ills can fall on deaf ears if the presentation falls flat. "We seemed to make the judges 'ooh' and 'aah,'" said Jenny Corbin, CEO of TNG Pharmaceuticals, last year's winning team from the University of Louisville. "'Aah' over the grossness of our product. And then we made them laugh." TNG pitched a cattle vaccine that tackled the vicious horn fly, a pest that costs the cattle industry around $1 billion a year.
So, whether it's by showing off that shining personality of yours or coming up with a slick (yet meaningful) presentation, keep your audience on their toes.
Get to know your judges
In between your formal pitches, speak with the judges who have set aside the time to spend a few days and seriously consider your business ideas. "The most important thing in this competition is meeting the judges and being in that environment," said Gautam Gandhi, whose medical device and patient safety startup Clearcount won Rice's competition in 2004. "Before I even presented, I met every judge and they knew a little bit about the company." Gandhi, who is a judge at this year's competition, is currently at Google (GOOG), leading the tech giant's new business development projects in India.
Competition judges are often leaders in their respective industries and even if you don't go home with a prize in hand, you will still have several valuable contacts if you put in the effort to get to know them.
Take the criticism with a smile
Accepting criticism, especially in front of an audience of several strangers, is never fun. But that's precisely what many business people do every day; they sell their ideas and their products, often to skeptical strangers. So get used to taking it like a champ. "Look at the critical questions from the judges as them giving you the opportunity to validate what you just said," advised Darren Olson, CEO of RhoMania, an iPad wine menu app startup and a finalist at Rice's competition last year. "Do not lose your cool."
But it's also wise to bear in mind that each judge, as with any potential investor, has her own view of what makes a solid business plan, and judges may not always agree with each other. "At some point, the feedback [will] contradict. So don't listen too much," said Nicholas Seet, whose startup Auditude won the competition in 2004 (Adobe (ADBE) acquired part of Auditude's business in November 2011 for around $120 million). " You have to go and see for yourself what's true and what's not."