With their usual North Suburban Regional Conference canceled due to the pandemic, DECA sponsors —including business teachers Bob Bollweg, Brittany Sievers, and Melissa Duffy— hosted a local conference for their area in order for students to compete.
DECA is the business and marketing club that prepares emerging entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. Over 60 students competed in the four Principle Events — Principles of Marketing, Finance, Hospitality & Tourism, Business Management. Students in each area completed a cluster exam of 100 questions and were given a business case study and 10 minutes to prepare a solution. Bollweg said the conference was a success.
“The students were engaged. Everybody who signed up showed up at their time slot. One of my favorite parts of the conference was our judges. Typically we’ll have business and community members judge the conference, but for this conference we were able to bring on former DECA students and alumni who are either at college or at home. It was great that Zoom allowed them to be there,” he said.
Even though the conference was over Zoom, students still found it to be valuable. Senior Josh Radner, one of the presidents of the school’s DECA team, thought that the conference was simulated well.
“You’re still in front of a judge, but just on Zoom. We still dressed up, which is another big part of DECA because you get into this business attire and feel like you’re in a professional environment,” Radner said. “It’s obviously not the same, but it was definitely something worth doing, and I’m really glad we did it.”
Freshman Victoria Wenzke said that although she would have loved to have her first competition in person, she found the experience to be worthwhile over Zoom too.
“I had a lot of fun at the virtual conference, and I thought it was very organized and easy to navigate,” she said.
Over the next few weeks, DECA will be competing in the virtual Illinois Career State Development Conference. Typically for the individual event, students get 10 minutes to prepare and then have a 10 minute presentation. Now, participants get the prompt for 10 minutes and then they have to upload a video within 90 minutes.
This difference in competitions, creates a new layer of skill students need — technological savvy that goes into recording and uploading videos. Junior Ava Shah is on the leadership team that consists of 12 students. She said the difficult part about being in virtual settings for competitions are all the things that can now go wrong.
“I am not a tech wizard so just being able to understand how to troubleshoot in situations where technology isn’t working has been a huge challenge,” she said.
To prepare students for the upcoming competitions, the sponsors of the club are being thoughtful about giving students ideas.
“I know that each individual sponsor is meeting with students on Zoom and working with them individually on presentation skills in a virtual setting. And we’ve adapted some of our meetings and some of our competitions to prepare for the virtual conference as well,” Bollweg said.
There are about 30 different events that range from finance, marketing, to automotives. This is why Radner and the other student leaders are helping their teams practice or roleplay specifically for their event. Not only have they done individual practices, the school team also prepares the group as a whole.
“We’ve done a few practice tests as a group and we do Kahoots. We’ve talked about how you want to present yourself when you’re talking with a judge,” Radner said.
Indeed, the club members have said these preparations are helpful. Wenzke said that she learns about different topics every week.
“Sometimes we play games to learn business terminology, and sometimes we discuss as a group what it means to be a leader or work in smaller groups to come up with business ideas. I learned a lot of new terms and practiced my presentation skills,” she said.
Radner said that the virtual competition will be less nerve-wracking than a typical DECA competition.
“I think it honestly could be a good way to step into the competition because you have a 90-minute slot. That’s under a lot less time constraint,” he said.
Other students agreed with Radner. Shah said that although she is nervous about the 90 minutes to complete a 10-minute video presentation, she thinks it will ultimately be less stressful.
“You have the ability to spend more time on the actual presentation aspect that you will be submitting to the judges versus just on the fly presenting to a judge.”
Seeing how engaged students are in this virtual setting, Bollweg looks forward to the competitions.
“I’m really thankful that the students have the opportunity to compete,” said Bollweg. “I think they’re getting as much out of it as they can in a different year, and I’m excited to see how they perform. I think we’ll have a lot of success, and we’ll see in a month how it ends up.”