Chairman's Presentation Themes

Hi all,

Our team is starting to begin writing our chairman’s essays, shooting our video, and thinking about our presentation. We have never done a chairman’s submission, so we need help.

For our presentation, what kind of themes have worked, and what do you recommend talking about within a presentation? We were thinking of the theme of “building a STEM inspired community” as our theme, and dressing up like contractors. Does that sound alright?

Also, any tips on essays or executive summaries, videos, and other presentation advice is much appreciated!

Here is our full Chairman’s submission from last year. The theme was “We Are”. PM me and I’d love to talk in more specificity as to what you need.

In the past two years I’ve been on my team, we’ve generally tried to relate our theme somewhat to the theme of the game (and are planning to continue this for 2018!). Last year, both our essay and presentation were centered around the different “gears” that Team Dave interacts with such as our students, our mentors, mentors, elementary school students, generally community, etc. (which of course tied into the steampunk theme).

It’s not a necessity to do this, but I find it can be an easy way to focus in on how you want to organize your ideas in any or all methods :] For the record though, I do think you have a solid theme idea. I’d suggest adding another analogy or two that you can relate pieces of your community outreach to (perhaps something about how events you have done are bricks in your “structure” of your community?)

Events/initiatives to start/mentor/encourage other FIRST teams/STEM in the region (or beyond!!) are pretty big, IMO. Seven minutes might seem like a long time for a presentation, but when you get into the presentation room, it seems to fly by! You have room in your essay to mention most or all of your outreach, but your presentation should highlight those with the greatest impact (if you’re looking for a metric, # of people impacted or geographical area affected are good places to start.)

And as always, look at what winning teams have done (in terms of theme, content, and execution!) As a Canadian, I’ll suggest you take a look at 1114’s site:

Good luck this season!

I’d personally argue that the “theme” stage is the toughest stage for Chairman’s. What works as a “theme” for teams varies greatly in the FIRST community.

I would suggest discussing with your team a “theme” or over-arching idea/phrase/word that represents your team to the fullest extent. It can be a team mission statement or some other power statement that brings your team’s efforts to light. “Building a STEM-inspired community” is a good start, just make sure that you are able to solidly back that concept up with evidence (i.e. all of the topics you wish to discuss in your overall submission are woven together with that theme).

I’m not going to tell you what’s right and what’s wrong because those don’t really exist. It’s really just what works for your program. That idea will become more developed with more submission experience.

As soon as you have decided to focus on some “theme”, you will really need thorough planning so that you are setting yourself up for success in submission. Plan it out: outlines, proposals, documents. Planning then execution is key.

Examples are great, so I encourage you to check them out, especially from most recent winners at the Championship level (linked here). However, do be conscious of what works and doesn’t work for your team (outreach-wise, logistics-wise, layout-wise, etc.). The example links are there to hopefully spark some ideas.

I hope this was somewhat helpful. Good luck!

There are a lot of great resources on that page; I suggest that any team competing for the Chairman’s Award goes through all of them.

Here’s a presentation that myself and 1114 been giving for a few years about the Chairman’s Award and the submission process. There’s a section dedicated to themes:


Themes are useful because they provide an easy way to unify an essay/presentation than sometimes contains a large amount disparate content. On the other side, a theme that is not executed well, can feel forced and cause the reader/viewer to cringe. If you do choose a theme, the team needs to buy into it and it has to feel natural, especially in the presentation.

Themes also provide the opportunity to make your essay/presentation more memorable; when possibly competing with dozens of teams for the attention of the judges, not blending in to the crowd is critical. Of course, so many teams theme their presentations similarly, by using a theme that isn’t particularly creative you might end up falling into the exact trap you were trying to avoid. (i.e. many generic themes and formats end up sounding exactly the same.)

Our Chairman’s process usually goes like this:

We plan out the theme for the essay/chairman’s submissions overall, and then pick 3-4 subsections or “buckets” to group the things we want to talk about within the essay. Here is last year’s essay and executive summary.

We try to connect our theme to the presentation and video. Often, the hardest part is actually choosing which theme to center our submissions around, but if you start early on your submissions you still have the ability to switch things around. If you haven’t finished your essay/executive summary I’d suggest working on those first, and then working on the presentation because you tend to get a bigger idea as to which direction you’d wanna go for the presentation after you’re done with the essay/executive summary. Plus, you have the ability to work on the presentation longer than you can work on the essay/executive summary.

If you’d like any help reading over your submissions, feel free to reach out to me. I’d be happy to help in any way. I wish you the best of luck this season!!

All of our early presentations had very fantastical themes like Dr. Seuss and Wizard of Oz. At the time, they did give some order to the presentation and materials, and I’m sure they helped us stand out.

We transitioned into a professional presentation style (with sign boards). I don’t know the details of this entirely, but I can guess that themes became a little tedious to develop fully without being over the top. And I would think that a theme can sometimes seem like a crutch for not having enough content in the presentation on the team’s output. We moved on to a more hard-hitting numbers driven presentation that probably better reflected all we doing. To be memorable, we try to pick a time slot either at the beginning or end and never before lunch.

I will say that this style has grown stale for us too. Our last award was 4 years back. The presentation style isn’t the major reason, but being able to convey your team story in an authentic way that is engaging for the judges I think helps when they have a few to decide between.

More than anything, the output of your team should stand out. This is the really difficult part because you have to have something worthwhile to say. Did you do outreach? Did you get more involvement for STEM in your school? Did you help create more STEM opportunities for lower levels (FLL, FTC, camps)? Did you raise community awareness? Did you get more students, women, and underprivileged people involved? Was your reach local, regional, and/or global? Did you do Dean’s Homework? At least on our team, we’ve known that some things that would be helpful for Chairman’s were going to be difficult. In some cases because of the amount of manpower (not a big team), the expense (not a big budget), or for other reasons we’ve been less successful with it (like curriculum change, especially during school funding woes). There is enough evidence that you can be a good Chairman’s award candidate without some of the harder to accomplish things. There are usually many ways to inspire STEM and to help the FIRST community that don’t take many resources and little teams have won before. Advice during SPAM’s presentation to not worry about the team down the road and to do what you can do applies here and is something we’ve reiterated this year thinking about our activities.

Lastly, I was going to mention the themes that aren’t so overt. Like “we build people”. I think these can be good to organize around and to think about how the activities over the last couple years fit underneath that idea. It may help you to write cohesively and to be able to weave all the things you are doing together. On the con side, they tend to be even more cliche than the literary themes, so you have to be careful to pick something that really works with your team and not just a cookie-cutter theme. In the end, the content will make you shine, but a simple theme can help to tie things together in a way that judges will remember that you’ve started 20 local robot camps when they think about your “camp robot” theme, rather than them wondering how the theme and content fit together.

Theming can be thought of in different ways. Are you talking about the format in which you tell your story or the central message?

We generally focus on content first, organizing the content into a logical format for each aspect of the submission - essay, presentation, video. The central message of the submission, generally comes out of working with the content.

We try to make sure the way we present our material or tell our story is memorable. After judging at numerous FIRST LEGO League events, we discovered how quickly you can forget a team or confuse them, no matter how impressive. There is so much information - the team name, team number, costumes and information conveyed… they can start to blend together surprisingly quickly.

If you can tie your presentation to your team’s image in some way, you can help the judges correlate your message of what you have accomplished with your team name.

Our imagery provides a few opportunities. In the past we have used both the pig and the rocket.

Here is a link to our 2017 essay:

You can find several of our videos on our youtube account.

We also presented a chairman’s workshop a few times, that you are welcome to review.

I highly recommend practicing in front of numerous audiences for their input on what is working and what does not.

Feel free to DM me if you have specific questions.

Before we start with a theme, we try and describe every different thing we want to talk about in our essay (outreach projects, sponsor relations, alumni, FIRST support) as it’s own paragraph and we pull a common theme from there. This helps us create a cohesive narrative from what we’ve already written. This is usually the hardest part for us because this is where we have to be the most creative.

Then we take our theme from the essay and magnify it in the presentation. This could also be applied to the video.

Every team has a different way of doing things, I would work to see how you can best showcase the uniqueness and strengths of your own team. I would think about how your team operates and how you can best use that thought process to create your submission.

Best of luck and there is some really great advice in this thread.