Much like a team from a marketing firm making its pitch to a potential client, each group of HFM PTECH students in Sandra Barkevich’s Principles of Business class took their turn this past week laying out their plan for boosting sales and customer satisfaction for Flooring Authority, one of the school’s business partners.
Though the COVID-19 school closure forced the group work and presentations to be done online, Barkevich embraced the change as a way for students to have to adapt to unexpected circumstances. “This is what businesses have had to do during the pandemic,” Barkevich said. “It’s a great example of how PTECH is right with the times.”
As each team member popped into the GoogleMeet space during their assigned meeting time, they introduced themselves to Rosalie Faber, business development manager for Flooring Authority. In line with the typical protocol for PTECH’s presentations, students dressed professionally to deliver their video-conference pitches.
One student from the group then shared their screen, going through a series of slides to show Faber computer sketches for a new showroom design, complete with images of creative ways to display the company’s many flooring samples.
Known as a “workplace challenge,” Barkevich used the project as an opportunity for students to demonstrate the marketing concepts they learned in class this year. Students looked up costs for the different elements of the showroom. They researched target markets and laid out social media strategies. Some groups made suggestions for improvements to the company’s website, and one created a month-by-month marketing plan for Faber, who followed up with questions and feedback.
Faber said with so much going on with the global health crisis, she wouldn’t have expected to continue with the plan for the project, which had been made months before the school closure. However, she was pleased Barkevich and her students were able to proceed. “This was a perfect example for the students to see how professionals have had to change how they work. It gave them the opportunity to see that all businesses had to shift, not just technology businesses,” Faber said.
One team of students made sure to incorporate curbside pickup in their plans for Flooring Authority. “We thought that including that would be most realistic right now,” student Alexa Savage said.
Barkevich said students are dealing with many factors as they do their school work from home, including having to babysit siblings, but they are engaging.
“At PTECH, many students have been active and participating and are proving that it can be done and done well,” Barkevich said. “But because teachers had to switch to remote instruction so quickly, we’ve been saying it’s like flying the plane while building it.”
The same could be said for the students, who also had to adapt to the new circumstances. “We’ve adjusted to the technology, but it is harder to work together,” student Sierrah Guyette said. One of her teammates on the project, Kirsten Draper, agreed.
“It’s difficult when we’re not in person to consistently give each other feedback,” Draper said.
Even after students return to the classroom, Barkevich said she will pull from this experience. “Understanding and knowing how to do an online presentation is going to be something I have students do going forward,” she said.
Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce Workforce Development Director Nicole Walrath also attended the presentations to give students feedback on their presentation skills. She said based on the success of the online sessions, she will likely look to incorporate more virtual connections between students and business partners into the school’s mentoring program.
“Our business partners’ time is valuable, and in-person mentoring isn’t always possible,” she said. “We are constantly looking for ways to adapt and find opportunities for mentoring, and this is a way to do it face to face but virtually.”