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Why Are We Talkin' About Practice?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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An athlete is not automatically ready to perform at their highest level when they arrive at the stadium. A chess player doesn't automatically become a grandmaster once they pick up a chess piece. No, they do not realize what their best is until they work to get better.

With practice.

In high school, marketing and advertising students are able to compete against each other in international organizations like DECA, FBLA, and the like; they're able to put what they are learning in the classroom into practice. Each year, each tournament, these students improve on their skills and apply the knowledge they hopefully plan on retaining.

In college, the process is the same. Organizations like PRSSA, AAF (Student), Ad Club, and Pi Sigma Epsilon (marketing) host competitions and mock campaign trials for students studying the practice to apply what they learn. It is the perfect complement to the theoretical lessons we all have learned in school. These bright, driven students get to practice.

But once we reach the pinnacle — AdLand itself — there is no real practice field.

Once a sprinter reaches the Olympics, they do not stop practicing. Even a personal trainer must maintain their credentials by getting Continuing Education Units (CEUs). 

Why doesn't that apply to our "practice?"

No, instead of trying to improve our trade, we dump money into award ceremonies and galas to celebrate the "work" we've done for clients. Instead, our industry clamors for more talent and creativity, yet we refuse to figure out ways to expand our own.

Why don't we create an avenue for us to compete? To practice by sharpening our wits inside AdLand's walls? Yes, let's call the actual act of competing for business and clients the playing field, and our own bumping of heads practice. If we can improve each other, can we not also see how our improvement will better the work we do for clients? And would the practice and competition addition justify even more the cost and value of the work we do?

If this process cannot be implemented externally (yet), we would encourage large shops to try this internally. Create mock campaigns and proposals and have your teams go at it. Rate them on a rubric and help them improve. Though there may be a winner named that week, or for that case, the overall goal is that everyone practices their skill.

A little practice doesn't hurt anyone.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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