Tips for demoing your company

Companies often get the chance to pitch their company or demo their product at events. These are short format (five minute) opportunities to get on stage and present. Here’s how to make the most of your session:

1. Don’t be broad and blunt – conferences will have potential partners, investors, acquirers, suppliers and customers in the audience. Think about which group you want to hit and tailor your content accordingly. VCs don’t want the sales pitch. Customers don’t want to hear about market potential. Ignore most of the audience – just talk to those you want to reach.

2. Practice makes progress – run through your presentation. And again. And again. Now in front of your coworkers. This will help your refine your pitch and make you comfortable with it. When the lights and cameras are on – you need to know your stuff. No time to read from your script when you’re called up.

3. Stick to time – you will probably only get five or six minutes. That’s not much time. Expect the organizer to switch off your mike once your time is up. If you are still in full flow, you might not get the important info across, like your contact details. By the same token, don’t wrap up early – it makes it look like you don’t have enough content.

4. Make it visual – if you are using Powerpoint, make sure the slide deck is professionally designed. Powerpoint is so ubiquitous that the basic templates are well-known. All the normal presentation requirements apply – keep it short and simple. Use props to break up the presentation. Even consider having two presenters to vary the focus of the session.

5. Beware the live demo – this introduces unknown factors. Demos fail. Perhaps the wireless network will be clogged. The elmo projector won’t focus. If you can record your demo and simply play it, all the better. If you absolutely must demo live, keep it short and be prepared to skip over it. Live demos also suck time since there are inevitably features you’ll want to highlight en route to the one you are showing.

6. Don’t give too much context – lead with what your company does, rather than market backdrop. By all means talk through the market dynamics but the purpose is for people to see the product or understand the company, rather than your understanding of the industry. Save that for the panel sessions and keynotes. Assume your audience knows as much or more than you.

7. Be energetic – enthusiasm is infectious.

8. Don’t ask for questions – it doesn’t fit in the format, you won’t have time to answer. This is a broadcast format and you want to keep to your agenda.

9. Tease – the real value of the spot is to get people to come to speak with you after the session. Give them a reason to by showing part of your product and eluding to future developments. Use the presentation as the start of a conversation which you can continue in the hallways later.

10. Entertain – demo sessions are often back to back. Make yours memorable and entertaining. Using a sense of humor can win over a tough audience. You want your presentation to be the one which people remember in your group. Ask yourself why they will.

  • Well said, and thank you for putting some tips out there. I feel this is one of the biggest challenges that start-ups face and it becomes a make you or break you situation.
    I have to give credit to Debbie Landa and Alison Murdock from IBDNetwork they have created a great presentation format with Under The Radar (http://www.ibdnetwork.com) that I would cite as a must do for any small start-up.
    Another reference is to take a look at The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki(http://www.artofthestart.com/?gclid=CJrT19Pu4YQCFUooJAodWBkMlA) it explains in idiot proof detail how to outline your slides and what content to keep and what to cut. Mike over at TechCrunch offered a good example as well of what a quality presentation looks like, http://www.demo.com/demonstrators/demo2006/63025.html

  • Thanks Julia – you’re the expert on this. Good pointers.

  • Tips for demoing your company

    Solid advice from Morgan on demos.
    Morgan McLintic on PR: Tips for demoing your company
    Also, check out this book Presenting to Win by Jerry Weissman for some good pointers.

  • These tips are a lot of help.Actually, there are rarely articles that really give very useful information as this one. Good work!