We’ve gotten really, really, really good at pitching Contactually, in every potential situation.
It’s been an amazing ride watching the meteoric rise of the DC Tech Meetup. As one of the founding organizers it’s uplifting to see so many people come out to see the latest startups pitch their wares, and hopefully get a chance to present their own. We’ve had the chance to have demos representing every stage of a startup’s timeline – from nascent idea, to private beta, to early stage, to growth, to major company. As a growing tech hub, which is in the “awkward teenager” phase compared to the more established regions of NY and the valley, earlier companies are much more prominent in our lineup. This doesn’t affect the quality of the presentations though, as the meetup stage forms an even playing field; the presenter(s), a projected image, and a microphone.
We’ve been witness to demos of all forms, with a vast range in quality. Video-only demos, slide decks, costumes, scriptedÂ conversations, and more. Some are jaw-dropping, with the entire audience sold on their product. Some are terrible, dismissed and forgotten halfway through their droning presentation. Most of course fall in the middle – solid demos, some audience attention, and at least name recognition and an interest in checking out the site. You can easily look through the Twitter stream of a meetup to get a measure of the pitches – the good ones getting tweets and retweets, and the worst ones getting nothing, as everyone is thumbing through their phone.
Rather than rehash anecdotes of terrible pitches, I’ve collected a series of best practices, extracted from the best demos.
- Keep it short – Beyond wanting to fit in multiple demos, there’s a good reason we keep demos to just a few minutes. With attention spans dwindling, you’re racing against the clock before they lose interest and start flipping around on twitter. You may think the audience needs you to run over an extra two minutes – but you don’t. They don’t care, by that point. Beyond losing their interest, it’s now become obvious that you’re the jackass who has no respect for other presenters.
- Get the pitch out, fast – Lead in with what you do, and why they should care (the all-important “value proposition”). The audience is going to decide within the first few seconds whether they are going to be engaged or not.
- Show your product – The audience wants to see magic happen on screen, live. Compared to actually seeing the interface and value proposition unfold on stage, your video and your powerpoint **SUCK**. If you or your VP of Marketing thinks that a static file does a better job than your actual product… might want to rethink things.
- But show what matters – They don’t need to see your WHOLE product. Give them a taste. Show them just enough to want to explore it on their own.
- Be horizontal – Only some percentage of the audience is in your target market. Whether that’s 9% or 99%, make it clear who it’s for, pitch to them, but also give everyone else enough of an understanding as to the need, and why you’re going to crush it (a physics simulator for kids ranks among my favorite demos).
- Optimize for sharing – For a few minutes, you’ve captured the attention of a crowd of early adopters with a respectable twitter following, and the #dctech hashtag is yours. What do you want them to say? What’s your twitter handle?
- Next steps – Just as your home page, you have to end with a call to action. Make it clear what you want them to do at the end of the presentation – how do they sign up? Where do they go?
- Practice – Over, and over, and over again.
- HAVE FUN – This is your chance, enjoy it. Maybe throw in a joke or two.
Are you ready?