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Friday, July 27
by Maria Ploessl
At Minnestar, we have seen hundreds of great demos at Minnedemo, and several hundred more quality submissions. Whether you are looking to present at an upcoming Minnedemo, or demoing your product at a regional pitch competition, here are some tips to make your demo a smashing success.
Do your homework
Pitching in front of investors? Be sure to read up on who you are meeting with, other companies they have invested in, anything they specialize in, anticipate questions they might have, etc. If you are demoing at an event like Minnedemo, be sure to read up on the event, look up videos of previous presenters, check out some fan favorites, and review the Code of Conduct.
Know your audience
Are you demoing to a room full of developers? Pitching to investors? Or are you presenting at an event like Minnedemo, that attracts technical enthusiasts from all sorts of backgrounds? Knowing how to tailor your message for an audience is key to a successful demo – it allows you to gauge what information your listeners are looking for, and how much technical detail you can go deep on.
Another thing to think about is the theme of the event. Is the event a pitch night for startups of all kinds, or does it have an industry focus? Minnedemo, for instance, is all about MN-made tech – software, hardware, companies big, small, and solo. That means that the focus for this venue is not as much a sales pitch, but a demo of awesome working tech for tech enthusiasts. We are a geeky audience from all walks of life, and presenters walk a balance of being both highly technical and accessible. Make sure that you are keeping in mind your audience, and the focus of the event when crafting your demo.
Tell a story
Think about the best speakers you have heard, either at tech events, conferences, TED talks, you name it. Common thread? Chances are they are great storytellers. It’s proven to capture people’s attention, and it makes your demo more memorable. Have a great use case of your product? A compelling story of why (and how) you built it? Weave it into your narrative.
Pay attention to your language choices and work on making it inclusive. Avoiding phrases like ‘guys’ (when you actually mean people of all genders) goes a long way in making the entire audience feel included and a part of your story.
Show, don’t just tell
When you are presenting a demo of a tech product/project, this is key. Now, of course we want you to tell us all about your tech (see above) but SHOW us as you do it – walk us through your product or app, show us how it was built, all of the functionality that makes it awesome. You have limited time, so show off your coolest features (logins are cool and all, but let’s prioritize).
Don’t wait too long in the demo to show it either – jump right in. You’re demoing cool tech, we want to see it in action.
Be clear, concise, and focused
What is your product or service? What did you use to build it? What is the benefit or problem that it is looking to solve? How does your product or service address that need? You have a limited amount of time: think about the arc of your pitch – make sure it flows in a coherent way. At Minnedemo, presenters have 7 minutes to show their stuff – that is 7 minutes to introduce yourself, your product, talk about why it’s awesome, show off how it was built, key features, etc.
Expect (and prepare for) the unexpected
This is a live demo: things can (and sometimes do) go wrong. Demo fails happen – the important thing is to prepare for how you will navigate the demo in the event that something goes wrong. What will you do if the wifi goes down? If your hardware malfunctions? What if the location doesn’t have the adaptor you need, or there is a connection issue?
In a nutshell: be prepared, and stay calm. Ask ahead of time about any tech needs (and bring your own adaptors). Have a backup or local copy ready to go in case everything goes south. Set up Caffeine or another tool that prevents your computer from going to sleep or into screensaver mode after a period of inactivity. And have talking points prepared in the event something goes wrong.
At Minnedemo, our audience knows and loves the fact that all our demos are live – so things happen! There have been demos that have crashed, and the audience is still there rooting for you through it all. Since this can happen, the most important thing is to be prepared ahead of time ready to showcase if things go off the rails.
Practice, practice, practice
Practice with a trusted friend, with a colleague, in front of a mirror. Practice with someone who will give you honest and candid feedback. Video record yourself to monitor your time, your speed, your body language and your speaking. Practice several, several times. The more you practice, the better the flow, the more confident you will be (and, honestly, the better the presentation).
Last, but not least, another important note: have fun! Seriously a presenter’s enthusiasm is contagious. Often times, if you are having fun geeking out about your product, we are too.
If you are interested in applying to present at the upcoming Minnedemo, be sure to submit your application here: minnestar.org/minnedemo/apply-to-present.