Another Saturday, another Demo Day, or at least that’s the way it seems sometimes.
It’s becoming a real chore to be interested and excited in some of the groups; it seems that there’s no qualification to who should be pitching or when…
For instance, if you don’t have a working demo of your product/website/app/idea, you probably shouldn’t be pitching it. It doesn’t matter how fanciful your ideas are, how lofty your ambitions may be, if you can’t actually show a group of people (especially when there are VCs and successful business people spending their weekends judging your pitch) something, ANYTHING, that has enough shape and form to at least indicate the possible merit of either your idea or yourself as a visionary, then stay at home and work on it until you have a tangible presentation.
Remember, this idea doesn’t have to be the perfect idea, or the finished product, or even an idea that is scalable. It should, however, demonstrate your ability to cull together a slide deck with clear examples and at the least, a mission statement. Lean may be all the rage, but let’s not forget that lean does generally include a minimum viable product for a reason. Unless your idea is an oxygen bar, no one is buying the air you are selling.
The basic premise behind a demo or pitch session is to get feedback on your idea, be it positive or negative, to gain experience in learning how to pitch a product, and discovering what types of questions and comments will be thrown your way as you trot down the yellow brick road to funding.
Don’t take it personally if no one likes your idea.
Do take it personally if you cannot explain your idea, answer questions about the target demographic, monetization potential, distribution issues and so forth. If you haven’t prepared, aren’t ready or can’t answer the easy questions, how will you deal with the hard ones when there is money on the line?
Practice your pitch. Time your presentation. Get a friend, relative, whoever to critique you in advance, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience in crafting and delivering a pitch. Take their comments to heart. If they don’t understand your concept, be able to explain it to them quickly and concisely in a few sentences.
If you have supporting figures, create slides that are clear and to the point. I once made the mistake of using an infographic as my only presentation piece at a conference talk I was giving. Why was it a mistake? The idea was super, the conference was about emerging media and I was trying to make it simple by keeping it to one piece of collateral. The execution left a bit to be desired since the audience spent their time looking at my infographic instead of focusing on my pathway through it.
You never know who is in the audience when you are pitching – it could be potential co-founders, investors, advertisers, someone that might be a valuable resource professionally or personally down the road. Don’t blow it by being unprepared.