The DEMO conference, held each year in Silicon Valley, has been home to many successful product launches over the last decade. I was honored to be in attendance this last week in Santa Clara and it did not disappoint. For those who aren’t familiar with DEMO, it’s an event where scores of startups have 6 minutes to present their product on stage. At the end, a few awards are given to winners voted by a panel of investors and journalists. The trip was actually the winning prize from the SURF Incubator pitch competition we won in June. Before I go any further I want to publicly thank SURF Incubator for the opportunity and I hope we represented you well.
Although we didn’t present or pitch on stage I definitely had a great time. Here’s Ray Kurzweil speaking on what he see’s as the future of technology. Things are about the get crazy cool and I’m very glad I was sitting there that day!
The event – one I won’t forget for a number of reasons – was notable, tiresome, and educational. We spoke with a number of other startups and were shocked at how strong our pitch has become, even to other entrepreneurs. It’s pretty cool to see others grasping your concept and actually wanting to use it themselves and integrate within their offering. The trip in itself was very travel intensive, which takes its toll on you mentally and physically. We spent way too many hours on public transportation, that’s for sure. But the biggest thing that stuck with me was how much you can learn by just observing people. As I closely watched the presenters, I noticed a few things that I feel are not covered enough in the media, lessons us “early stage” founders desperately need. I realized by following a few simple principles any founder can successfully demo their product and impress an audience.
The truth is, as an attendee watching all the DEMO’s you get quite restless and bored. This is natural when you are indoors seeing 75 companies parading across the stage throughout the two-day event. As a presenter, you must understand people are drawn into passionate communicators and distaste anything boring or monotone. I watched most of the presentations during the event, and I was struck with how many presenters lacked expressive passion for their concept and cause. They might have had some really cool tech but I wouldn’t have know it by how little they expressed their excitement. Maybe they were nervous or something, but for whatever reason they did not positively influence me on what they were trying to DEMO.
To me, as an attendee, if the presenter did not elicit belief and passion as they spoke about their product, I tuned out. It became background noise and monotone distraction to me and my iphone. You think I am alone? Occasionally I would glance around to the crowd only to see most attendees face lit up with some sort of device in front of them. This is something all presenters should not overlook. Today, you need to give people a reason NOT to grab their phone and play with it. The best presenters were passionate in the right way, and helped me become passionate about their concept, albeit even for just a few minutes. It’s notable to mention EVERY award winner passed my passion test.
In addition to passion, presenters must employ a great deal of poise when on stage in front of hundreds of people. This is challenging yet probably the most important aspect of public speaking. Face it, people are very superficial and if a presenter doesn’t come across comfortable, collected and confident the audience will immediately judge negatively.
The presenters that most impressed me were the ones that came across the most comfortable, confident and collected. In a word, they were very poised onstage. They told me, through their non-verbal cues, “I am the expert on this subject at the moment one the one you should be listening to. Our market leading product is one you definitely need to check out.”
Unfortunately, a few of the presenters actually froze on stage and forgot what they were going to say. This is not a good outcome, especially when being onstage in front of investors and media could result in great fortunes for you and your company. The result, for me as an attendee, was I didn’t really understand what they were doing (in addition to feeling really uncomfortable). The result for them, probably very little investment leads. Whatever it takes, speakers must get prepared!
Great product demo’s lead the audience on a journey of discovery into insights and personally useful information. If not, it’s a waste of six minutes of a person’s time and attention (yes, this is what we all are thinking). The successful demos all encorporated concepts or illustrations that instantly became relevant to me and others in the room. One of the startups, StressFriend, has released an app plus wristwatch called Bandu that monitors your current level of stress and displays it in real time on the smartphone app. Not only that, it maps my stress areas on an interactive map so I can see where I am stressed and where I’m calm. It’s awesome, and something our society really needs so we can all just chill out! During their demo, they actually had a drill sergeant come out from behind the stage, yelling and screaming in the face of one of their team members in the audience. On the big screen, they showed his stress levels changing in real time. Indeed, they were one of the award winners. The relevance here is obvious; we all are stressed, we all hate raging people and we all felt it at that moment. They brought it home! You gotta believe very few people in the room were messing around on their phone or tablet during their presentation.
Winning pitch competitions can be the difference between gaining media attention and millions of investment dollars… or not. It doesn’t have to be that difficult, you just need to follow a few major principles. First be a passionate communicator so the audience feels you and your cause. Second, be confident and have poise on stage in front of the crowd. Lastly, no matter your product you need to present a story in which everyone can relate. These three simple things will go a long way to help with your next demo and hopefully launch your startup successfully.
SURF TV welcomes Steve Seow, an Architect Evangelist at Microsoft who facilitates entrepreneur and developer support through the BizSpark program.
About BizSpark: Microsoft BizSpark is a global program that helps software startups succeed by giving the access to Microsoft software development tools, connecting them with key industry players, including investors, and providing marketing visibility to help entrepreneurs starting a business.
About SURF Incubator: SURF aggregates community support to provide digital entrepreneurs with subsidized office space, educational sessions, networking events, business and technical resources, and access to a network of advisers, investors, and corporate partners.
1:50 On the Bizspark program “We give access to most of our software for free to our startups.”
2:11 “There may be times when another startup that may want to collaborate with another startup in the bizspark program. So we try to bridge that conversation.
3:20 “I connect with the starups and the institutions that empower these startups, and see how we can help.”
4:00 On the seattle startup ecosystym “Seattle clearly has set the bar, we have incubators like SURF, a vibrant starup community, we have very creative people.”
5:55 On Windows 8 events “We’re going to think about how to do more of these events and help these starups tap into the huge Windows 8 ecosystem”
Steve Seow, Architect Evangelist
Produced by Tim Reha @timreha at New Media Synergy
SURF Incubator has teamed up with CloudMine to bring Backend-as-a-Service for deploying mobile and web apps to SURF startups. CloudMine’s platform is the fast, secure way to deploy apps and scale them on demand. Forget about infrastructure hurdles and repetitive development tasks – everything but the design is taken care of whether you have 1 user or 1 Million.
An example iOS app build using CloudMine
CloudMine’s service works across all platforms from iOS and Android, to HTML5 for making rich web applications. Their developer ecosystem supports a range of engineering talent building everything from social photo sharing apps to tools running on medical education point-of-care devices.
SURF is excited to offer this benefit to resident startups. Instead of monotonous maintenance and deployment tasks, developers now have the freedom to focus on creating compelling designs and beautiful interactions. Check out CloudMine’s website for a deeper dive in to all aspects of their service and dive right in to launching your app.
EXTRA! EXTRA! CloudMine will provide Pyramid Brews and food at SURF’s next happy hour on Thursday, September 20th. They will be conducting a webinar to show off their service and how it can eliminate common deployment and scaling issues.
SURF TV welcomes Talk to the Manager’s founder, John Washam and Director of Business Development, Jeremy Luby.
1:30 “The difference in one star in an online review can be plus or minus a 9% conversion rate” -Jeremy
3:55 “This place just had a crazy amount of buzz…” -Jeremy
5:50 “Seattle’s got it all and SURF is the nexus of where things are happening. Where the next big companies are going to come out of.” – John
6:50 “Our network has just exploded because anybody we don’t know, somebody here knows, and can point us to them.” -Jeremy
8:15 “If you are in the ideation stage and you have an idea and you think it’s great and you don’t know how to turn it into a business I would definitely suggest Founders Institute.” – Jeremy
9:45 “Ask for some love and you will get lots of love” – John
About Talk to the Manager: Receive and respond to immediate, anonymous customer comments by text message. Increase your brand loyalty and boost your customer reviews!
About SURF Incubator: SURF aggregates community resources to sponsor technology startups by providing subsidized office space, educational sessions, social events, and business and technical services within a community of aspiring entrepreneurs.
A big thank you to Tim Reha @timreha at New Media Synergy