Most accelerator programs have some form of demoday. Their version of a graduation. The audiences for this event can vary significantly. Regardless of the audience, here are a few things you can do before, during and after to ensure your company gets the most out of it.
Practice Practice Practice Your Public Pitch. I am not someone who will memorize a speech or words for the sake of it. I create a map of what I want to say, and ensure that there is a clear story. For Beagle's demoday at Microsoft Ventures, I flipped the sequence of two slides two hours ahead. Because I kept practicing, and found the story was just not crisp.
Make Your Deck Clean, and Flat. Remember that the audience is going to be drowned in pitches. They will naturally remember images, pictures, and messages that are clean, easy to see, and instill a feeling of comfort, and professionalism. No more than 4 colours, no smaller than a 32 font, no more than 3 lines a word. The deck is supporting you, it is not leading you. Be very careful, if not try to avoid, stock art. Especially faces, as the picture may draw unintended associations. Everything from micro-expressions, to race, gender, age. If you have custom fonts, make sure you have them with you for the AV person on demo day. Always have a backup font if they refuse to allow you to use your fonts.
Don't Give a Live Demo. Avoid anything internet dependent. Do not give a live demo. Instead use Quicktime to screen capture you doing a demo, and talk through it. Bring the video with you on a USB key (with your fonts, and your deck) and ensure it is embedded properly. Set the Keynote/PowerPoint to automatically play when the slide is activated.
Be Prepared to Present and Mingle. Have business cards, one pager of information printed and ready to go, a clear sign with your brand, website, twitter address and email address. Have the ability to demonstrate your wares. If it is SaaS based, Microsoft Surface tablets, and iPads are fantastic to bring your story to the crowd. There is a great chance to pre-mingle. Warm people up to what you are going to say, get them interested to pay attention to your story.
Grab a Quiet Space and Visualize. Before you get on stage, grab yourself a quiet spot, even outside, and walk very slow, shoulders tall and talk through your pitch in a controlled manner. Visualize the audience listening intently. Visualize the audience having a great time, with positive energy, and latching onto your key words. The stage is yours, and you will own it in a commanding manner.
Cadence and Timing is Key. All great speakers have one thing in common. They have exceptional cadence and timing. You want to start with a commanding opening, that sets the tone, with a huge smile on your face and your hands raised. It gives instant trust. You are not hiding anything, and you are embracing their attention. From there, you have set the tone, and now you use a calm cadence to walk the audience through your story.
Interact With the Crowd. There are a number of ways to do this. The best way is to look at one person in the middle of the crowd and tell them your sentence. Move to another and tell them. When people see in your eyes that you are connecting, it build authenticity and trust. If you pace it out properly, most of the audience will think you have addressed them personally. Other ways to get the crowd involved is with a small bit of self humour. "Who really wants to do xyz anymore? I don't", "There I was working on something that my mom knows I am not that good at." It is a fine line, however a tiny bit of humour based self deprecation is never a bad idea.
Complete Your Thoughts. Um's Ah's Eh's Em's, So's are filler. They do nothing but provide an auditory clue that you are thinking, or your thoughts are incomplete. If you speak with a slower purpose, and ensure that every sentence has one point to be delivered, you will drastically cut down on the fillers. Having a slight pause, with great eye contact is far more powerful than a litany of um's and ah's. You are not a startup... you are a company.
Have a Call To Action. Go to this site, and here is your promo code. Email us @ to get exclusive access. Tweet us @ fo a chance to win.. Whatever it is, have a clear call to action, and ensure that last slide stays up for at least 30 seconds. Even say.. "I got 40 seconds left, so everyone pick up your phone, and send us a tweet, email, etc" --- but do not....... ask for money.
Don't Ask For Money. Sounds strange I know, but it is illegal. Unless you can verify that all the attendees in the room are investors, you could be in securities violation. Say things like. "We have capital and hiring objectives over the next few months to achieve our targets" Never say a dollar amount, or that you are "raising". I did not ask for money, yet an Angel investor in the crowd, came up to me and told me I should not have asked for money, and we should know better. I didn't even do it! She got me confused with someone else.
Own The Applause. You want to be there, the crowd has given you an applause, don't leave the stage like you just ate a bad meal. Enjoy it, and make key eye contact preferably with people you have warmed up ahead of time.
Have a 30 Second Pitch. Most people will not recognize you or know what your company does after all the pitches are done. There is usually libations, and people will imbibe rather than listen. So have a 20 or 30 second pitch hammered down. Have your material handy, cards etc. And you deliver the pitch by asking who people are, what they do, how they enjoyed the pitches, any favourites, etc.
Oooze Gratitude. Everyone from the accelerator, to the venue, to the attendees, to the fellow cohort companies, need gratitude. This is not a competition. This is one step in the around the world journey, and showing compassion and gratitude for those who have helped, directly or indirectly, will go a long way.
Work the Crowd. Target to be the last company there. Sure you want to go celebrate, which you will do after you have cleaned out the room. You want to be remembered, and you do that by being proactive, talking with people. Have one person ALWAYS at your table, and the others should never be together. Your goal is to talk to everyone there.
Follow Up. So all that hard work, now it is the grind of following up. Do it. Even if it is a thank you note. Make sure all those contacts end up on your mailing list, and you categorize them. LinkedIN strategic people, and customize your invitation message to them. I accept 99% of LinkedIN requests that have a relevant message to me about why they are asking to connect.
Demoday is a fantastic opportunity to force your message, ensuring you understand product market fit, your solution, your team, and the problem you are solving. Learn from the process more than the actual day. You will never be perfect, so as you work hard through practicing, always be receptive to teaks, and adjustments. You don't need to love you pitch.... the audience does.
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Best of luck!