Folks like David Hornik
and Guy Kawasaki
have put together good lists of how to present well at DEMO... and it was unfortunate that some of the presenters over the last two days clearly did not read those lists. Having been to a bunch of DEMOs at this point (and doing my own demo at Chris Shipley's other conference, BlogOn, a few months ago), I figured I'd add to the list -- perhaps with a few things that are more specific to this year's show:
- We get the problem, show us the solution: It's pretty common in creating a business plan to start out with a detailed description of the problem you're trying to solve. This makes sense in a business plan or when presenting to an audience who is completely unfamiliar with what you're doing -- but not so much in a demo at DEMO. Too many presenters wasted the first couple minutes detailing a "problem" that was probably widely understood already. Most people either understood the problem after a simple sentence -- or if they didn't, then your problem probably wasn't big enough to be interesting.
- Stuff happens, be able to adjust: If, say, your demo is based on a spoof of the TV show 24, and a couple demos before your demo another company also spoofs the show 24... at least figure out a way to throw in a joke about the coincidence.
- Just 'cause you say your product is great, that doesn't mean it is great: Dave Hornik has made this point a few times, but it's worth repeating. Saying your product is great is a poor substitute for showing a great product.
- Patents, schmatents -- show us products: My views on the problems with the patent system have been discussed at length, but no matter how I feel, discussing patents is a waste of time at DEMO. Everyone is here to see products, not to hear about how you're going to be in litigation with others because you think it's a wonderfully unique idea to hook up a USB cable to a musical instrument.
- Don't pretend what isn't new is new: Too many companies had what appeared to be "me too" products -- and demonstrated them as if they were the first and only ones to have such an offering. If your product is going to be compared to something else, show why it's different.
- Stand out: This is perhaps the toughest one, but you're competing against 70 or so other companies, and they do start to blend together. You have to have something to differentiate yourself. At DEMO you're not competing with your usual competition, but with the other presenters for the attention of the press and VCs. Have something in the demo that's memorable which attendees can point to ("oh, the one where the guy had the funky shoes...") to help people remember.
It's definitely tough to be on stage at one of these things, but considering how much value you can get out of those six minutes, it's sometimes disappointing to see some companies completely miss out on opportunities.