13 Ways To Pull Off A Killer Demo Day Presentation

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13 Ways To Pull Off A Killer Demo Day Presentation


 There are over a hundred seed accelerators in the world and many more are popping up every year. In New York City, there are going to be 6 more this summer on top of TechStars NYC. The common thread amongst all of these programs is what is now known as "Demo Day", which is a single day (sometimes days) where a number of investors are put in to a room to watch all of the participating companies present for 6-8 minutes. Recently, my company OnSwipe was a part of the inaugural Demo Day in NYC for TechStars. Everyone has been asking me how we prepared and put together our demo day presentation. Without further adieu, here's how. You may want to watch the recording of my presentation below first: Actual Presentation

Put together slides with very few words

You should not have the audience focused on your slides, but your words during the presentation. Bullets are an absolute no-no throughout the presentation. My presentation had one sentence at most per slide with an accent color highlighting what was a really important word for the audience to understand. The slides should set the tone for what you are currently talking about to keep everyone on track. Stay away from transitions or overly flashy slides. They were cool when you were in junior high, but don't add a lot when talking to a large crowd. Slide Deck (some things might be out of place due to 2 animations)

Make Sure There Is A Screen In Front Of You On Stage

The worst thing you will ever do is look back at the screen. This makes you seem unprepared, especially during demos. It also makes everyone think you didn't prepare with the person, usually your cofounder, that is controlling the slides. You don't want to look down at it too much, but it's there in case shit happens. In a split second you could be on the wrong slide or miss a beat. Instead of turning around to look back confused at the screen, you can properly pause and guide the presentation back to order while looking ahead. It's a small subtle, yet useful prop. Make sure it's there.

Practice, Practice, Practice

I practiced religiously before going on stage. Dave Tisch and Dave Cohen probably wanted to murder me when I skipped the public pitch practices with all the teams, but I was secretly practicing at home or late at night. I look at a presentation a lot like product. It just needs to be broken and tweaked a lot. It isnt' ready for public consumption or scrutiny until you've fine tuned it enough. Make sure you practice until no end. It's what makes you comfortable and confident.

Be bold

This might just be my style, but you need to be bold...very bold. You are going to be presenting with 10+ other companies or even more that day. Investors and press get antsy very fast. When was the last time you could sit through 5 hours of pitches easily? By being bold, you can give a great refreshing jolt to the crowd and pique their interest. It's also great to stand out with a ton of press in the crowd as they will want to do an interview with you afterwards. "Be so good they cannot ignore you."

Speak in tweetable soundbites

People love to tweet live events and demo days are no different. Inside of the room, you will have a great group of influential people that can send your message out to the right people. The thing is, they can't send out the entire presentation, they can only send out 140 characters at a time. In our case, we had 3 tweetable soundbites that became well known afterwards. These weren't by happenstance, but planned well in advance:

  • "Apps Are Bullshit"- opening slide that set the tone for presentation. 
  • @TechStars NYC Demo Day, OnSwipe CEO: "Apps are Bullsh*t." [most tweeted QOTD?]less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

  • "Tap the rocketship"- @fakedavetisch caused this to become some form of sexual inneuendo :) 
  • Btw, the code phrase for the afterparty bouncer is "tap my rocketship"less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone Favorite Retweet Reply

  • "Series Awesome"- We didn't announce that we were raising a Series A, but a Series Awesome.

Love it. @onswipe not raising a Series A, but raising a Series Awesome #techstarsless than a minute ago via TweetChat Favorite Retweet Reply

The "Three Acts"

The best way to do a demo day type presentation is to put the entire delivery into three different acts. Entrepreneurship and delivering a presentation is absolutely no different than theater. You should look at your delivery as a spectacle that enlightens those in the audience, not a typical slide deck pitch.

Act I - The Setup Setup the enemy for the entire presentation, the elevator pitch, and the big vision business. It should be under 90 seconds and even that is something I found difficulty with. The goal here is to give context, hook the audience in, and get to a killer demo.

Act II- The Demo This is what really matters. Too many companies approach demo day as investor day, instead of showing what they've built off in-depth. Screenshots are a no-no and sadly, pre-recorded videos seem to be the way to go due to Wifi. Show off a logical progression of what your product does. Nothing gets someone ready to write a check like a great demo.

Act III- The Execution This is where you talk about what you have accomplished and where you are going. I usually like to talk about a few things: Press, current investors, business development deals, and the team you have been able to attract. This shows where you have been and how you are able to execute as a team. You should also make sure that you talk about what's next. When are you launching? are you raising money? what is the big credo and philosophy behind the company? Tell the world why you exist and why you are going to take over the world.

Get to the demo as fast as possible

This was the biggest lesson we learned through practice. The first version of the presentation took 2:30 to get to the demo. That was an absolute eternity. Even now, I could have shortened things by a good 30 seconds or so. Make sure you get to the demo as fast as you can. The other side of it is, making sure that you give enough context to the audience.

Have an "enemy"

We set out to say app store apps for content publications like the Wall Street Journal and Wired were just complete bullshit. We were very bold in this statement, but we backed it up with undeniable fact. If you are going to make an enemy, make sure you have the weapons to combat them. You have to seem sure when declaring ane enemy and have a logical argument.

Make sure the big long term vision is known

Too many investors and potential partners will think about the present since that is mostly what you are showing. Spend time talking about the big vision in terms of product and in terms of business model. Your product is often different than your business model. ie-  Google's product is search, but it really makes money through advertising. Sometimes you may not know what this big vision is, but if you do, make sure that is known. Most people thought our big vision was: be a WordPress plugin that makes things pretty. We made it clear that our goal is to power the advertising in a world where content is consumed with tablets, not point+click devices.

Be fashionable

apps are bullshit resized 600
I'm an outlier here, but the pink shirt went over well. It made me hard to ignore and ended up color coordinating the presentation. Trivia: The onswipe pink colors come from that shirt, not the other way around. Make yourself memorable with appearance. People will remember your ability to command an audience and that can often be done through how you dress. Once again, demos and presentations are not pitches, but theater.

Have an "ask"

Most companies go into a demo day with an intention of raising money. It might be something direct with an exact dollar amount or it might just be an announcement that you're playing around in the waters. Either way, make sure you have an ask that lets the world know your fundraising plans. The biggest problem in entrepreneurship is the fact, that most entrepreneurs just don't ask. If you have existing fundraising commits, let the world know who is in and for how much if possible. My buddies at thinknear did this by letting the world know IA Ventures was in for 400k of a 1.2 million round.

Show Off Social Proof

Social proof is one of the best things that you can portray during a presentation. Do not be arrogant or cocky, but certainly be confident. Show the world who is behind you and what you have accomplished. Nothing gets an investor more excited than tangible traction, social proof from their peers, and the ability to execute.

Things that didn't work along the way

  • We spent a lot of time getting to the demo. We originally had a lot of social proof and big vision talk before the demo. That got people antsy. Let the demo be your proving ground and then 
  • Don't try to practice in full run throughs at first. Go act by act, screwing up along the way.  
  • Do not use anything from your investor slide deck. Even though we have never used a slide deck to raise money, we still sort of have one. I dusted it off from the Series Seed and tried to insert some slides. It just doesn't work for demo day. Demo day pitches should be looked at a lot differently than your traditional investor pitch at the end of the day. Demo day pitches really appeal to three broad crowds, with some companies focusing in on one more than the other: press, investors, and potential partners. 

In short, this was the most important day of my life and a huge success. The only downside, is that it meant TechStars is officially over. You should apply to the program , and if you get in, hopefully this post will be of use.

Have you presented at a "Demo Day" before?  Any tips of your own that you'd like to share?

You Should Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jasonlbaptiste, Friend me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jasonlbaptiste, Email Me: j@jasonlbaptiste.com, or even call: 212.361.9743

Posted by Jason Baptiste on Mon, Apr 25, 2011


Really great article. It touched on a lot of things that I'd never even considered.

posted on Monday, April 25, 2011 at 11:40 AM by Tablazines

This is amazing, new, cool things that should seldom be missed. I appreciate your blog with the intention of knowing more.

posted on Monday, April 25, 2011 at 1:34 PM by Raman Basu

Great insight and advice. Thanks for being candid and sharing your experience!

posted on Monday, April 25, 2011 at 3:01 PM by Anoop Aulakh

I've seen lots of blog articles on startup pitches, but this is one of the best. I especially like the way you separated the three different "Acts" of the pitch.

posted on Monday, April 25, 2011 at 3:14 PM by Kyle Deming

Definitely the best article that gives the specific steps to take for a demo. Keep in mind that this pertains to any type of demo following this preso - keep it simple, to the point and ask for what you want!

posted on Monday, April 25, 2011 at 4:47 PM by Paul Carney

Awesome advice Jason.. Love how you compare the demo day presentation to theatre. It's spot on. That analogy also applies well to job interviews and career fairs as well, as well as hiring I believe...

posted on Monday, April 25, 2011 at 4:53 PM by Shivaas Gulati

Awesome post with lots of useful and broadly applicable tips - thanks so much!

posted on Monday, April 25, 2011 at 5:02 PM by joanie

Thanks for this timely article! It will be implemented very shortly... :)

posted on Monday, April 25, 2011 at 5:16 PM by Software Candy

Killer post Jason. Conflict always fuels drama - love the 3 Act and enemy approach. Bold POV's: only kind that galvanize. Keeping it simple - strips away founder self delusions and never fails to shows if the team actually has something real. Thanks for packaging this for everyone!

posted on Monday, April 25, 2011 at 5:21 PM by Scott Clark

Nice points and with a lot of charisma. Although if you don't have that much charisma your presentation might not go as well. Something to shoot for though.

posted on Monday, April 25, 2011 at 5:40 PM by Derek Padula

A lot of this theory comes from Presentation Zen which is a must read for anyone who presents on anything. 
Tweetable sound bites are a great idea!

posted on Monday, April 25, 2011 at 5:57 PM by Michael Assad

Great post. Presentation tip with a handheld mic: hold it vertically below your chin and speak over it to eliminate popping the p's!

posted on Monday, April 25, 2011 at 5:59 PM by Gene Bellotti

Great post, Jason. Great tips presented in a replicable way!

posted on Monday, April 25, 2011 at 6:25 PM by Karen

Great advise! I also tell clients to attend a presentation day BEFORE they participate. This gives them a preview of what a presentation looks like to the audience. 

posted on Monday, April 25, 2011 at 6:55 PM by Denise Beeson

Awesome demo and ideas Jason. I'm a few days from my first-ever pitch and have been practicing like a mother. I look forward to using some of these tips in my pitch slide. Slightly different from a demo, but still the bold ideas stand out to me. A+!

posted on Monday, April 25, 2011 at 7:21 PM by TotalTab

HRMC maintains the highest performance standards in each service area. We provide a level of service that far exceeds industry standards. We approach all of our interactions with respect, dignity and courtesy

posted on Monday, April 25, 2011 at 9:21 PM by Barney Brundidge

Soon after setting the context you have to jump into the demo if you have it. The "tweetbites" are so important and they certainly make it easy for people to spread the word about your product/service/prez.  
I liked some presentations at the MIN (Mass Innovation Nights) in the Boston area. 

posted on Monday, April 25, 2011 at 9:42 PM by shruti

The article flowed as smoothly as the presentation. This presentation maintained interest and stayed on point - "Awesome" ~Thank you for sharing.

posted on Monday, April 25, 2011 at 10:30 PM by Lori Ann Nolan

Thanks for sharing Jason! Always good info from you.

posted on Monday, April 25, 2011 at 10:43 PM by Matt Canepa

Great thoughts.... As a trainer who uses ppoint...some transferable info....thanks

posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 1:10 AM by Warren

Great article. Gorilla event planning with a very professional shine.

posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 2:10 AM by Rusty Robson

Great article, I agree with much of what was written here. 
However, I must share my own criticism here. You started the presentation in a very stiff manner. Not moving much, talking in a non-exciting way and you lost me about one minute into the presentation. Instead of saying "I am going to say something that ..." you could just start out with "Apps Are Bullsh*t". Then say "X are saying it, Y are saying it, everybody is thinking it and why? Because A B C". 
Just my 2c.

posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 2:35 AM by Yonadav

Thanks. What a wealth of information in this article.

posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 8:15 AM by Joyce Boncal

This is an awesome post. Love your tips and am definitely going to use ALL of them!

posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 10:15 AM by Deven Shah

Profanity detracts from the presentation. It makes you look unprofessional. Same goes for the text on this page.

posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 10:52 AM by Stephen Hobbs

I am not a technically savvy person, but still your presentation made so much sense to me and I see a great value in your product. I learned a lot from the nuggets you provided on presentation. Thanks Jason.

posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 11:39 AM by Lalitha Brahma

Really great article. Although we are not a start up or looking for funding, there are some great core principles in here that are helpful to anyone who has ever had to present.

posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 12:41 PM by Carin Oliver

Try to reduce the hand motions. 
And don't tell me that you are "about to say", just say it. Perhaps even lead with the "Apps are BS" slide and then explain.

posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 4:59 PM by Saul Lieberman

Cricket highlights 
watch live cricket

posted on Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 4:55 AM by humzayunas

VERY GOOD SITE VISIT FOR cricket highlights

posted on Friday, April 29, 2011 at 11:15 AM by humzayunas

Thats a good bunch of tips. I especially like the "have an enemy" and having few words per slide.  
I often incorporate pictures and music or sounds into the slide show...no words what so ever...just a song or a painting or what not.  
There is a reason for that. As per neuroscientific research, humans use separate areas of the brain to process sounds (speech) and pictures.  
Contrast that with a slide that has words on it. The audience will end up using the same brain function to process the words on the slide as they will to listen to the speaker. Of course, humans are unable to focus on more than one task at a time, so they end up not getting the point of the slide OR the speech. 
Anyways...really cool and refreshingly original post. Thnx :-)

posted on Saturday, April 30, 2011 at 1:47 AM by Dino Dogan

Ha ha - very interesting - Seems like less is better... Well, in todays fast moving world I'm sure it is - Info on the run ;-) Great post

posted on Wednesday, May 04, 2011 at 8:51 AM by Printing Companies

Great tips! Thanks for sharing.. :) I'll keep this in mind for our pitch. :D

posted on Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 10:50 PM by AWEsomeSavior

Great post and so true on "the theater" approach. Be sure to know you audience and have that story. Case in point - Startup Weekend San Diego 2 - our judges were SD tech entrepreneurs so we incorporated a fictitious Mark Pincus goes to ComicCon story into the demo and WON!

posted on Monday, May 30, 2011 at 8:31 AM by Nik Souris

Comments have been closed for this article.