As you probably know by now, I created a monthly product launch party and networking event called Mass Innovation Nights. It’s a free opportunity for innovators and inventors of every kind to launch their products in front of social media enthusiasts and get some visibility. Before I dive in on this topic, I want to make sure everyone understands that this blog post is NOT referring to the presenters at my event because, unfortunately, I’ve never actually SEEN any of them. (I tend to be running around making sure everything else is working like it should.) I am sure that ALL the presenters at Mass Innovation Nights follow these commonsense guidelines on preparing to present their companies and products.
But as the creator of the Mass Innovation Nights concept, I go to a lot of other industry events. Many of them are just like my event in that they feature small companies or start-ups who are explaining their concept to the outside world for the first time.
These events are great opportunities to get in front of community influencers, venture capitalists, potential partners and customers, and the media. But too often these opportunities are squandered. Below is a by no means complete list of ideas and thoughts on preparing to present but if it stops one presenter from wasting their opportunity, good.
- Plan ahead. When you sign up (get invited), put it in your calendar, give yourself a deadline with plenty of time to spare to create your presentation and practice it. If you are committing someone else’s time, let them know immediately.
- Ask the organizers for information. How many people in the audience? Who is in the audience? How much time do you have to present? What are their expectations? Will there be a Q&A period? Who has been their favorite speaker? Who didn’t work out so well?
- If possible, attend the event or ones like it before you present or exhibit. Walk the floor. Watch the presentations. What works? What doesn’t?
- Have you presented before? Ask people in the audience for feedback, specific feedback. What can you do better? Are there parts of the presentation that worked or didn’t? How about your presentation skills? Are you clear? How’s the pacing?
- Create your presentation. If it is a batch of PowerPoint slides, fine. If you aren’t a pro, do some reading on how to create good slides. Use PowerPoint to illustrate your points. There are tons of great books and blogs on creating good slides.
- If your presentation is going to be a demonstration, work it out ahead of time. Practice it and prepare for things not to work. Your server will go down. You won’t get Internet access. It happens. What’s your back-up plan? Do you have slides walking the viewers through the demonstration? A server on your laptop? A video?
- Check your accent and your tone. Unfortunately, some accents are hard for others to understand. Fact of life. Are you a low talker? A mumbler? A stutterer? You might be a genius and have the world’s most amazing idea but if your audience can’t hear or understand you no one will ever know.
- Practice. Practice in front of a mirror. Practice in front of your co-workers. Practice in front of your family. (Make the kids watch.) Practice in front of people who have no idea what you are talking about. This last is hugely important — you are trying to communicate an idea and a message. Do they understand you? What questions do they have? Are these questions (and answers) that should be incorporated into your presentation?
- Use humor. Make your presentation enjoyable. Make it memorable. Make it interactive. Smile. Be passionate.
- Create your slide deck on the train or plane the night before. Don’t show a series of text-only slides with 10 point type.
- “Wing it.”
- Spend all of your time talking about the cool product one of your customers created using your tool.
- Play the blame game — My presenter is stuck in traffic. The Internet is down. (Yes, the whole @$#& thing.) My guppy died and I am so depressed I can’t do a good job presenting tonight.
- Try to be a stand-up comedian, especially if you aren’t.
- Read the slides for us. Please, please, don’t read words off the slides. Most of us can read, really.
- Be too passionate. There’s excitement. There’s believing in yourself and then there’s the over-the-top “I ain’t gonna listen to anyone’s suggestions” passionate entrepreneur. People want you to succeed. Don’t put them off with your attitude.
Share your presentation do’s and don’ts here.