It Pains Me, But Here’s Why I’m Sharing My First Product Demo

Public speaking is not my jam. I turn red, I stutter and stammer, I forget what I am saying mid-sentence, and I sweat…profusely. At least that’s been the case historically.

However, something different happened this last time I spoke. (Not that I speak often at all, because I don’t.)

I was more comfortable this time. I actually pronounced my words, I didn’t stutter, my voice didn’t shake, I only forgot where I was once, and I didn’t flair my hands around violently per usual. I did sweat and say “um” and “like.” A lot. But that’s to be expected.

I also picked up a couple of new quirks, specifically this weird bow-legged thing and awkward hand gestures when listening to questions.

It’s probably important to note what made this opportunity so different from the others:

  • It was my first product pitch (more on that later).
  • I volunteered myself, it wasn’t suggested by a boss (but strongly suggested by my friend Danielle).
  • The crowd was comprised of industry peers — fellow music-tech startup people + some musicians — not a bunch of old guys in suits.
  • I was telling a story, not spewing facts and figures or trying to sell anything.
  • I was presenting the thing I am most passionate about (with the exception of family and friends, of course).

The “thing” I was presenting was Hand-picked songs based on your personal preferences from a community of curators, delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday. a song a day is my very first side “hustle,” my first potential business, and something I care very deeply about.

The event was the NY Music Tech Meetup hosted by Seth Hillinger. Every month, a group of people come together to have a discussion around emerging or reinvented music technology after founders share their story — after they share what their product means for the future of music.

After attending a handful of the Music Tech Meetups, I threw my hat in the ring this time for two reasons:

  1. Who’s a better group to get feedback on this product than the people who are blurring the lines of music and tech, paving the way in the industry?
  2. I’m at a point where I’m ready to promote the shit out of and move this baby forward. I needed practice refining and telling my story.

To say I was nervous is an understatement.

I was a wreck. Not only was I nervous because I’m not at all used to public speaking and super self-conscious, I was nervous because we don’t have a “real product.” Our product is humans and email newsletters, and Google Sheets. SO MANY GOOGLE SHEETS. Although, we are working on technology to help scale these processes.

When I first planned my presentation, I made pretty slides with facts and figures — stats on curators, subscribers, open rate, click rate, how many emails are sent each day and week, etc.

I showed it to my friend Anthony, who used to consult at TechStars and knows far more about these things than I. He asked me some questions, including the most important one: “Who’s your audience?”

I answered.

His response was “Shannon, these people don’t care about your numbers. They care about your story, about the need that you’re solving for, and probably about your process.” That was the general gist at least.


This wasn’t an investor pitch, it was a demo to my peers, and an opportunity to really tell the story I so passionately share with friends and family on a daily basis.

My friend was right. Although I spent the entire night prior putting this thing together, it needed to be redone.

“These people don’t care about your numbers.
They care about your story, about the need that you’re solving for.”

From there, my friend and curator, Maria stayed at my office till the wee hours of the night before the presentation helping me figure out what that story was and how to tell it in less time. This was difficult, because to me — the entire story is important. But at the end of the day, stories need to be impactful, not verbose.

So we whittled away till we got to the core of what mattered:

I had a problem (my friends and peers needed help discovering music) → came up with a solution (send them a song a day). I had another problem (I can’t curate for hundreds of people alone) → came up with another solution (a community of curators). Our problem now: The process needs to be more scalable → solution: Technology.

I left that night not feeling great, but good enough to do this thing.

Below is the resulting presentation. I need to note here that it absolutely pains me to share this. I actually just watched almost the entire thing for the first time for this post, which was painful in itself. I still can’t bring myself to watch the entire thing.

Why is this painful? Because I ran 3:30 over what was supposed to be a five-minute pitch. Because I know I fucked up a couple of times, because I hate my voice (don’t we all?), and because I’m not exactly happy with my current body image, despite truly believing that all humans are uniquely beautiful.

But I’m sharing it.

I’m sharing it because I need your feedback, on both the product and the way I tell its story. Also, because I know that there’s people out there who can relate and empathize with this post. People who struggle to put themselves out there — first timers, other people trying to push themselves out of their comfort zones.

I hope those people find this post comforting and that it helps push them to bounds they’re uncomfortable with.

Ok….done talking now. Here it is.

Thoughts? Concerns? Opinions? Feedback?

Special note: Huge thanks to Jackie Lambert for always making me sound better than I actually do, and for editing this.

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