a guide to presenting at Startup Weekend
Every Startup Weekend I attend, and many I don’t, I get asked a variation on the question “how should we present on Sunday?”.
Disclaimer: The following post contains my personal opinion and may or may not reflect the views of Startup Weekend.
This article is also available in: Brasilian Portuguese.
At some events you have five minutes to present and at others just three. At every weekend there will be time for questions and answers from the jury. Otherwise, there’s no fixed format. You can use slides, or not, demo a product, or not, sing, or not. Hopefully not.
Here’s my handy guide of what types of things I think you should talk about during your presentation time:
Did you see what I did there?
As there is a very high chance that your first slide will be displayed before the previous team has finished their Q&A, please please make sure that your first slide is completely minimal. This has two effects, the first is simply that of not distracting the audience, the second is not to blow your only chance at making a great first impression — which should happen when you walk on the stage:
The next thing you’re going to want to do, is refer back to the judging criteria that you’ve been given. Make sure you understand the criteria, make sure you present answers to the questions that the judges will ask themselves when deciding whether you met the criteria, or not.
Then it’s time to build your deck. The most important thing, is to Build your story. Story telling is one of the oldest methods of communication, and it still works today. Pick the most important points that you wish to talk about, place them in the correct order and build a story.
Not only will your story give you a compelling presentation, it will also help the person presenting it to a) sound awesome and b) know what comes next, even if they stumble or trip over some words.
Remember: A story has a beginning, some middle and an end.
But what should you talk about in this story?
That’s mostly up to you — what do you want to communicate? What do you think people want to know? Personally I recommend talking about these types of topics:
and here’s a more detailed breakdown:
The Problem — if you don’t understand the problem you are solving, you’re pretty much doomed. It’s the keystone to everything you’ve been working on. If you can show us the problem, that’s the most powerful way of ensuring we understand you. If you can’t show us, tell a short story, about people with the problem. If you can’t tell a story, give us a problem statement.
Introduce the solution — Be excited, make us excited. Tease us — don’t bore us with technical info — yet.
The solution. This is the perfect time to give us a demonstration of the thing you built this weekend. Don’t rely on the wifi. A video demo is fine, as long as you can show the judges it actually works during Q&A.
Didn’t finish building something? Show us what you did build.
Didn’t build anything? Show us what you did instead.
Be warned — the judges are used to seeing very pretty presentation slides, they WILL see through your bluff, so this is a time to be honest. If you didn’t build, show us how much customer validation you did instead.
Marketing — you understand the problem, built a possible solution, but who is the target market, and how are you going to get your solution to those people?
Competition — You DO have competition, so tell us who they are, and why you’re better.
Where’s the money? — $1 each for 1% of the market isn’t a strategy. How much money do you need? How will you get it? When might you be able to make a profit?
Your Achievements — What did you do this weekend, how was the team, what did you learn? What’s next?
The Conclusion — the judges will see a lot of presentations — make sure they remember yours (for the right reasons!).
and finally, The Team. This is a little controversial — outside of Startup Weekend life, you should talk about the team first. Some people will tell you to do so at Startup Weekend as well, after all they are the most valuable thing you have built this weekend.
So why did I put it last? Simple — if you’re not an experienced presenter, blowing half your time talking about the team is a very real possibility, and then you’ll do an awesome job of screwing up the part about what you’ve built during the weekend, as the clock ticks it’s merciless beat.
Obviously, if you ALL try to build your presentation in this exact format, you’re ALL going to look a bit silly. What I recommend is that, like any other mentor advice, you take this as a guide, and do what feels right for you, in your situation.
Some basics that you should definitely take note of:
Fewer slides is always better.
Bigger fonts mean fewer words, which is even better.
Beautiful images mean no words, which is awesome.
Know your material, but don’t over practice.
Never turn your back to the audience.
Look like you’re having fun.
Follow me on Twitter for more insights: @clogish