The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for a Winning Demo Day/ Competition Pitch

Make your 5 Minutes Count!

In continuing with the “The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Your Startup’s Investor Pitch Deck” and the “The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for a Winning Sales Deck”, the next main deck I get requests for is a Demo Day or Competition style deck. Your wish is my command!

Making the Most of Your Minutes

In an investor pitch you don’t have a time limit. You can prepare as much material as you need and either you’ll get to it or not. With a Demo Day/Competition Pitch, you most likely have a 5 minute pitch, or like the client I’m now prepping for a YC Demo Day — 2 minutes!!! (Yikes). So 5 minutes suddenly seems like a lot of time, huh?

The most important thing to remember — there is no way that you will be able to tell your whole story! You’ve been working on this company for quite awhile now — a few minutes just won’t cut it. Your goal is not to walk away with an investment — it’s to get them to notice you, to remember you and to want to continue the conversation. So in a sea of tens of other pitches, you must strive to be memorable. And these guidelines should help you do just that:

The Content of a “QuickPitch”

  1. Opening — The Why! — Definitely say who you are and who your company is, but instead of launching into an explanation of what you do (which you will do soon anyway…) give them the “Big Vision” statement — or as Simon Sinek says — The WHY you do what you do.

2. The Problem/Need/Opportunity — You must show that you get the need of the audience — but for a Demo Day style pitch, you want to grab their attention super fast and keep them engaged. The best way to do that is with a great story — something that illustrated the problem. Make it big, breathtaking — put on a show — the stage is yours to take and I’ve seen some crazy antics over the years. Remember — be memorable! You can also weave in the big market numbers to back up the story with facts and show how big this opportunity is.

3. The Solution — How are you solving this? Create a simple solution sentence: We’re doing X(solving a problem) for Y(for a specific audience) by Z(in a nutshell, what are you? A Platform/app/solution/tool/etc.) and as a bonus, your secret sauce that is enabling you to do it This should be so simple that anyone could understand it — even if they don’t have a degree in computer science or engineering. You want to be super clear and then as fast as possible go to the…

4. A Killer Demo — There’s a reason it’s called Demo Day after all. Whether it’s a short (30 sec to 1 min) product film, a few screen shots, or some offbeat way of showing your product — it will make all the difference in the world to your audience. Make sure you show the demo from a first time user perspective and use it to highlight 3–4 really cool features. Oh and a word to the wise — Live Demos have a way of dying at the worst moments — so don’t take the risk — I’ve seen it happen too many times and it’s painful. Have a pre-made demo.

5) How Far Along Are You? — This is where you clue them in on your momentum — how far along is your product? Growth? Metrics? Do you have Sales? Pilots? Partnerships? Go for the big, impressive numbers.

In such a quick pitch there won’t be time to talk about your entire business plan — so these 3 are the most important things to weave in:

6. Differentiation — What truly sets you apart from your competition — without bashing them of course — who knows it one of their Founders or Funders are in the audience???

7. Monetization — How are you going to make money?

8. “Opportunization” — Yes, I’m aware it’s not a real word, but it rhymes with the previous 2 ;) Don’t just state the obvious “Huge Market” facts (those are important and can be shown or told in the opening.) This is the “Why us, why now?” This is the place to really show movement in trends and opportunities, bring in quotes from major sources — have there been major fundings or acquisitions among your competitors? Did an industry leader or a research firm like Gartner, Forrester or the likes say that a solution like yours is missing? Are there market trends among your users showing a shift in behavior? Was there a change in law or regulations mandating people or companies to find a solution like yours? Etc.

9) Team — In such a brief time you will not be able to review each team member’s entire resume — so state the assets of the team as a whole. Why are they the team to execute on this? What experience and unfair advantages do they have to make this a reality? If you have noteworthy Advisory Board Members, you can mention them briefly since that adds credibility to your pitch.

10) The Ask* — I put a star next to this because it’s important to check with the program or competition you’re pitching for if they want you mentioning your fundraising and how. It’s a regulatory issue. So check in with them — at the very least you can say something like “We’re currently raising our Seed Round and would be happy to speak with you later about it.”

11) Inspiring Ending — It’s so frustrating for me to see a great pitch that ends with “Um, Well, that’s it. Thank you!” Really? That’s the best you can do? Close off the story you began with, end with an inspiring quote, lead them to the bigger vision for the company — something that leaves them as excited as they were when you started.

Pack a Punch

There are a few things beyond content that you want to work on:

  • Keep Your Energy Up — Investors look for the likeability factor and the passion. Scale up your enthusiasm at least 25%, show your excitement about your company — remember — you’ve given the pitch hundreds of times, they are hearing it for the first time — give them the feeling that you’re telling it for the first time.
  • Your Slides Represent Your Product — Your slides are your calling card. It is the audience’s first peek into your world, and there’s no second chance for a first impression. Make them mostly visual. Overloading on words steals the focus from you. There are great affordable tools for tweaking your slides like Emaze, SlideBean or Haiku Deck to name a few. Better yet, if you have a UI/UX expert or designer working on your product, give them the slides and have them work their magic.
  • Nerves = Excitement! Yep! Those are the same butterflies in your stomach for both cases so all you have to do is swap the “I’m Nervous” for “I’m Excited” and you won’t believe the difference you feel! (It might take a few tries, but your body will start to believe you.

Most important — Have fun with it! It’s your opportunity to shine — and you never know who you might be watching — make the most of it!

Hope this was helpful! I’m here if you have any further questions or need any more support! Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any comments or questions. Good luck! And now — for the summary of all the slides:

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Donna Griffit is a Storyteller for Startups who, over 14 years, has helped hundreds of startups and VC’s around the world raise hundreds of millions of dollars and then create the winning sales decks that turn them into multi million dollar companies.


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