Our launch at Demo

As we wrote about previously, we launched Opstarts a couple of weeks ago at the Demo Fall conference. I wanted to share our launch experience with you and give some quick thoughts on the event, especially for those of you who might be considering launching at a future Demo event.

First, here’s our on-stage presentation. Strict 4-minute limit, no slides, just a real live demo followed by 4 minutes of questions from judges:

Doing that demo in front of a big conference hall full of hundreds of people was nerve-wracking and exhilarating. The combination of a strict time limit and a live demo instead of slides make it very different than most presentations. Doing that demo and then talking to dozens of people about our product afterwards is the kind of thing that makes all the work of doing a startup worth it.

Demo and other launch events all talk about lots of potential benefits – press, investment, customers, partnerships, and all sorts of other potential exposure from the show. We made some interesting contacts in those areas, but it’s too early to tell which will bear fruit, and much of these things will be out of your control. I’d suggest thinking of all those things as an exciting bonus. So is it still worth doing? In my opinion, very much so:

Three great reasons to do a launch event:

  1. Focusing your development  – there’s nothing like a big external deadline to release your product to the public to focus your product development efforts. It’s also incredible motivation to get things done!
  2. Getting a great demo built – it’s really hard to put together a 4 minute demo clearly explaining your product and highlighting its benefits to people who have never heard of you before. This process really helps you better understand your product.
  3. Improving your pitch – Demo has a wide variety of attendees. Spending two days talking to dozens of totally different people about your product is great to identify what messages really resonate with people, what people don’t get right away, and lots of great feedback on how people want to use your product.

It’s also a great launching pad for other valuable things (I’ll be posting about ProductHunt next) and excellent validation – people definitely pay more attention when they find out you were selected and launched at Demo!

Cliffs: Do it!

Finally, seven pieces of advice to anyone launching at a Demo show:

  1. Make sure your co-founder checks your outfit before you go on stage – and lets you know you forgot to button the buttons on your sleeve (which I just learned are called gauntlet buttons).
  2. Practice – they tell you this time and time again, but practice your demo over and over again. Record it. Do it in front of people. Do it again. Practice!
  3. Use Demo resources – everyone on the Demo team is great. Use them for advice, presentation feedback, logistics questions, etc. Everything will go way smoother, and you’ll be much less nervous about the whole thing.
  4. Bring more than two people – we did Demo with just me and my co-founder Andy. It went fine, but it would have been way nicer if we had brought a third person with us. It’s exhausting to do all the demos at your booth for a few hours each day, it gives you a chance to see more sessions, you can talk to more people at the show, and the speaker can practice more before your on-stage presentation.
  5. Bring a couple of big monitors – we brought two 27″ monitors and it was great. It’s really nice to be able to do two separate demos for people at the same time and not have to crowd around laptop screens. If you’re not local, renting at the show or shipping monitors is expensive and a pain, but I still would highly recommend it.
  6. Bring a jacket – a lot of conferences venues are freezing, and this was no exception.
  7. Practice – did I say this already? Practice your on-stage demo. Practice Q&A. Practice booth demos. Practice your elevator pitch. Practice again!

Hope you enjoyed this recap of Demo. If you’re considering Demo or any other launch event, we’re happy to answer any questions you might have.

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