7 Deadly Demo Sins / by Nate Westheimer

I see a lot of presentations. Every month at the NY Tech Meetup I see at least 7 or 8 presentations, in the other community events I attend I see more, and as a VC, first at Rose Tech Ventures and now at Flybridge Capital Partners, I see even more. Last month, while I was attending another meetup, I saw almost every "demo sin" imaginable... so I took notes. Let me say, I've been guilty of most of these sins at one point or another. I present this list less to make fun of people, but more to remind everyone -- including myself -- what breaks an otherwise great demo. (Feel free to add to this list in the comments!)

  1. Powerpoint. Seriously, you have an web company. Need a few slides? No you don't. Demo your effing product. Really, really, really need a few slides? Put them on a website somewhere. You're an effing web company.
  2. Winging it. Oh you're sooo comfortable with your product and that crowd, to you, that crowd was born naked -- who needs to imagine them so?! Well, no matter how comfortable and confident you are, you should still practice and plan your demo. It's not about your confidence, it's about a good show for your audience. (Disclaimer: I am most guilty of this sin. Correcting this is my resolution of 2010.)
  3. Using your time on stage to try and save a buggy demo. Bugs happen. If you use your time well and explain what you do, roll with it because people trust you it works. If you spend 4 of your 5 minutes trying to "save" your demo, people don't trust you actually know what to do in time of crisis.
  4. Out of all of your clients or content, demoing the scantily clad cheerleaders. That's just lame. Maybe that was okay with your colleagues in the Mad Men era, but today we just think you're a anachronistic asshole.
  5. Going over allotted time. There are two main reasons this is bad: 1) it pisses off the organizer, who is your best friend for putting you on stage; 2) it pisses off your fellow demoers, who are your potential evangelists and business partners.
  6. Turning down the opportunity to use a microphone because you think you have a loud enough voice. You don't -- and especially not to that person sitting anywhere but directly in front of you.
  7. Keeping video volume up while you're talking about your product. Everyone knows video has sound in 2009. Nobody heard you say what your company does.