The run-up to a make-or-break moment

Preparing for the six minutes on stage at DEMO is living through a conference and an investor presentation in slow motion.

Preparing to present at DEMO is a psychological marathon. You get six minutes, including all the time you have to get up onto the stage after Chris Shipley introduces you, getting your product to do its dance and explaining it to the audience, as well as gracefully wrapping up the presentation. Elevator pitches are chimp work by comparison, because you can expect an interruption, to have the pitch turn into a conversation, even for a moment. But at DEMO you get your shot, then it's over.

Getting ready for DEMO

For weeks, my company, BuzzLogic, has been prepping for Tuesday morning at 9:46 AM, when CEO Rob Crumpler and my co-founder, Todd Parsons, will go on stage in front of hundreds of critical eyes and a platoon of leading technology and business press people to explain what BuzzLogic does in six minutes. They have rehearsed hundreds of times, rewriting and winnowing down the explanation through dozens of drafts, and now we have about 16 hours left.

Sitting around the lunch table at the hotel today, the team was talking about how much more time is left to practice, reading the early blogs and news stories about DEMO and BuzzLogic that have appeared now that the launch is upon us. There's a kind of relaxation, like you see in men going to their death or about to play for a world championship. It's gratifying to be crossing what looks like a finishing line after two-and-a-half years of experimentation and development, but then everyone laughs and acknowledges that tomorrow isn't the end of anything, just the beginning.

The two days before DEMO are like a conference for the presenters. In corners of the Sheraton San Diego lobby you see people huddled around laptops, fiddling with presentations. Back at the office, engineers continue to hammer on code, and for much of Monday, the DEMO staff is walking executives with presentation duties through their paces.

Every company gets a dress rehearsal on the stage, even as the stage is being built. Chris Shipley and the staff meets with the entire bunch for an hour to explain the schedule, the tech support contacts, their tips for dealing with the press, then everyone marches into the pavillion outside the hotel, where each company has a small stand to do one-to-one demos after the stage show.

And the show itself is theater, with minute-by-minute schedules and the clear warning that, if you miss your time, you missed your shot with the DEMO audience. Lights will go down, music will play and you'd better be standing on your mark.

Over the years I've been attending DEMO, I've seen CEOs who practiced so much that they appear robotic and, if something goes wrong and their internal script is interrupted, they sometimes melt down. Others, who must have some experience in college theater, have practiced like actors so that if a problem occurs they are ready, just as an actor can cover for a colleague who has forgotten their lines--even if that colleague is your product and it just died onstage. Some DEMOgods, the honored few who are recognized for their great presenations, have made their six minutes golden even though their product didn't finish with them.

And you think about that around the table at lunch, count the hours and prepare the best you can. Because tomorrow we will have launched a company, then the real work begins. 


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