Pitch Presentation Tips from Troy Henikoff

There's no arguing the fact that one of the greatest benefits of participating in Code Academy is the network of entrepreneurs and mentors we're surrounded by.  Each class takes place at 1871, an amazing 55,000+ square feet of constant innovation and collaboration, we each get an individual mentor to help us through our learning process, and then we have people like Troy Henikoff, CEO of Excelerate Labs, just pop in for an hour to give us much needed advice on how to best deliver our presentations on Demo Day.

If anyone is qualified to provide tips and direction on this topic, it's Troy.  Each of the 10 companies selected each year for the intensive summer accelerator practices their presentation in its entirety over 100 times the month leading up to their demo day.    

Having watched Excelerate Lab demo day presentations, it's clear that they are very comfortable and familiar with the message they are delivering.  According to Troy, by the time their entrepreneurs are ready to present at demo day, they've critiqued every single word, gesture, use of tone and pause to best capture the audience's attention and deliver the desired message.  

I can't say that I'll be able to dedicate the recommended 10 hours of work for every 1 minute of presentation, but it was motivating to hear just how much these entrepreneurs put into presenting their ideas to take full advantage of those few precious moments they have on stage.  

Outside of the emphasis on practice, Troy also provided us this [suggested] must follow presentation structure:

1) Have a goal 

You must have an objective for the presentation. Ask yourself, "What would make this presentation successful for me." Define this goal and keep it in mind as you develop the message to be delivered.  

2) Have a big opening

In the digital entrepreneurial & startup space (and every other industry that I've ever been a part of), we are surrounded by people with short attention spans-  myself included.  If you want someone to listen, you have to give them a reason to pay attention.  You have 30 seconds to hit them upside the head and answer the question, "Why do I care?"

3) Tell a smooth story

If you were to survey 100 people and ask them to list my top five personality traits, the chance of the word "smooth" appearing is at an estimated 0%.  I am not smooth.  Luckily, Troy laid out a strategic plan for delivering what we'll call a "smooth story" when pitching a business or application idea:       

  • Big market.       
  • Lots of pain in that market. 
  • Look! Here's my great idea presented as the solution to that problem.
  • Bonus points if you demonstrate proof of traction.

Simple enough.  Now wrap it all up and finish with an...  

4) Ask 

Since we all have a defined goal for this presentation (see #1), you now have to make a point to tell everyone exactly what you need.  Your ask cannot be vague.  The audience needs to know how they can help you.  You gain nothing by having someone say "oh hey, good presentation" and not knowing what the next step is. 

  • Ask for a job. 
  • Ask for funding.
  • Ask them to introduce you to potential beta testers. 
  • Ask them if they can connect you with key partners that will take your idea to the next step.  

And hopefully, someone in the audience can provide you exactly what you need.

A big thank you goes out to Troy for all of his advice.  This format should be perfect for Code Academy demo day! 

80 students will present 20 web apps.  Each team will be given 5 minutes to show you how much they've learned and how our 10 weeks at Code Academy provided each of us the ability to create our own ideas.  

If you're reading this blog, you should be there.  Buy a ticket and let me know you're coming: http://cademo.eventbrite.com/ 

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