I’ve been to a few NY Tech Meetups since I’ve lived in New York. 800 people gather for two hours to see 10-15 creators demo their new web projects. They are a phenomena here, occurring once monthly and regularly selling out in 30 minutes despite the paid admission. There is probably no other web event in New York that makes people feel like “I was there when…”, or feel so left out when they can’t go. This month my colleagues at Arc90 presented Readability, and I had a co-worker pacing the office beforehand mourning his lack of a ticket. We put him on a train to White Plains to be with his family.
The meeting format allots from 1-5 minutes per presenter. They may make use of microphone, stage, and projected laptop, phone or tablet. Most presenters have never demoed at a Tech Meetup. They are speaking to one of the most knowledgeable tech audiences on the East coast. And they are competing with at least 10 other presentations for attention. With such constraints, safe to say this is a difficult format to nail.
Here are my suggestions for those who get the opportunity to present. These are based on my observations as an audience member as I’ve not yet joined the ranks of presenter. Cover these and I think you’re in for a much smoother ride.
Bring a narrative
People like stories, and they respond to them better than an unconnected series of points. You have only a few minutes to not only show product, but make them understand why they should care. Put some thought into making people see the big picture.
Get right to the meat
Don’t try to build. You have at max five minutes to make an impact, but 30 seconds before you lose the audience’s attention. If you start with a bang, they’ll be paying attention when you present your garnish.
Do a full run-through beforehand
Just like software testing, it’s amazing how many things don’t get caught if you don’t try them at least once. Grab a colleague a few hours before the meeting and make them sit through as you present, props and all.
No one wants to see you log in
Certain tasks are so familiar by now they are actually annoying to watch. Make sure you have a valid login, set the timeout really high for the demo, and get Nate’s computer good and authenticated before you’re on deck.
Don’t present alone
It’s painful watching someone try to speak publicly, work a mouse and keyboard, and figure out why their app is misbehaving at the same time. Do yourself a favor and have one person work the devices while another works the microphone. People like to see the team who built it anyway, so give one of your developers a moment in the limelight.
Turn your power-saving off
Nothing stops a demo cold like having to enter your password to get your device back in the game after locking itself mid-show.
Make sure Mom can’t text your demo device
Don’t think Mom won’t text you while you’re demoing on your iPhone reminding you to call your uncle Gary about his operation. Airplane mode it, change SIMs, buy a phone, do something to make sure you don’t distract from your work.
Make sure your URL is prominent
A surprising number of presenters miss this one. Make sure people can follow up on your project, especially if it’s a weird name or spelling.
If you have an offline mode, don’t try to demo it while online
It’s embarrassing, like the kid who always claims he can beat everyone up but you’ve never seen in a fight.
See how your mobile device looks on camera
Brightness, size, and color all matter here. Make sure people will be able to see what you worked so hard on.
Don’t all wear the same t-shirts
This one’s more of a personal preference, but I stand by it. I know it makes you easy to find after the presentations, but do people really want to be seen talking to Charlie Brown?