Dec 14th, 2019 ⋅ 5 min read

The Demo Day

The longer I am around startups, the more it seems like being a part of a startup accelerator is a must.

Every startup has its own goal. It could be to gain more knowledge, to widen network, to get investment or something else entirely. But what they all have in common is the wish to be a part of the startup community. If we were to take a pen and paper, we could draw the network. I believe we would discover the fact that startups are like planets, while accelerators and investors are like the sun, driving them.

Every startup ever that was selected to take part in an accelerator program should be proud of themselves. You did a good job during selection process and you have been given another type of support. There is nothing wrong with giving yourself some credit but the toughest part is yet to come.

Demo Day preparations

Participation in the accelerator program can be seen as a professional challenge.

The presence of a large number of mentors is something startups enjoy and appreciate. But there is a trap. Having too many different points of view can cause confusion, frustration, anger, impatience... Those types of emotions are normal, but are usually not welcome or useful.

At the same time, the presence of other competitive participants can be hard to handle. Program managers and managing directors are the ones responsible for having that under control.

What I noticed is that there are different types of accelerator programs. Some of them put greater emphasis while some put lesser emphasis on the Demo Day. I think there is a correlation between private, most established startup accelerators, and the emphasis they put on pitching. The cause for that lies with the greater pressure privately owned accelerators employees face related to program success and startups success in receiving funding.

That’s why many believe that the Demo Day is only for the startup accelerator to show off with their startups.

For example, if the program has a strong emphasis on the pitch, the stress levels will grow higher as startups start to compete against each other. A thin line separates good and bad competitiveness. Nothing good can come out of you observing your competitors if you lose sight of yourself. Having a reliable mentor that can help you with that is very important.

Pitch preparations

When it comes to pitch preparations, some programs encourage startups to start working on their pitch deck three months before the Demo Day. That may seem like it’s too early, but it’s not. Thinking about how you want to present yourself is a time consuming process, during which it’s good to receive as much feedback as possible.

Within most of the startup accelerators programs startups practice pitching in front of other program attendees in a recurring fashion. That’s how you end up with only one point of view.

Some accelerators force CEOs to be the ones to pitch. It's not OK to force anybody into doing something they don’t want to do, but when it comes to their line of duty, the CEO will be the one to pitch in most cases in the end. Therefore, the CEO should practice. It is very important to know your pitch well and to develop presenting skills, because the farther you go down your path the more you will focus on getting an investment.

While creating a pitch it is a good idea to stick to the pitch canvas, because why change something that has been proven to work?

The first thing to do is to write the pitch down. Literally. Then read it out loud. Over and over again. You will notice a need to modify the text to match your speech flow develop, which is a god sign.

There are many techniques to remember your pitch. Recording yourself and listening to it while you walk, shower, cook, etc.. Everyone is different and you will only benefit from getting to know your learning process. Do you function better in the morning or in the evening? When is the Demo Day going to be? Use that to your advantage when pitching. To get rid of your potential fear of pitching, pitch to everyone, everywhere you go. Even using a public place to practice is great! For example, you can go the nearest park, auditorium or other places similar to Speakers' Corner (London, UK).

If you start growing bored of your pitch or you don’t feel like you have been creative enough, it is time to stop and rethink it. Nobody wants to be forgotten by the audience as soon as they step down from the stage. Try playing around with your pitch. To make it more appealing, you can use The-Emotion-Card, your acting skills (body language, voice, facial expressions), sense of humor or a creative slide deck. The main thing is to have good content, because then you have to use yourself to present it in the best possible way. I once heard David J. Philips suggest using emotional stimulation on the audience every 30 seconds, for an approx. 4 min long pitch. Emotional stimulation can mean anything; from a clap to a change of your body posture, to telling a joke or sharing something personal. Mostly, startup accelerator publish their Demo Days online; search and copy what you like.

Moreover, in some accelerators you have to have a clicker, the person who will click between slides. That can be both a good and a bad thing, but in my experience, the pitch can be amazing in either situations.

It is good for you to know as much as possible about the main event. Get to know the venue and try out the stage. It is very important to have a mental picture of yourself pitching on the stage because that will reduce the pressure.

The pressure rises when you have the feeling you’re losing control. Find out details about the structure of the event (for example the lineup), when will you have a chance to eat, how much time will you have to mingle, will there be a backstage, etc. When you will have all those informations, you will know what to expect and you will feel more in control.

Don’t forget to delegate some of the work to your co-workers. While you focus on the pitch, they can handle setting up the exhibition stand (exposing the product, startups' name and logo, etc.). All these things will help you be more relaxed during the main event and more focused on the pitch.

Taking care of yourself

Needless to say, the Demo Day is a very intense event. It is expected of you to use your minutes well, and to leave a good impression.

During that process, it is extremely important to take care of yourself:

1. Sleep the night before the event. For sure you have worked hard enough and nothing will fall apart if you take time to sleep.

3. Focus on your breathing and try to control it. One source of negative emotions is the lack of oxygen in the brain. Try to calm yourself and repeat some positive statements like "I am going to rock this!", "I have worked so hard on this, it is my time to shine!", etc.

2. Drink enough water and organize your meals. You will preform better if your basic needs are satisfied, but avoid alcohol or junk food.

If you just follow this three advice during your Demo Day, you will feel more in control of the situation and your performance.

Good luck!

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My name is Marta. I aim to help employees, founders and CEOs by bringing their attention to the importance of well being, a good work-life balance and physical, mental health improvement.

I worked as an associate at the THINK Accelerate in Helsingborg, Sweden. My role was to support startups during the three-month program with their stress management and team management. The program ended with an #HBGTECH where I participated as an organizer.

I also held talks at Lund University, at THINK Open space and at #HBGTECH.

I volunteered at Techstars London DemoDay 2017 and 2018 where I helped with the organization of the Demo Day.

Do you think I can bring value to your company, organization or you?
I would be happy to talk with you!

Contact me!