When demos go bad…

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I ran across a post today that ought to make you feel better about that VC presentation or conference demo you flubbed last year.

And if you’re headed to CES feeling nervous about your showman’s skills, this will be a salve.

It happens to everyone, reminds Intel’s Craig Raymond, writing this morning about that panic-filled moment when a demo goes bad — even Bill Gates. “OK, and right now nine people are being fired,” comedian Conan O’Brien quipped as they waited for the slides to appear during Gates’ 2005 CES keynote.

Craig is a senior engineer responsible for the tech that supports all Intel execs’ keynotes and stage presentations, and with CES on the horizon, he’s losing sleep (again) over a ‘Demo-Guy’s recurring nightmare:

It’s where you’re onstage with the CEO, and the demo you’re enthusiastically presenting blue-screens and freezes up while you stutter and stammer about “what should have happened.”

… First I heard, “Hey, is this that laptop with the cool screen?”
Then I heard the horrible dry pops of the proto WiFi antennas mounted in the screen being pulled from the PC housing. There would be no wireless 1’s and 0’s passed…

Borrowing from Craig, here’s what you should do when it all goes blue:

* if you’re giving the demo, keep moving.
* if you’re supporting/producing the demo, keep moving.
* never slap the hand of the “big boss” or anyone else contributing to your fiasco, “the literal definition of Career Limiting,” says Craig.
* this means no scolding of your colleagues when you’re the presenter.

We’ll add:
* keep it simple! We hear VCs say this repeatedly about startup presentations. Too many slides is distracting — for you, founders, not them! Less is more, and also reduces your risk of mistakes.
* never become dependent on your props.
Always be prepared to give your presentation “naked,” sans slides. Know your stuff well enough to be able to deliver your message concisely and clearly, just as if you were talking to someone about it at a cocktail party — standing up, no notes, no screen, no props. Then you needn’t worry about a blue screen glitch.

Craig concludes with this:

A long time demo veteran once told me, “Sometimes you’re the bird, sometime you’re the statue” … That’s what keeps us flapping our wings so hard, ‘cause if you stand still long enough, you just might start looking like that statue.

OK. So, be the bird.

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