How to ruin your pitch, and your demo while you’re at it.

There are many ways to ruin your chances of making an impression.  Here’s a few gems from my experiences at Startup Weekend.


Ask for a show of hands or rhetorical questions.

Everyone before you asked for a show of hands.  I do not want to raise my hand again.  If you need the audience to validate you by raising their hands you’re asking too much.

“What would you say if I told you I could change your life?!”  Do you really expect me to answer you?

You’re pissing me off.

Talk quietly

What’s that?  Sorry can’t hear you.  You’ve already lost my attention.

Uhhhhhhh…. ummmmm….. so….


Ramble on and on incoherently

What I’m hearing “Blah blah blah.  Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog”.  Oh wait.  If you made an Arrested Development joke I might actually listen. You were less interesting than my computer.  You already lost.

Arrested Development reference... check.

“I don’t have much time so I’ll keep this short”

I already know you don’t have much time and you managed to waste more of it telling me what you’re going to do.  WHY HAVEN’T YOU STARTED YET?!

Read directly from notes

This should feel like a conversation, not a lecture.  If you’re speaking AT me, I’m not going to give you the time of day.  Back to my laptop…

Refuse to stop when your time is up

The elevator has stopped at my destination; if it were more socially acceptable I’d walk out.  Your time is up.  You should have been more succinct.

Tell me about your great idea that you have zero ability to work on

So you want to create another platform for social networking.  You have no skills marketing, designing, developing, selling, or really anything… but you have a lame idea.  Why in God’s name would I waste my time if you’re going to be dead weight.  Learn a skill… yesterday.

BONUS ROUND!  Demo time.

Don’t plan out your demo

“Doing it live” should be reserved for Bill O’Reilly, not for you to fumble over your words trying to show me something you created.

Ignore any microphones

Can’t hear ya buddy.  You’re now less interesting than twitter and reddit.

Ignore your sales plan

So you made something cool, and you plan to make money on it.  How the hell will anyone find it?

Show me a hockey stick and other fanciful numbers

You’re going to get astronomical growth in 3 years?  Yeah you and every other wannabe who saw “The Social Network”.  You can guarantee a million users?  Yeah… OK.  If you show me how your business plan would change as you grew you might impress me.

Avoid a use case and talk in vague generalities.

“This is going to revolutionize the market…”

“It’s going to make your life simpler”

“It’s going to bake you cakes and churn out the cure to cancer”

You might have actually made something I want to use, but if you spend your time bloating your demo with bullshit and don’t show me how I’d use it, you’re wasting time.

Make no mention of your vision

If you have a vision it can provide guidance for every decision you make.  It’s pretty binary.

if(decision.helps_me_approach(vision)) { do_it(); } else { move_on();}

Without that you’re going to try going a hundred directions at once.  You’ll be training to be a world class sumo wrestler while you train for record marathons.  You’ll fail at both.


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