This time last year, I was starting a company called 3 Thumbs Up. We weren’t at the phase where we wanted to raise much money, but we wanted to get exposure and, more importantly, see people’s reaction to our product. So when the Innovation Showcase came to town, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to grab a spot to pitch our idea. Here’s a summary of what transpired, and what you may be able to expect as an entrepreneur this year.
1. Get Setup
It’s simple. You have a table. You have power. The rest is up to you! Come prepared.
2. Meet More of “You”
Between talking to people at our booth and keeping myself hydrated (it was “a little” hot that day), I somehow found time to talk to other entrepreneurs. And boy, there were a lot of us! That, in itself, may have been the best opportunity of the day. Set aside time before the event gears up (i.e. as you set up) to chat with the others around you.
Everyone gets a shot at a 1 minute pitch. Thankfully, I was the first to go! No expectations and I didn’t have to wait in line for an hour to pitch. I spent a few hours honing my pitch that morning. Expect to do the same. It’s not easy to deliver a summary of your baby in 60 seconds.
4. Stand Out
We were on the cheap and didn’t have a banner. Many tables had fancy banners and posters. We had a computer to demo our app, and…beer! We homebrewed, bottled, and labeled 50 ”3 Thumbs Up” summer ales to give away at the showcase. I saved the last 5 seconds of my 1 minute pitch to exclaim, “If you want a homebrew, head our way!” This didn’t lead to the big check being written, but it sure made the event fun! Find a way to stand out from the rest of the crowd.
5. Talk, talk, and then talk some more
You will repeat the same thing about six thousand times that night. I effectively lost my voice after an hour. And the event was 5 hours long! Keep yourself hydrated and well-fed, because there won’t be much time to concern yourself with these things as you try to catch people, talk to them, sign them up, and steal their money (kidding).
6. Experiment with your Pitch
On the other hand, the excessive talking opens up the opportunity to experiment with your pitch. Over the course of several hours, I tried reworking my pitch while noting the emotional response of the recipient. If nothing else, this kept me sane! Think about your pitch throughout the night. Don’t turn into a broken record.
7. Set Expectations
Why are you at the Showcase? Startups come for a variety of reasons. Some are legitimately seeking investment dollars. Others want to connect with investors in case they need to raise money. Still others just want to make a public appearance with their startup. Why are you there? It’s unlikely you’ll walk away with a check, but expect to make connections and follow up after the event.
Good luck! Excited to see you there.