Having attended Finovate and other similar conferences, I have some "do’s and dont’s" from an audience member’s perspective. For those that are not familiar with the format of Finovate, it is refreshing: no presentations – only live demos – and only 7 minutes, after which a bell rings and your microphone gets muted. Just like at the Oscars, but without the glam, accompanying orchestra, and fake adulation.
Don’t f**k it up
This seems obvious, but when you have a couple of thousand financial decision-makers’ ears, you don’t want to mess it up. Prepare by:
Having multiple instances of your product and hardware ready that have been tested in the exact venue,
Being independent of any third-party services, such as cellular networks or Wi-Fi provided by the event, Reduce your risk of failure as much as possible,
Practicing your presentation – lots
Having a support person on stage with you.
Everyone knows live demos often goes haywire, but make sure yours doesn’t. You want to be remembered for a brilliant demo. Demos that hang, are slow or fail, kill your message and damage your brand.
Don’t leave the audience thinking: WTF was that???
From the outset, state the problem you intend to solve, or at least the landscape that you are working in. At Finovate NYC, a couple of presenters launched into their demos without as much as an indication of the space they were working in. The audience comes from varied backgrounds. I am not an investment banker, so when you launch into a presentation without saying what it is what you are doing, you lose me and won’t be able to get me back for the rest of the presentation. Similarly, many audience members are not technical, so if you start off by talking about neural networks or some esoteric encryption technique, you will lose the bulk of the audience who are not prepared for this information.
Tell the audience what you are going to talk about - talk about it - then wrap up by telling them what you just told them,
Be clear with your message,
Use the first 15 seconds to tell the audience in every-day speak what the problem is that you are solving, then by all means use technical jargon,
Wrap up your demo by reiterating the main points of your presentation, underlining the thoughts that you want to leave imprinted on the audience.
Once the scene is set, everyone can understand what you are on about, even if they do not understand the intricate detail.
Don’t run out of time
Some presenters tend to speak very fast when pressed for time. Not only does that make your audience feel uncomfortable, but it makes them think that you are not in control of what you are doing. Relax and use fewer words. Every word counts; so make sure they are all correct.
Don’t bring attention to the clock. We all know you only have 7 minutes, but by making comments like “Oooh I am running out of time”, you distract the audience from your message and look unprofessional. Just don’t. Don’t rush your words. Less is more.
Choose your words carefully,
Manage your time,
Keep your audience’s focus,
Don’t appear rushed, even if you are totally freaking out inside.
Be innovative and capture their imagination
At Finovate NYC, the number of truly innovative products was only a handful. None of the security solutions, of which there were many, were particularly innovative.
Focus on the innovation; everything else is irrelevant,
Be honest with the audience: they can quickly figure out if you are demoing vaporware or a shrink-wrapped demo. If I think you are lying to me, I am not going to be interested,
Be innovative in how you present, and behave on stage.
By all means, have a personality
Don’t drone. Say 'hi', introduce yourself, and off you go in a relaxed and friendly manner. If you mumble, rush, or look frightened, we are all frightened. Have support on stage with you, or even better, have someone else run the physical demo while you talk and explain. This most definitely works best.
Follow up solidly in your exhibition booth
All presenters get a booth for the day when they are not presenting. This is where you interact with all the delegates, charm them, and give them info to educate them about your brand and product. I was amazed by how badly some of those were run; with people in the booth looking totally disinterested and unapproachable.
If someone pauses and looks at your display, or starts walking very slowly and looks at you, they are interested. Engage with them.
Don’t be creepy and pushy. If people are interested, you will get an indication of their interest from their body language. Engage with them.
Be aware of people waiting to talk to you when you are already talking to someone else. Make them feel welcome and tell them you will attend to them soon, or include them in the conversation you are having if it's appropriate.
Make sure you have a working demo at your booth. If you have a hardware product, make sure the hardware is there.
Have enough promotional material and business cards.
Keep the energy up without resorting to Red Bull or Coke.
Prepare by using the social network of the event at least a week before the event, to connect and lock in meetings with people that you identified as your target market.
Lastly, don’t say anything until you are 100% sure the sound engineer has muted your microphone. This can be incredibly awkward, and it was, last year at Finovate NYC. If you were there, you know who I’m talking about.
See you at Finovate Spring in San Jose end April 2017!