Lessons from WebInno22
A few weeks back I attended WebInno22 in Cambridge MA, founded by David Beisel of Venrock. The gathering of 500+ technorati – entrepreneurs, investors, potential customers, analysts, press and others, is designed to showcase the work of innovative Boston area Internet and software firms through 5-minute demos. And those 5-minute demos provided some great lessons.
Schmoozing and Demos
WebInno is a major schmoozing event and as it turns out, you can gauge a demo’s success by the schmooze volume during each “main dish” demo presentation:
- Loud schmoozing. People would rather schmooze about their stuff than hear about your demo (sorry). Not good.
- Quieter schmoozing. People are more interested in your demo than their schmoozing (holy smokes!) Very good.
It all seems so simple. Show a demo of your innovative product or service and investors, analysts, press and customers will flock to you. Too bad it’s not that simple. But as it turns out, it doesn’t need to be that complicated either.
To be fair, some companies were very young and may not have much experience with demos. Nonetheless, the event provided some great lessons that will help anyone involved with demos.
Demo #1, Planet Cazmo: Too much demo, not enough WIFM*.
The first presenter tried to give a full tour of their online virtual world for kids. In 5 minutes. Oy! It looked interesting but I couldn’t figure out why my own kids would want to use it. What was the value? Why was it unique? He never told us in layman’s terms (or I couldn’t remember him telling us). The schmooze level (of people that were interested in something other than the demo) was deafening and when it came time to vote on the best product, this company came in last.
Lesson: Tell people what’s special about the service or product and use the demo to show that.
* WIIFM means ‘What’s in it for me” a.k.a., why should I care about this?
Demo #2, Thunder Thimble: Wobbly positioning.
The second presenter had a good product – potentially the best of the bunch – but he got lost in the weeds. And so did we. I sort of got his product but his positioning was muddled. Although Thunder Thimble was product was focused on Twitter, he still had a lot of conventional competitors and he didn’t explain at all why his product was better than theirs. The product is less than two years old so no one can expect it to be as comprehensive as the others. But it definitely had potential. Moderate murmur turned into deafening noise later in the demo. His product came in second.
Lesson: Clear positioning makes for a clear reason to buy.
Demo #3, BuySellAds: Clear value, simple demo.
The third presenter had a solution to a slightly obscure — but real — problem. Obscure as it was, he did a great job explaining it. He showed an excellent product but I still liked #2 better. But demo #3 was far superior to the others and guess what: he won the contest. The 500 schmoozers yapped least during this demo because it captured their interest.
Lesson: Deliver a simple demo focused on clear business value and you’ll win (literally).
No, it’s never just a demo that people want to see. They want to know why they should care – which you can show in your demo. Check my next post (coming in a few days) for details on how to build a great product or solution demo.
Check out Web Innovators Group to see more write-ups from press and bloggers.