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One of the ways for your new company to reach potential investors, backers and major customers is by participating in “speed pitching events” where, like speed-dating and elevator speeches, you’ve got only a brief time slot – anywhere from as little as one to minutes to up to ten including Q&A – to make your case.

That’s very different from typical press conference product announcement events that I’ve attended over the years, which can be anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, with the first quarter-to-half often taken up by a mix of “the earth cooled…” and corporate bloviating, before any actual product and announcing begins. As in, make sure you’ve had enough coffee – but not too much!

You may not necessarily be competing against the other presenters at pitch events. But regardless of whether there’s a specific award or prize, the potential bigger pay-off is arousing interest from the potential backers and buyers in the audience or who read post-event articles covering the event.

And there’s a large, and growing, number of these events throughout the world each year.

Start by looking locally – in the business section of your local newspaper(s), event listings from local colleges and professional organizations, sites like EventBrite and MeetUp and, of course, web-searching on one or more terms like “pitch,” “entrepreneur,” “events,” “innovators,” “innovation hub,” “incubator,” and “startups.”

One list my own search turned up is Walker Sands’ “Pitch and Demo Events for Tech Startups. My search also turned up some interesting larger events which include pitch contests and other organizers, like this HardwareCon, Technori and, more to the point, confirms that there are LOTS of potential places for you to quick-pitch your hardware startup company and product(s).

Agenda Advice From LaunchIt: Four Minutes, Five Slides 

One quick-pitch event I’ve attended a few of is LaunchIt, held during the International CES in Las Vegas since 2016. LaunchIt is run by ShowStoppers LLC, in partnership with the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). ShowStoppers produces press and business events, notably at CES, IFA, NAB, Mobile World Congress, and CE Week.

LaunchIt is a curated pitch event. To enter, companies exhibit that year in CES’s Eureka Park Premier TechZone. 12 companies are selected by judges to pitch from up to 40 semifinalists, after the judges first review 100 or more entries.

Each LaunchIt presenter has four minutes, and the organizers recommend no more than five slides.

LaunchIt is aimed mostly at investors and business reporters, but because it’s at and during CES, also is likely to have a handful of tech reporters in the audience. Even though LaunchIt doesn’t charge presenters for the opportunity, the time and costs to be exhibiting at CES aren’t trivial.

I’ve attended a few of these LaunchIt events (in my capacity as freelance journalist, there more generally for CES – including ShowStoppers’ always-worthwhile evening press/analyst-only multi-vendor event) and can testify that, to paraphrase Ferris Bueller, they move pretty fast.

Steven Leon, Partner, Media Operations & Business Development, Showstoppers, recommends this structure for LaunchIt presenters:

Five Slides

  1. Company name, with your address and your job title.
  2. Product name, and what it does.
  3. Who’s going to buy your product.
  4. How large is the market.
  5. How to contact you.

Four Minutes

Minute One:

  1. What is company name? Where is company based? What is your job title at the company?
  2. What do you build/develop/market?
  3. Who do you sell it to? Who’s your customer?
  4. Why do they buy it?
  5. What does it cost?
  6. When will it be available? Is it available now?

Minute Two:

  1. Are there competitors? What makes your widget different/better from the competitors?
  2. How large is your market? How are you going to sell it?

Minute Three:

  1. Show me how it works.

Minute Four:

  1. Answer questions.

That’s a daunting but not impossible challenge (practicing, with a stopwatch, should help).

Understand the Event Before You Submit

Walker Sands’ web event list page says, “As a startup, every opportunity you get to showcase your brand to a targeted audience of potential investors, partners and customers is invaluable.”

It’s also true that time is one of your more precious and scarce resource.

Before you submit to present at an event you should, of course, do your homework, including determining:

  • Where, when, what’s involved, etc.
  • How much time do you have?
  • What are the types of audiences/purposes (e.g. investors, prospects, tech/biz journalists), and what does each want to know?
  • Are there any costs to be a presenter?
  • Can/must you show “slides”?

Meanwhile, begin going to some events as an audience member, to get a sense of what they’re like.

Also, prepare and practice some presentations. While each event may have its own recommended/required talking points, it can’t hurt to have a few ready to go. I recommend one business-oriented one following LaunchIt’s structure, one more product-oriented one, and be sure to have a less-than-one-minute super-speed elevator pitch.

You can also look for events explicitly intended as practice spaces, like Startup Pitch Night, currently with events in over twenty cities around the U.S. and internationally.

And, wearing my tech journalist hat, let me emphasize (well, suggest) that you don’t get so wrapped up in doing a business presentation that you forget to say what your product actually is and does – briefly, of course – because some investors will care as much about that as you having a good business plan. And press coverage is more likely to talk about the products rather than whose business plans looked like the best investment bets.

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