A few weeks ago my co-conspirator in Betidings, Kenton White, suggested that we put ourselves forward to participate in a DemoCamp. My immediate feeling was trepidation, that turned to excitement as I understood more about the intent of DemoCamp. We were in a perfect stage to participate, as we had some basic functionality coded and tested around our idea and wanted to seek external validation to help us understand whether to continue our adventures, rejig, refine or abandon. Preparations continued apace in advance of the night. Close friends and supporters were enlisted to test out the site and my demo, each practice run helped me to become more relaxed and refine my answers. It’s an excellent chance to practice out loud answers to those business questions we think about all the time. My friends now know more than they ever wished about our value proposition, competitive landscape and business models. Thanks guys!
We arrived with plenty of time on the evening and started meeting other presenters and the organisers. Everyone did a fine job of helping to put me at ease. Public speaking is exhilarating to me, the pre-speaking jitters are more than offset by the high of getting up there and doing it. All of the presenters seemed relaxed and comfortable, I envied them. The first big task of the evening, at least from my perspective, was determining the order of the demos. First or third were my options. I figured that if I went first I would be able to relax and enjoy the other presentations (and a beer as well). So there I was, committed to that first slot. The room was humming, it was a full house, the countdown began.
Those of you who attended know how the demo went. I hadn’t practiced with a mic – that was a challenge to me as I usually gesticulate a lot when I talk. Trying to keep the mic in a useful location, operate the laptop and not trip-up was interesting. My next interesting moment was when I launched into my demo and lost my network connection. Arghhhh (and a selection of assorted expletives that I learned on a UK rugby pitch) went through my head. Ok, need to fix this quickly. Should we switch to our local host copy of the site or try to repair the network connection? Phew, network repaired, let’s keep moving along (rinse and repeat, damn network). Yup, not as smooth as I had hoped for, but at least I didn’t have to resort to the requested dance. Have you seen me dance?
By the end of the demo it was just questions left. Every speaker knows that this is the most exciting and scary moment of the talk. Will there be any questions? Will I be able to (a) understand and (b) answer them? Will our idea be lauded or flamed? It’s the moment of truth. It can also be the most entertaining part, interaction with the audience and a real chance to think on your feet. Here goes – yay, there are questions, even better I can answer them too. Each question is delivered slightly differently, some a little more directly than others, I am so focused on hearing the question and formulating my response that I don’t reflect much on the delivery style and would hardly be able to recognise anyone in a identification parade. Ohhh, that’s a pretty blunt question about our UI, no problem to answer, of course we’ll be working on it. Curses, that would’ve been a really good spot to solicit some help. Typical, only coming up with that thought after the fact, very Seinfeld-esque. Finally the demo and questioning have wrapped up. I’m wired, and happy to be done, time for that beer. My regret is not being quick witted enough to make a Big Bang Theory reference during my presentation. Happily for you all, not only did I refrain from dancing, I also didn’t crack any quantum mechanics jokes (ok, so I only have one and it’s pretty lame).
What did we gain from presenting at DemoCamp? A huge amount. We received feedback on the idea – it’s strengths and shortcomings. We have greater insight into our target audience, core focus and next steps. Many members of the community shared their thoughts and efforts in the event discovery and calendar space. In fact, post demo conversations were a most rewarding part of the evening. We know some potential collaborators and champions. We have validated that it is an interesting problem to work on; one that hasn’t been satisfactorily addressed yet. Most of all, we received enough support and encouragement to continue to pursue our adventure. Thank you.
So don’t be afraid, jump in and share your product idea with DemoCampOttawa. A deadline to present works wonders for your focus and progress. You’ll meet great people, receive plenty of feedback and, even if it is a little intimidating to get out there, just do it. Seriously, what is the worst that could happen? You may be surprised by how much you get out of it.
By Scott Lake