How To Rock TechCrunch Disrupt
Howdy! Brett, here. As a 3x veteran of TechCrunch Disrupt (Battlefield runner up + two alumni updates), I hear from a lot of people asking for advice on how to maximize their time on stage. So with Disrupt San Francisco kicking off shortly, I’ve laid out a few thoughts on what you can do before, during, and after your presentation to get the most out of any pitch.
Break in. Firstly: how does one even get on stage to start with? Hint: NOT by sending in a blind application and putting your feet up waiting to get picked. That’s the equivalent of sending your business plan to email@example.com and expecting Roelof Botha to hit you right back. In other words: don’t hold your breath. Start by emailing every single person you know that has ever met anyone at TechCrunch.
Leading up to the event
Define and prepare for success. What do you want to get out of Disrupt? If you’re looking for funding, do you have your documents ready? Customers? Are you set up to accept payment? If you’re gunning for more users, have you built your viral landing page? Be prepared to capitalize on the opportunity that you fought so hard to get.
Practice, practice, practice. This is an obvious one, but it’s surprising how many very smart people mess this up. You probably have more experience writing slick optimization algorithms than keeping your cool in front of 10,000 people, so write out your speech (yes, speech). Once you’ve memorized it practice it for everyone that will listen. Twice. If you are looking for inspiration, this guy was pretty good.
Eliminate contingencies. Are you seriously going to have wi-fi problems on game day? Be like Steve and have plans B and C ready.
Leverage your airtime. Your time on stage is a valuable asset. If you are trying to lock down partnerships or customers, consider dangling the carrot of mentioning them on stage. We used our time on stage to help score a fantastic, early partnership with Media Temple that served as a reference for subsequent deals.
If you are new to tech like I was, Disrupt will be your introduction to everyone that matters in your industry. You’ve got this.
Sell the dream, not the app. People watch Disrupt because they are genuinely interested in technology; how is yours going to change their lives? Crystal clear, real world use cases will win over the audience; five minutes of poking around on your half-baked app will not.
Go big or go home. The absolute worst thing to do with your six minutes is to squander it on a perfectly safe, completely forgettable presentation. You are competing not only with 30 other hungry startups, but Twitter, dwindling attention spans, and hangovers. Getaround beat us by having their really smart, hot, coder/co-founder Jessica Scorpio roll up on stage in a red sports car that she opened up with her own app. Respect.
Be confident during Q&A, not obtuse. It is a privilege to receive live feedback from anyone, let alone from the brightest minds in tech. Don’t blow the opportunity by being defensive and pigheaded. Listen to and internalize what the judges say before responding. If you don’t have a clear rebuttal, it’s totally OK to simply say “Thanks.”
Be strategic about who you meet. Make a list of everyone you want to meet and decide exactly what you want to say to them. Use Sonar to see who’s there and set up meetings to tell everyone you can about your product and your vision. Spend plenty of time hanging out backstage; you earned the right to be there! Prolong your video interview with Jordan or Colleen, high-five Eldon, psyche out, er, compare notes with the competition, schmooze the speakers and judges. Meet Greg Barto. That guy rules.
Party like a rockstar. This may be the closest you ever get to being one.
Drop it while it’s hot. You won’t be at the center of the tech universe forever — leave it all on the table. We’ve adhered to a strict “ask for forgiveness, not permission” strategy. There may have been Sonaritas served; there may have been blatant on-stage recruiting; there may have been commandeering of demo tables in high traffic areas that we had no claim to (love you, Peter & Leslie!); there may have been party crashing. Just do it with a smile and always say thank you.
Don’t believe the hype. Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor will be your company. Don’t let the buzz get to you. What separates the real winners from losers are the founders that keep their heads on their shoulders, stay focused, and keep shipping.
Thanks for listening. Good luck and get after it.