03. How to demo your product

Estimated Time

  • Reading: ~8 minutes
  • Video: ~33 minutes
  • Activities: to be completed prior to the next week


  • Show your product and use great examples
  • Be ready for any contingency
    • If meeting online; via Zoom
      • Forward a copy of your deck right before the meeting in case the screen share doesn't work
      • Have your phone dialed in and ready to call in case the audio doesn't work
    • If meeting in person
      • Download your presentation to your computer in case you don't have wifi
      • Print out a couple of copies of your deck in case your computer goes out entirely
  • Don't point out when something stops working, most people don't notice if you keep moving.

Episode Date: July 11, 2014 — Link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4w3da70TnZs

Jason Calacanis | TWiST | Twitter | LinkedIn


  • Jason's Rules for Pitching
    • Get to the product in 15 seconds
    • Show don’t tell
    • Examples matter (of people using the product)
    • Synchronicity (be talking about what’s on the screen)
    • One slide - one message (keep it simple)
  • The world wants things that solve a problem elegantly

Show your product in the first 15 seconds

  • A huge mistake founders often make in a demo is spending the first several minutes talking about themselves
  • Or talking about why they built the product
  • If you aren't willing to show the product right away it signals to the audience that your product isn't worth showing
When someone doesn't show me their product quickly, whether it's in an elevator, at an event, on stage, in a private meeting — I just start in my head thinking, "the time it takes for them to get to the product is negatively correlated with how good the product is." - Jason
  • Initially this can be a screenshot but eventually you'll want an embedded video within the pitch that you can talk to as it shows your product
  • This is a great opportunity to record a Loom that you can share on social media, intro emails, or with current users
    • Loom has great tutorials on the following:
      • Getting Started
      • Recording and Editing
      • Workspaces and Plans
    • You can also look into some specific use cases of how to best leverage Loom

Show, don't tell

  • Do not talk about what your product does — show what it does
  • This allows the listener to experience the product for themselves
  • If you don't show the product during a demo investors or users will start to think:
    • That your product doesn't yet exist
    • It must not be that good
    • It is too hard to understand
    • You aren't confident in what it does

Use examples to tell a story

  • You do not want to sound robotic or simply read from script
  • When possible use a real customer and tell their story
    • What is their background?
    • Why are they using your product?
    • How have you delighted them?
  • Storytelling does a few things for you
    • It gets people invested in your product and your presentation
    • It helps them understand a use case for your product
    • It provides answers to the following questions:
      • Who is your ideal customer?
      • Why would someone buy your product?
      • How are they using it?
    • Now that they understand this they can extrapolate out to other use cases
  • Stories are easier to follow and remember
    • You never want your customer or investor confused with the value you provide
    • You always want them to leave the conversation with a clear understanding of your product


  • The screen should always match what the presenter is talking about at the time
  • Slides want to move
    • ~10 seconds on each slide keeps the presentation moving
    • Keeps the listener engaged
  • Describe the screen you're showing
    • You can naturally talk to each slide and tell the story
    • This way you don't need to write notes
      • Although having a script can be a good thing for formal presentations
      • Practice so it doesn't sound robotic

One slide - one message

  • Keep your slides simple
  • Do not have multiple points on a single slide
    • If this happens break it up into two slides
    • Or remove the unnecessary content
  • If you have more than one point on a slide you lose the synchronicity
    • If you lose synchronicity the chance of losing the audience increases
    • Someone should be able to glance at your slide and clearly know what you are talking about
  • Remember, slides want to move!
    • If you try to put too much content on each slide you won't be able to hit your ~10 seconds
    • In a 3 minute pitch, it isn't uncommon for our founders to have 20-30 slides
    • To make this work you must be concise and stick to a single message

Pre-Demo Checklist

  • Who are you demoing to?
  • You should have different pitches depending on if you are talking to a potential customer or investor
    • The product is the same so at the core the message is similar
    • But the way each group interacts with your product is different
  • Adjust the messaging in your demo accordingly
    • For example,
      • An investor is going to care about total users and monthly growth more than a customer who is focused on the number of hours your product saves their development team
      • An investor may care about the hours saved, and a customer may care about the growth of your user base but they'll almost certainly prioritize those metrics differently
      • You need to tell the story that makes sense to your audience
  • Jason's five points are important for either presentation

Stylistic Presentation

  • Similar to what we've talked about in building your MVP
    • The presentation, the design, and the feel of your presentation is important but only if your product is great
    • If you don't have a product then no presentational style will save it
    • Don't present a product that's not ready to be presented
  • Don't let your speaking style put other people to sleep.
    • Learn to use your voice as a tool
      • Adding inflection to highlight key points engages the audience
      • The volume at which you speak can help tell the story
    • You can even use your hands when making specific points
    • It helps people follow along and gets their attention.

Avoid technical issues

  • It is a great idea to have a browser profile specifically for when you will demo
  • You want the taskbar and bookmark bar hidden.
    • Learn to make your browser fullscreen
    • Avoid losing any screen real estate while presenting
  • For important Zoom calls use ethernet, have a headset with a stick microphone, and practice properly sharing your screen
  • If you are in person have your presentation downloaded.
  • If you have built-in contingencies, you will be able to keep presenting smoothly.
  • Don't point out when something stops working, most people don't notice if you keep moving.

Pitch Feedback

  • Jason & Charles Provide Pitch Feedback at the 19th intensive Founder.University
  • Hear how two investors discuss making investments after hearing an initial pitch
  • A few of their main take aways:
    • Most startups try to solve too many problems at once. Focus.
    • A pitch has to be crisp
    • Give rich memorable examples and be clear on:
      • Who you help?
      • What you charge?
      • How many customers you have?
      • Why do your customers use your solution?
    • Founders should think, "What is strongest about my company?" and put that first
      • It gets the investor's attention
      • Just like why action movies start with a bang!
"The number one thing I end up talking to people about is, how can we do fewer things, but do them faster and better." - Charles Hudson
"You have this bundle of energy as a founder; we just need to make it into a laser, not a grenade." - Jason Calacanis.

May 11, 2021

  • The founder pitches are include before this feedback if you want to watch those as well for background
  • There is a second set of companies that present and get feedback in this video
  • Additional notes from the pitches at FU19

Slide Content Suggestions

  • Below are 11 slide suggestions to get you started
  1. Your intro slide that is up as soon as you share your screen
    • Included on this initial slide:
      • Your company name
      • Your logo
      • Your one simple sentence
  2. "Let me show you how it works"
    • Dive right into the product!
      • Get to the product within the first 15 seconds — check!
      • Show, don't tell — check!
      • You just hit two of Jason's rules for pitching on the second slide!
    • If absolutely necessary, spend a few seconds setting up the problem.
    • Otherwise, get right to the product demo.
  3. Product demo! "Examples Matter."
    • Show the product through the example of an actual customer.
      • A great way to do this is to highlight your top customer and what impact your product/service had on their lives.
      • Bottom line: The more specific and compelling the example, the more memorable it will be!
    • Don't use generic language like, "You (or a user) can go to our platform"
      • Instead, use a compelling customer example with specifics of what that customer is actually doing, like:
      • "Meet Jane, a brand manager at Acme. She's hosting an online product launch party for 5000 people next month and needs an influencer to promote it. She comes to our site and chooses Brad, a graphic artist with 169k Instagram followers...” etc.
    • This way the person receiving the pitch does not have to work
      • Show the character through action!
      • Show the flow and describe exactly what Jane does and the result.
      • Follow the example until the end and resolve Jane's story.
        • She used our product and had x, y, and z results
        • Saving her x amount of time and y amount of money, etc.
    • The demo should be a recording within your slide presentation.
      • Don't use an embedded YouTube video
      • Or use any video that has pre-recorded narration in it.
      • You do the narrating
  4. Business model
    • Here is how we make money...
    • Make it simple to understand how your customer pays you
  5. Traction
    • Growth, revenue, users
    • Charts are best for showing this quickly
    • Stacked bar graphs or combination charts are a great way to show this. [Tutorial]
  6. Customers.
    • Number of customers
      • The growth rate of customers month over month
      • Customer retention
      • Again these can easily and quickly be understood best in a chart
    • Logos of important clients
    • Customer testimonials are great
      • Pick one or two of the best
      • Give them separate slides and read the quotes
        • It is better to use one quote and read it directly
        • Rater than to include six quotes and skim them
  7. Competition.
    • A chart with columns and checkmarks is usually the best model for this
    • The one where you have all of the checkmarks and your competitors don't
    • A quadrant with an x-y axes can work as well — although it is a bit more simplistic
  8. Current go to market
    • How are you acquiring customers
      • What channels?
      • Organic vs paid?
  9. Roadmap
    • How will you scale?
    • How will you get to $10M and then $100M in annual recurring revenue?
    • Use a timeline, with years on the bottom, showing the revenue you'll hit each year and mention how you'll get there.
    • This is another way of getting at market size, but it's a bottoms-up approach.
    • Does not have to be very detailed, just hit the major notes
  10. Team
    • Don't need a lot of text here
    • Include pictures, names, and titles
    • Also include logos of where they worked previously under their pictures
      • If it is relevant to their expertise
      • This can add credibility
  11. End the same way as the Intro
    • “Thank you. I'm so and so, founder of x, and we [ insert one simple sentence ]”

Additional Resources


Create a skeleton pitch deck
  • Creating a templated deck will allow you to quickly input and update your deck as your company continues to evolve
  • Begin to layout your pitch deck by following the minimum suggestions above
    • Use Jason's rules for pitching as a guide
    • You may not have all the experience to fill in content just yet
    • That is okay (if you do great - get a head start and fill it in!)
Record your first Loom demoing the deck
  • The sooner you can start practicing your pitch the better
    • Several of you are already starting to practice in breakout rooms
    • Recording and listening back to your own pitch will help you refine each second of the 1-3 minute video
  • Not only will this recording provide you feedback on your demo, but it will provide content for you to share about your product once it is polished