AVF Frequently Asked Questions: Selection Day

If you are getting ready for Selection Day for Angel Venture Fair, these are the questions I hear most:  

What should I put in my pitch for Selection Day?

First, I recommend you follow the advice in my ebooks, starting with First Steps and How to Avoid a Trainwreck. Check out The 10-Slide Rule is Wrong too. Click on the Books link above. Use the super-secret discount code AVF1 to download books for free. I wrote these books based in part on what I've witnessed as a judge at AVF Selection Day.

For content, start with the official recommended topics and other advice that was sent out by the AVF central office is also a good place to start. But–VERY IMPORTANT–don’t slavishly try to follow that order, or even include all those slides. I’ve been a judge at Selection Day for fifteen years and I have NEVER seen a judge check to see if a company complied with the recommendations that came out of the central office.

Instead, edit/rearrange according to the facts of your company. For example, if you’re a marketing play in a mature market, you need to spend more time talking about marketing. If you’re an innovative technology, you need to spend more time describing how it will help customers. My ebooks say more about how to do that.

What the judges DO want to see is a clear explanation of who you are, why you think you’ll be successful, how you will scale, how you will make money, etc. They want to know "why you?" and "why now?" 

Follow directions in my ebooks (especially First Steps) for making uncluttered, legible slides. If the judges struggle to understand your main points because your slides are a confusing mess, that won’t get excited about recommending your company to pitch at AVF.

How many slides do I need?

The answer is:  the number of slides doesn’t matter.

The number of slides (for a presentation deck) is irrelevant. Use as many low-density slides as you need. Ignore anything like the 10-slide Rule. (That's why I wrote The 10-Slide Rule is Wrong.)

Use as many LOW-DENSITY slides as you need.

If you aren’t counting slides, that means you can spread your information out over many slides and thus show clean, uncluttered slides with one image, or one graph, or just a few words or bullets on each. Fight the urge to add detail, or little images, just to fill the slide.

That said, DO NOT GO OVER TEN MINUTES!  

How strict is the time limit?

The time limit is strict. DON’T GO OVER TEN MINUTES!  

It might help you relax to know that the judges at Selection Day overlook a lot of rough edges. They know that many of you are doing this for the first time. They’re on your side. They want you to succeed. If you do mis-judge the time (it happens), stop when time is called and go straight to Q&A. If you handle it cooly and professionally, it won't count against you. But if you insist on plowing ahead with more slides, or if you argue, you’re dead!

Can I use notes?

No fowl if you occasionally sneak a peak at notes, or index cards. It's best, though, if you can deliver your narrative smoothly without notes, making good eye contacts with all the people in the room. Rehearse.

DON'T read from a prepared script. Judges hate that. 

DON'T read everything off the slide. Judges hate that too. This is another reason why low-density slides are good because they forces you to fill out the ideas with your spoken words. 

Will there be Q&A?

Yes. The Q&A is equally as important as the presentation. Judges ask questions to clarify points, or to address issues you overlooked. They ask good questions. 

Important: keep your answers short! Answer with a single paragraph, then stop. If they want to know more, they'll ask. If seen judges rule against a company because the CEO didn't know when to shut up.

Take good notes during the Q&A. You'll learn a lot from the judges questions. If a team member is with you, assign them to note-taking.

One presenter or two?

One. No tag teams!

Judges want to see the CEO present. However, if the CEO really can't make it to Selection Day because of a prior commitment, mention that at the outset of the presentation. But, if at all possible, the CEO should be the presenter. It's very important.

Team members are encouraged to be in the room, and it's good to acknowledge them at the opening of your presentation. But this is a CEO audition, first and foremost. Even during the Q&A, the CEO should answer most questions. 

Can I bring props?

Yes, bring props, product samples, mockups. Bring anything that will help the judges understand what you got. Show and tell. Props are good. Have fun with props.

But it's not a demo ... 

Can I do a demo?

Be careful. This is not demo day, it’s a full company pitch. A quick demo within the 10 minutes might work, if it is the most efficient way to understand what you have AND it doesn’t take too much time from the other business topics you need to address. Be sure to practice and time it. 

Software demos usually fail to impress. If your product is an app or a website, maybe show use a quick sample with well-orchestrated screen shots. But only if your website is amazingly new and unique. If in doubt, don't.

On the other hand, a walk-through of how a customer uses your product (or struggling with how it's done now), can be valuable to help us visualize what's going on. Narrative story plus great photos works well.

You will not have time to demo anything after the ten minutes is up. Judges take over with questions.

Will there be a lectern?

Most of the rooms are small conference rooms. Even if yours has a lectern, don’t use it.

You’ll have a clicker to advance slides. No need to bring a helper to do it for you. The CEO clicks. 

Is there WIFI?

Probably, but don’t rely on it. DO NOT depend on wifi for any part of your presentation. If you need to show a website, mock it up within your presentation. 

Can I include a video?

Not recommended. Videos often don’t work, leaving the presenter standing there saying, “It worked last night” and wasting valuable time.

If you really must, nothing more than 30 seconds long. This isn’t an AVF rule, it’s just the practical limit to how long the audience will sit for a video when what they really want to hear is you.

That promotional video you’re so proud of is not appropriate to show to investors. The only videos that might be worthwhile are ones that show (in 30 seconds or less) more than you could ever explain in twice the time.  A manufacturing process, or a customer using your product, for example.

No matter what, have a Plan B.  If the video doesn’t work (as it did last night), go immediately to a summary of what we would have seen, and keep up your pace. The judges will understand, and will be happy you didn’t let it fluster you or slow you down.

Better yet, stick to slides and props. Since there's no limit to the number of slides, you might try a quick series of slides to show us what you thought was crucial to show in a video.