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When a startup gives a mini-presentation at a conference, the format is fairly standard: personal introduction, the name of startup, the problem being tackled, and the totally awesome solution.

The five-minute format is informative and concise but not interactive or engaging. It gives the audience the basics but there’s no sizzle. The entrepreneurs don’t lack creativity but they’re boxed into a confined format.

presentationAs a result, most, if not all, of these presentations sound the same. It’s different actors telling slightly different stories to an audience that finds it easy to check out to check their email or social media feeds.

But is there a better way?

Can startup better capitalize on their five minutes on stage to do something that isn’t “vanilla ice cream”?

Their presentations don’t need to be sexy but it would be great to spice them up. A startup looking to stand out is creative, different and unorthodox – otherwise, they are simply part of the demo assembly line.

How about a presentation that gets the audience involved? Maybe an entrepreneur can ask people in the audience if they’re suffering from a specific problem, and have them talk about the pain involved?

Then, the entrepreneur would jump into their pitch about they have developed a solution that the audience member could use.

What about beginning a mini-presentation with a story that engages the audience from the beginning. It’s an approach that Larry Kim says is far more effective than kickings thing off by introducing yourself.

It’s potentially risky but it is different. But risks are how businesses outflank the competition and develop a distinct position and brand personality. Thinking out of the box is a no-brainer when everyone is dutifully following the same script.

Right now, the five-minute demo pitch is too structured, formulaic and confining. It makes entrepreneurs perform but doesn’t provide any latitude to entertain or engage, while educating. In many ways, it removes their uniqueness and excitement.

Five minutes isn’t a lot of time but it gives entrepreneurs a golden opportunity to tell their story and drive awareness. To not do a better or different job on stage is a mistake because they fail to make an impact.

My advice to entrepreneurs is to explore a new way to use their 300 seconds on stage. What could they do to deliver the basics – what they do and the problem being solved – while creating an experience that is distinct, memorable or unique.

What do you think? What could entrepreneurs do differently with their five minutes on stage?


I’ve worked with dozens of startups and fast-growing companies looking to accelerate their marketing. My services are driven by frameworks and processes to create messaging, strategic plans and content. If you want marketing that makes a difference, let’s talk. If you are looking for hand-picked startup content, subscribe to my weekly newsletter.

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