LAUNCHub long weekend: my tips on pitching

LAUNCHub is a 9M Euro Seed & Acceleration fund, based in Sofia, Bulgaria, supported by a mentor-led program that invests in startup companies, mainly from the ICT sector from Bulgaria and the region. Our investments range from EUR 30K to 200K per company and we also provide guiding mentorship.

Last January I was invited but LAUNCHub to present “Work Hard, Play Hard, Pitch Harder”, my interactive workshop about public speaking and idea pitching. I went to Sofia and spend an amazing long weekend mentoring excellent startups.

Enjoy the video and checkout the complete video gallery of the event!

Tech Events – January 2013

The Europas – Berlin 22 Jan 2013

Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 11.56.17 AM
The Europas are a celebration of the most exciting early stage enterprises in the EMEA region and the ecosystem around them. In breaking the awards in a variety of categories we seek to highlight the bright lights disrupting their respective industries in increasingly innovative ways.

I’m covering the event for Heisenberg Media. Stay tuned to see our pictures and feel free to use them! Just remember we distribute our content in CC-BY so you only have to mention us and link back.

The Europas: Link

Startup Live Vienna – 25-27 Jan 2013

Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 11.56.48 AM

In a unique atmosphere, people from various backgrounds come together, get to know each other and develop early business drafts to a level where they are presented to investors. Participants can either pitch their own business idea, or help a presenter develop their project. The main objective is to form interdisciplinary teams whereby ventures are pushed to the next level.

I will be part of the mentors. See you there!

Startup Live Vienna: Link

Scott Berkun: an open letter to speakers

After “An Open Letter to Conference Organizers“, Scott Berkun published a very interesting “Open Letter To Speakers“. If you are a speaker at any public event, I’d suggest you to read it:

Your mistakes on stage are your own fault. You are a performer. Good performers don’t blame their tools. If your laptop flakes out, or your movie won’t play, you are responsible. If you have special needs, let the organizers know early and ask for a rehearsal. If you can’t get one, simplify. If at the rehearsal the tech guy is on drugs, or the organizer seems overwhelmed, simplify. It’s your show and you will be judged regardless of where you point fingers. Practice and prepare accordingly. Have a simple 5/10 minute fallback version of your talk you can do even if the there’s no electricity.

You can find the entire letter on Scott’s blog. You can also follow Scott on Twitter and I strongly suggest to read his books. Enjoy!

Switch Conference – Porto 16 and 17 April 2011

This weekend I was supposed to attend the Switch Conference in Porto, Portugal but unfortunately I won’t be there for a couple of issues I cannot procrastinate.
I’m really sorry to miss the opportunity of attending a conference that sounds really cool and packed of great speakers and friends.

“SWITCH is a two-day event that gathers people with different background experiences to discuss technology, science, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation in a network-friendly environment.

I was also supposed to present my latest Ignite Talk, “Symbolic Violence and Social Media” at Ignite Portugal tonight, but I’m missing that too. I really hope there will be other chances in the near future.

All my congratulation to Ricardo Sousa and all the Switchconf Staff for the excellent job they are doing and all the best wishes for their conference. next year I won’t miss it!

Open letter to an event organizer

leweb 2010 day two

A consistent part of my job is to attend events and quite often I’m invited to be on stage. I typically attend conferences, seminars, workshops, most of them are about tech, online business, startups and Internet culture. Maybe in the next months I will attend one of your events, so I just want to help you to avoid some common mistake.

At home I have a big box where I collect all the conference badges. I bet I have more than 200 of them, collected in the last three years. I would love to have great memories about your event when I put your badge in my favorite box.

There are several common mistakes that event organizers commit very often and I hope to offer my suggestions with this post, for the upcoming event you’re organizing.

I organized some events in the past and I committed some of these mistakes. Only now, with more experience I can say they were avoidable but when you are working hard for your event is not very easy to see these issues. For this reason I don’t want this post to be taken as a personal critique of any of the recent events I have attended.

I also know I cannot explore the entire spectrum of event mistakes, so I’m going to limit my scope on the worst 5 errors I encountered in my career. If I’m able to help others avoid these mistakes, I would be very satisfied.

Mistake 5 – Business Model

There is nothing wrong in organizing events to make a living. The best events in the world, such as concerts and art expositions have profit as the main purpose. So why try to hide it? You are organizing the event because of the money. Don’t be worried to say that openly.

Don’t be shy to say that you get money from sponsors. Don’t hesitate to charge for tickets. Just be fair and transparent. You cannot charge thousands of dollars on a single ticket and get dozens of volunteers to work on the conference because you’re promoting culture. It’s stupid and it doesn’t work in the long-term. You want volunteers? fine! publish your figures…

So please, don’t pretend you are doing that for free. It’s not the LiveAid, it’s a tech conference. You are not saving the rainforest, you are gathering a bunch of geeks in a room to do business, to show off their new iPhones and get badges on Foursquare. Of course if you ask them for money you have to provide value back. And guess what, if I pay 10 I want 15 back.

So… let’s discuss value

Mistake 4 – No value, no party

As I said before, if I give you 10 in cash I want 15 back in some sort of value. The kind of value is up to you. You can give me a unique opportunity to meet a guru. You can provide me with the best networking opportunity to meet new business partner. You can give me the best content, in terms of speakers and topics. But you cannot think that I would spend any money just to have a t-shirt, a badge, a huge bag of press material, a half ton of merchandise, a cool pencil, a few gadgets and my name on the guest list. We are not kids and not even kids like to go clubbing if there is no music, no girls, no guys and no beer.

So, please, think about the value you are providing me. It’s not about the gadgets, it’s not about the food. It’s about the people I meet, the content I get and how comfortable the venue is when I’m doing my business.

If it’s a show, make it fun. Real fun. If there’s a networking area, make it quiet and relaxed. Wi-Fi is welcome but we can live even without it, if on stage the right people are there.

Mistake 3 – People on stage

Don’t put idiots on stage. Especially if they are sponsors of the event itself. Wanna know why? because if the event is crap, I will blame you as the organizer and not the sponsor who bored me to death from the pitch.

Are you getting money from the sponsors? good, but don’t allow them to take over your job. Let them to put their names on billboards, on the ticket, even on the toilet paper if they want. But the event is yours, not theirs. Don’t give them access to the stage, unless you are super sure they are excellent speakers and they provide value to the audience.

Always respect the audience, they are your key value.

Mistake 2 – Respect the audience

Have a clear and easy to access agenda. Ask the speakers to strictly respect their time slot. Start on time and follow the schedule. Have an efficient way to inform your audience if there’s been any change in the program. Give them the chance to relax, with frequent breaks.

If you provide real-time feedback, like a twitter wall, you have to be ready to hear the criticism. Sometimes really bad criticism. You need to have an event manager to take care of the issues. If they shout that the toilet paper is gone, the solution is to provide more, not to shut down the twitter wall and to introduce moderation.

At the same time don’t let this real-time feedback to impact your event too much. Don’t let the presenter spend all his time reading tweets. He’s there to present, not to follow the twitter stream. Provide him a stage assistant, who reads the tweets and listens to the audience, in order to react quickly. Don’t mess up the roles.

Mistake 1 – The roles

If you are sick, and you go to the hospital, would you be happy if the doctor is more worried about what you say on twitter about the hospital rather than find you the better solution for your medical issue?

So, define clear roles. You are the organizer, and so you have to organize, not to be the star on stage. If you suck on stage, you suck on stage even if the event is yours. Don’t waste 15 minutes to say how cool your organization is and how many people are in the room and blah blah. Wanna be the one that opens the event? fine. Go on stage, say “thank you for being here, enjoy the event” and get off the stage. Your job is something else. Get out.

The speakers need to be “speakers” and not “influential people with cool job position in cool companies”. Nobody cares about your job title if you suck on stage. And then the event is crap. Get the best speaker and give them the opportunity to be well briefed about the audience, the kind of event, the demographics, the key messages of the event, the kind of speech they have to give.

Please ban the discussion panels. They suck all the time. They are usually an overcrowded group of people, who have never met each other before, too polite to disagree on anything, totally unprepared on the topic, not because they are not experts but because when a topic is very defined there is no discussion and if the topic is too broad no one cares!

Conversational interviews with good presenters, Ignite Talks, Pitches, keynote speeches are way better. And if you have the right people on stage, your event will rock!

A few more details

If you produce videos, pay attention to the audio. If you provide food, get the best food. Always provide water. Lots of water. If people provide you feedback, say “thank you” and shut up. Don’t address criticism on the same day. You are working and you are busy. You will have the time to think about criticism next week when debriefing with your staff.


Even when your event is free, people are giving you their time. Make them happy. Work hard and constantly try to improve. That’s your mission!

Yours sincerely,
“a serial conference addict”

PS: again, ban the discussion panels. Seriously, do it!

Picture from Leweb10 (the best tech event in Europe) taken by Teymur

Enterprise Social 2.0 – Brussels 8, 9 march 2011

enterprise social 2.0

One of the best conference i attended last year was Enterprise Social 2.0 organized by KGS Global. This march, on the 8th and 9th will take place the second edition, in Brussels, Belgium.

Of course i will be there and i strongly recommend to have a look at the speaker’s lineup, it’s really awesome!

See you in Brussels!

Here more infos and registration.

Presentation Reloaded: Workshop in Milan – 30/11/2010

presentation reloaded

I have to confess, i’m a presentation geek, and in the last few months i worked hard on my presentation skills. I followed several blogs and read many books on this topic. I also started, in collaboration with RBC and Elastic, the project.

Tomorrow, tuesday November the 30th, at Urban Center – Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II 11/12, Milan there will be one of the most interesting workshop about public speaking and presentations: Presentations Reloaded, organized by Augmendy and the super presenter Marco Montemagno.

The guest list is really impressive: Garr Reynolds, author of Presentation Zen and Marco Montemagno on stage. Carmine Gallo and Nancy Duarte live from USA.

It’s an event that you shouldn’t miss! It will be totally in English (extra kudos to Marco for this smart choice) and free, you only need to register here. Don’t miss it!