What I Learned at Finovate New York

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

First, the disclaimer. Blue Pane Studio is the app developer for Finovate. My wife is the founder of BPS and its Art Director.

Conference moved from the Javits Center, the seeming black-hole of Wi-Fi, to an interesting venue on 34th Street, the Manhattan Center Studios. The Center comprises multiple levels with a large, ornate ballroom on the 7th floor even. Interesting combination of mobile, social, payment models amidst the panache of yesteryear. Also, noisy, distracting and charmingly chaotic as the orbits of 7 minute demos, 32 presenters booths and an audience engaged with other screens collided amplifying their sounds within the theatre. Somehow, at least to me, it all complemented the struggles and vicissitudes of start-up life.

From the vantage point of the higher seats, nearly all attendees seemed to be doing something on some sort of device, e.g PC or Air or iPhone or iPad, as the speakers peddled for their lives. I’m not sure if 50 is the new 40 and adults are behaving like our children. Last week my son texted a friend as I ‘admonished him for an indiscretion.’ Occurred to me that he performed this feat of casual dexterity as an unconscious task. Used to be that parents needed loud voices; more useful today would be a gesture or trick that disrupted the in-home Wi-Fi network. Maybe a clap and a wink. I’ll get started on designing this app.

Here’s what I learned at this Finovate. You cannot be heard if no one is listening. And hi-res screens with plenty of bandwidth (Internet access) are formidable competitors for mind-share. This means that 7 minutes can be a long time to be ignored if the speaker does not grab the audience’s attention immediately. Think ‘elevator pitch’ and ‘back of the business card.’

1. Just because you are the Founder or the CEO does not make you the most qualified to present. Seek Effectiveness.
2. If you believe #1, don’t over-compensate by hiring the voice-over dude or re-purpose Heather the Intern because they have vocal and visual appeal. For sure, Finovate is not the Machine Tool Show of yesteryear. Avoid gimmicks. Seek Genuineness.
3. Don’t cram a 10 minute demo into 7 minutes; don’t expand a 4 minute demo into 7 minutes. The purpose of the demo is to have 5 actual prospects, as you define prospect, meet with you shortly after for a thorough conversation.
4. When introduced by name and company, do not immediately repeat your name and company. Such encourages a peek at Twitter. Ditto for warm-up jokes. This is not Toastmasters. A story relevant to the venue that includes the audience and deprecates the speaker could work. Defer to The Grabber.
5. Ensure that the graphics are crisp, the demo interface looks modern and all information delivered in digestible chunks. Avoid, “look over in the bottom right corner of the screen.”
6. Make clear planned next steps such as ‘we seek market partners or we’re preparing for our next round of financing or we’re expanding and are looking for iOS developers.’
7. Be clear about the business problem you solve; demo simply how you solve it; describe the unique features of your solution; indicate what you intend to do next; invite follow-up discussion. Be fun; have fun.