July 16, 2021

5 Tips to Host a Successful Virtual Demo Day

Hi! I’m Kate, the Customer Success Manager for Filo.co. I have the pleasure of working with our customers to make their events, meetings, and virtual offices shine.

One of my favorite things to help with configuring is virtual demo days. There is so much excitement around these events and I love playing a part. Working with many demo days, I have picked up a few tips and tricks. If you are planning a virtual demo day, I hope these tips will help you plan an engaging and collaborative virtual event.

Allow startups to customize their space

Custom Room During StartOut's 2021 Demo Day

Allowing the startup to brand their own spaces gives them ownership of their story. They will take pride in adding what's important to them and what makes their company stand out.

In Filo, the room becomes the virtual "booth." The room should include the pitch deck and other important content that helps their solution or product shine. For your virtual demo day, have the founders include awards and content that highlights them to engage the investors further.

I have found the following elements really help with ease of use and engagement during virtual demo days.

  • As the planner, you have to make sure everyone feels comfortable with the platform. I suggest giving founders a week or more to set up the rooms.
  • Encourage the founder to include a Zoom Tile to conduct the day of conversations.
  • It's important to keep the conversation going after the event, so a scheduling tool like Calendly is crucial. 
  • Include something that prompts questions like a shared document or by utilizing the chat.
  • Stress the importance of showing up on time!

Stimulate thoughtful pitches

Pitching is arguably the most essential aspect of any demo day. I have seen the event planners' thoughtfulness initiate the most successful pitches.

If you have a significant number of companies pitching, it makes sense to organize them by vertical or category. Having everything organized in a clear way will make it easier for attendees to navigate through the virtual booths during the event.

If you aren't planning to have a live Q&A following each pitch, I suggest having the founder pre-record their pitches and stream during the event.

“When it comes to a virtual demo day, we needed our founders to pitch with the same level of enthusiasm and energy as they would in person. To help, we set up different pitch practice sessions with our advisors. We were able to really coach them on imagining and visualizing pitching in front of hundreds of investors even though they were just sitting in front of their camera.”
-Sibyl Chen, Sr. Director of Program at Berkeley SkyDeck

Encourage investor engagement

The startup companies attend a demo day to showcase their pitches and ideas. It would be a bit of a letdown if no one showed interest. Encourage investors to visit booths and ask questions. 

Plan to have a green room or investor lounge in Filo. Investors can use this time to mingle amongst themselves. It’s also a perfect opportunity to prep the investors on the importance of their interest, enthusiasm, and engagement. Being mindful of this will skyrocket the interaction with the startups.

Example of an Investor Lounge in Filo

Enable chat to stimulate conversation

Be sure chat is on in the main room where the pitches are being given and start the conversation to encourage others to engage. Here is a few discussion prompts:

  • Roll call! Where are you tuning in from?
  • Is this your first time attending a demo day?
  • What's your favorite motivational podcast?
  • What's the best event freebie you've ever gotten?

The chat also gives people the opportunity to network with other attendees, startups, and investors. Encourage them to share their social media handles and websites. These efforts will help keep the sense of community going even after the virtual demo day is over.

Use roles to facilitate networking

I find it crucial to use roles to identify who people are. When creating your event campus in Filo, differentiate investors, startups, panelists, organization members, etc. 

I have been encouraging admins to use emojis to give a visual of who is in attendance. Investors could be marked with 💰, Startup founders with a ⭐. This way, all attendees know who is who. Startup founders can quickly see if they are speaking with an investor or another founder.

Assigning roles to participants also allows you to see what kind of engagement there was during the event based on the roles. It would be a fun exercise to prompt attendees to send a direct message in Filo to someone with a specific role to spark more engagement and conversation.

I hope these tips and tricks help with your virtual demo day. The Filo.co team and I would love to assist you! Contact us today.

You may also find this guide with 10 lessons from a Year of Online Demo Days, Sprint Weeks and Accelerators helpful to your planning.