Friday, October 02, 2009

BizSpark and SeedCamp

As I've mentioned, I was asked to coach teams for investor pitches at both SeedCamp London and at Microsoft's BizSpark. Very exciting, both. And everyone has been kind in their feedback.

The results were very different for each set of teams. And the adjustments one inevitably makes due to space and time allotments made everyone rise to the challenge.


At SeedCamp, I worked with a content expert.

The room was an auditorium. The teams were given five minutes to present, and then mentors were given five minutes to give feedback. I hardly heard what was said. My responses was focused on how the material was presented physically and the resulting engagement (or lack thereof) with the audience.

The space was ample for performers to practice. Perhaps equally important, the auditorium was where they would later pitch for investors -- for real.

Teams pitched and were given feedback by us in front of all their competitors. This is a different reaction than I've got in more academic classes, and I was both pleased and surprised.

I was told that feedback for one team often helped prepare the next, and everyone was to have been in a room of critical voices. It was a pretty exciting experience.


This was the first year of BizSpark, and the events' full, high-calibre schedule made it impossible to practice in the room in which teams would perform.

So instead, we were put in a room usually used for meetings. The table was pushed back, there was enough room for teams to move around as they would in the auditorium. They showed their slides on their lap tops.

An odd thing happened with the energy in the room that didn't happen at SeedCamp. Because the laptops took so long to get ready, and because the space was temporary, teams seemed both more relaxed (it was an ad hoc space) and more nervous (it was an ad hoc space -- so what was the relationship to the one in which they'd pitch?).

A good thing -- at BizSpark, I had each team one-on-one for fifteen minutes, and we worked on 3 minute presentations rather than 5. This works very well for students who would like to articulate their anxieties and concerns. It would be impossible in a room full of competitors.

The work wasn't less effective than at SeedCamp, but it was very different. The changes from rehearsal to final performance were different, too -- at SeedCamp, those with challenges seemed to struggle more with content in their final pitch. At BizSpark, teams were thrown off a little by the space change. So any awkwardness was with how to move and where to look.

And So . . . .

I've got nothing but happy feedback, and it will all go up on the Stradbroke site in about a month when our webmistress returns.

However, I've learned a few things about making an environment friendlier, and that's a good thing.

And, contrary to my expectations, one-on-one teams could use more time with me than those in front of large groups. The latter expect to be thrown in the deep end and prepare as the last group is finishing. The former are not exactly sure how to settle into the space immediately. It takes a little more to make them feel comfortable.

That's the great thing about collaborating -- you never know what's going to happen. And you always have to stay on your toes.

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