5 Tips For Pitching A Session At An Unconference

Written by Greg Rublev, a dedicated web products geek and the founder of LeanWagon, a startup helping connect health seekers with with expert health coaches.

Today is a big day for me: my first time attending an unconference. I’ve been to plenty of conferences and tradeshows and really was not sure what to expect from an “unconference”, besides that it would be somehow different. Product Sessions Board at Product Camp BostonAfter just an hour at Product Camp Boston, I could see how! Rather then being a passive attendee, roaming from session to session, I had the power to choose what sessions were offered. Every one of the sessions was presented with a brief pitch at the beginning of the event, which not only gave me the power to choose what was relevant to me, it also gave me a great way to know what was available! However, some pitches resonated much better then others, and I began to think “why?”. After listening to about 40 pitches, a few patterns emerged as to what came across well and what fell flat on the floor.

1. Open strong.
A few speakers, such as Bruce McCarthy started with a prepared joke which made the audience laugh. A few others, like Steve Johnson, improvised a joke which worked just as well. However, one person made a joke at the expense of the previous presenter, and although it was funny, it was in bad taste and painted the rest of his 90 seconds in that color. Make people laugh. Be positive. It works.

2. Make it relevant
Everything you say should be related to the main topic of your talk, including the jokes and the gimmicks. When talking about freemium business models Christian Kirsch threw candy at people – it was a gimmick, but it supported his message. In contrast, there were people bringing up the Celtics and it only distracted from their message. Focus. You only have 90 seconds. Make it count.

3. Don’t sell
You have 90 seconds to pique my interest. If you take up some time selling your company or service – it will have the opposite effect. I am trying to decide if I want to go to your session, not if I want to buy your product, and any time used to sell is time you are stealing from my ability to make the decision about your panel. Just don’t do it now. Wait for your session where you’ll have plenty of time to sell.

4. Speak slowly
Yes, you only have 90 seconds, but your job is not to give a condensed version of your talk. Instead, you just need to make me interested in coming to the talk. One hook is enough if it’s good, but only if you say it slowly so that I can understand what you are talking about. Less is more. Slow is best.

5. Close strong
Know what you will say at the end. Whether it’s a prepared joke or a catchy phrase, don’t improvise the closing – it is the last thing we hear from you and it will shape an overall feeling for your pitch. Prepare. Don’t wing it.

I am loving Product Camp Boston. Looking forward to next year!

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7 Responses to 5 Tips For Pitching A Session At An Unconference

  1. Thanks! I’m interested in your feedback on my 90 sec pitch (Letter F for “don’t fail on WIkipedia”) On blog or via email is fine. Thanks again.

    • grublev says:

      I think your pitch was great. I clearly understood what you were planning to talk about and why it may be useful to someone. I think the headline “letter F for Don’t Fail” was clever, but off topic – not sure it it helped or distracted from the main topic.

  2. woz2 says:

    Thanks! When they assigned me the letter f I didn’t think anything of it ’til someone in line joked at me “Ha! Bad luck you got an F” So, at the last second I made a joke out of it hoping it would at least be a mnemonic.. ah well… It was selected, a small number came (about a dozen), but those that did come seemed to like it.

  3. woz2 says:

    …I took a quick look and I think the best approach would be to contribute to the section http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Management_of_obesity#Weight_loss_programs , being sure to cite reliable source

  4. Pingback: All about education 10/18/2013 | My learning log and microblog

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