Presenting in a dark and noisy place

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Imagine this scenario: You are about to give a short presentation about your product or company. But you're not in a brightly-lit conference room. Instead, you're in a bar. It's loud, dark, and you can't use slides.

An unlikely scenario? Yet this is the environment that a couple of startups had to present in at a "founder's BBQ" that I attended recently.

So what can you do in such a situation?

Given the context (startups), the most important parts of your presentation are obviously the name of your company and what it is that you're doing. You also need to do something memorable; several startups will present themselves in quick succesion, so you need to stand out.

Not all of the candidates succeeded. Here's a few things that worked:


Even when you're selling virtual goods or services, it's important to make things more tangible for your audience. The startups that sell actual goods did the right thing and brought samples (to show, not to give away).

What was your name again?

Startups often have "clever" names (like words with creative spelling). So simply repeating your name a lot is not enough - your audience also needs to know how it is spelt. One startup had a second person holding up a piece of paper with their URL on them (which was also their name). Good idea, although I found that I still couldn't recall the name afterwards.

Other than that: Have flyers and business cards ready and hand them out liberally.

Replacement Slides

One presenter went one step further than the URL sign and actually brought a few "slides", hand-drawn on some pieces of paper. That's not a bad idea (think Bob Dylan), even though it turned out not to work so well in this specific situation. People were standing around the presenters (who stood on a bench), so from the back you were lucky if you could see the person's face, let alone anything they were holding in their hands.

Still, I think a few key points, written with a thick pen (don't even try anything too complex or complicated) could have worked quite well. I would have held the "slide" over my head when coming to the point, to give people in the back a better chance to see them.


Short presentations are hard. They're even harder in such an unusual and noisy environment. It doesn't matter if you're a startup or not; you want to make sure people remember you, your name, and your idea. Which you will only achieve if you invest some time upfront into making your presentation more memorable and specific for the circumstances (and the audience). Those who think they don't need to prepare since "it's only a short presentation" will soon be forgotten. Don't make that mistake.

If you'd like me to talk or write about this topic, you can hire me to do so.
Please email me for details.
Creative Commons Licence "Presenting in a dark and noisy place" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.