Can you clearly articulate the value of your company/product and move people to action in 7 minutes? "Sure," you say, "that's not that hard." After all, you've developed an "elevator pitch" and a mission statement.
But wait. I'm NOT talking about a 7 minute conversation where someone can ask you for clarification or further description. I mean a 7 minute lecture/demonstration from a stage, with a timer counting down, and a room full of people that may or may not be paying attention. Sound a little harder? That's because it is.
I just had the opportunity to watch 15 companies do this in a "shoot-out." Some were entertaining, some were educational, and some were boring as all get-out.
Here are my "rules" - my "dos and don'ts" - just in case you ever have the opportunity (challenge?) to do this...
Rule # 1 - 7 minutes is MUCH shorter than you think it is (especially when the timer starts).
Rule # 2 - Energy counts as much as content. In a theater production, directors often talk about pushing energy off the stage and into the audience. A great 7 minute presentation starts with high energy from the presenters and GOES HIGHER. Many of the presentations I watched started off with a bang and got the audience's attention - but then fizzled.
Rule # 3 - If you decide to use a theme (costumes, game show, etc.), make sure to stick with it throughout the entire presentation.
Rule # 4 - PowerPoint DOES NOT work in this environment. Period. People will not have time to read, much less digest, what you put on a slide. Furthermore, it will distract them from what you are saying. If you are using PowerPoint as a script or prompt for what you are saying, you need to rehearse more. Show products, use video, use props, but do not use PowerPoint. Make it memorable and have a hook that the audience will remember.
Rule # 5 - Practice, rehearse, refine, practice rehearse, refine. I know people who spent 10 hours preparing for a single minute on stage. Presenting is hard. You can get 1 or, if you're really good/lucky, 2 key messages across in 7 minutes. Yes, that's it. What do you want your message to be?
A great presentation can have lasting effect - I have a friend who did one of these in a green spandex costume. He still gets comments about it - 15 years later!
If you get the opportunity to participate in a shoot out or showdown, grab it! And then use the opportunity for all it's worth.