Guidelines that could help 

APICTA Do’s and Don’ts – Confessions from Chiang Mai, Thailand
Dos and Dont’s for P@SHA ICT Awards and APICTA Awards Presentations


Plan on arriving a day early so that you have had a chance to chat with other participants, organizers and the Pakistani contingent as well as share any limited intelligence available about strategies and approaches.  Also ensure that your travel schedule allows for at least a full good night sleep before your session in front of the judges

Spend enough time investigating the competition in your category and have at least some idea of where they would be coming from and what their presentations could possibly say.  This is not a necessary requirement but this can certainly help you improve your pitch and differentiate yourself within your category.
The total time allotted for your presentation includes the time to setup, the time to demonstrate, the time to present and the time for judges Q&S. Practice your 20 minutes till you have shaved off seconds as far as setting up, opening, presenting and handling Q&A and closing are concerned.
Last year one group presented for itself as well as another group that was not able to make it.  The judges do not mind. If you are alone and presenting by your self ask any other member of the Pakistani contingent to help you out during your session (two faces are better than one). Little things like a friendly face who can time you, set up your laptop, handout your handouts and take a sneak peak at the competition’s profile go a long way.  You can also get objective valuable feedback from another pair of neutral eyes on whether you did well or sucked. It will help you reconcile and accept your loss or win on the day of the awards J
Last year two people were allowed in the presentation section, check out the rules to see if the same number or more are allowed this year.
Make sure that you have contact numbers and room numbers for other members of the Pakistani contingent that you can easily reach in case of emergencies.
Be patient and understated.  It is very easy to lose your cool at the Awards because you are stressed and things will go wrong. If you have a problem or a crisis try and catch hold of Jehan, Sultan, Nadeem, myself or any other member of the contingent and something will get worked out.  Do not get stressed.
Within your presentation you need to focus on the following key questions:

  • Why are you special / different / innovative from any other current or PAST competitors? (take a look see at the previous years winners of APICTA Awards)
  • Why would customers go wild with desire when they see your product (and not your competitors)
  • What is the business problem that you are solving?
  • How do you plan on making money?
  • How much have you made so far? What chunk of the market share do you own now? How much will you own within the next 12 – 24 months? Current and projectd growth rates or curves? Even if you are a not for profit venture, you need to get the money angle right.
  • What are some of the core features that you would be demonstrating during the presentation and why should the judges pay special attention to them.
  • How strong are you on the quality assurance side? ISO certification, CMMI certification, daily builds, PMP professionals, build and break cycle, automated regressions testing, test scripts, fully manned QA function, validation and verification cycles, daily bug counts, intermediate patch frequency, customer satisfaction and feedback.

Do your R&D before you leave Pakistan to ensure that you know how strong and stable is your Q&A function. The QA function has a small weightage but when everything else is the same, QA can help you boost your score by the decimal point that can mean the difference between a merit prize and no prizes.

My formula for a presentation was 5 minutes of PPT with screen shots, 5- 7 minute of feature functionality and demos and then Q&A, with less than a minute or so on setup. The pitch was practiced for two consecutive days and delivered a week earlier in a slightly modified form at MEFTEC.  We over did the presentation and didn’t spend enough time on the actual demo. We had more then sufficient time for Q&A.

Use the Q&A slot to show case even more features of your application. When given the opportunity to reinforce a point by showing a feature, show a feature.

Make sure you maintain a good balance between making claims and reinforcing them with instances from your application.  Do not make empty claims or use grandiose adjectives. 
Speak slowly and clearly. 

English is not the primary language for some of the judges. If they can’t understand you, they can’t grade.

Even if you don’t like the judge or have your doubts, respect the chair and the position.

The most important point is this. Remember that you are representing Pakistan. Winning or losing is irrelevant. The fact that you have made it to Macau says that you are already one of the best in the market that really matters to you (back home). And that the only award that really counts is a customer win!  If you win that is great, if you don’t go take that steam out on closing your next deal and then sending a copy of your deal closing check to the P@SHA forum.

We did all of the above and lost last year and it was probably one of the best things that ever happened to us.

We came back motivated and driven to go back again this year and blow the competition out of the water (slight change of plan by the time the awards arrived, that we can talk offline about). 

There is obviously some talk about losing fairly or unfairly at each APICTA (as well as P@SHA ICT Awards) but the funny thing is that the firm that picked up the Merit Award in our Category is now trying to work with us as a partner in Thailand. When we finally saw their product, their pitch and their presentation, we knew that they deserved to win hands down and we didn’t. And if they won the Merit award, imagine what the top category holders did.  The judges in general are fair. There are some exceptions but if some one has won, there is a good chance that they have won fair and square based on the criteria specified by APICTA.  GET COMFORTABLE WITH APICTA’s CRITERIA!

Maybe one of you will come back home with an award, maybe more, may be none.

Winning the award is not about who is better. It is about practice and presentation.  Some of us are naturals, some of us are not.  Some of us have just had more practice. Just like the GMAT. Your first attempt may be traumatic, your next will certainly be better. If you don’t win, look at this as a practice round funded by P@SHA to help you better integrate with the regional community and with the award process. 

Use the opportunity to go out and get with the competition and see if there is something you can do together in a different market. Watch out for the companies from Hong Kong. They will certainly be your toughest competition in every category. If there is one competitor you need to understand, and how it will beat the living day lights out of you, it will most likely be your competition from Hong Kong.

Do not do’s before the presentation

  • Do not travel by Cathay Pacific
  • Do not experiment with food the night before your pitch. Stick to things that look, taste and sound safe
  • Do not party or practice the pitch to death the night before. You will have ample time for partying once your slot is over.
  • Drink plenty of water. Do not starve yourself or give yourself a sugar, caffeine or nicotine boost just before your presentation. Your adrenalin once you get started will carry you through.
  • If you are not staying at the Regency, plan on being at the judging hall, at least two hours before your session, if not earlier.
  • If you end up with a Pakistani judge remember that we will be fair.  If you are good enough, you will win; if you are not, you won’t.
  • The Awards have a fairly heavy representation from both ASOCIO and the APICTA communities that are already playing an important role in regional integration and connectivity between IT firms.  Don’t overlook the networking potential of the event.
  • And once again, remember it is just an award. You are already a winner!


Presentation Cheat Sheets 

Presentation Cheat Sheet 1

a) For a winning presentation the first prize always goes to the group that can answer the questions judges need to answer. Take a look at the scoring sheet for the competition and then ask if you have answered all the questions in a way that would allow the judges to score you properly. If you don’t have access to it, ask the organizers for the judging criteria. In general they won’t have a problem sharing it.

b) Scoring sheets are always competition specific. Depending on the goals of the competition they may focus on themes, impact or simple wow factors.

c) Once you have the content ready to cross all the questions/scoring items on the sheet and you understand the theme of the competition, you now need to weave your story.

d) A great presentation is basically a story telling exercise. Think of the best stage play you have ever attended. The ones that you still remember. What do you remember? Great stories and plays engage and connect with the audience, have a number of magical elements that bring the performance together, are well rehearsed and without fail move the group that witnesses the show.

e) Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to putting together performances. Some put it together in their head, others prefer paper. I sometimes start with pictures and then build a story around them, or build a story and then look for images to support it. There are times when I have told a story only with pictures and words and no supporting audio.

f) Regardless of how you start, you must build the following elements. A start, the plot and the pitch and the close.

g) A great start does a few things for your audience. It introduces you and your pitch in very clear terms. Ideally it should directly or indirectly answer the basic questions. Who are you, what do you do, and why should I care about it? And depending on how you do it, these three questions should be addressed within the first 90 seconds of the start.

h) Post the start you have a number of choices. You can begin the pitch or you can first introduce the path you would take to wow them.

i) Great plots unfold in layers. Each layer leaves a message and either reinforces the layer that preceded or sets the foundation for the material that is about to be introduced. Sometimes you put yourself in the judges seat and ask yourself questions that need to be answered based on your story and theme. The plot that you then define answers each of these questions in a logical progression.

j) The close is an opportunity to reinforce the message and once again connect with the judges and the scoring theme. Think of it as the start all over again accept this time you are putting together the final scenes for your exit.

k) Once you have a basic handle on your theme and the three elements (Start, Plot/Pitch, Close) then it is time to rehearse.

l) Rehearsals do a number of things for you. They allow you to test the flow, check the time, rearrange your mix and dry run delivery. Each rehearsal is an opportunity for you to improve and try presentation elements. The first few are done in private – in front of a mirror, on your desk, in the pool, while driving. Once you have some control, you can do runs in front of audiences and gauge reactions and impact.

m) Basic rule of thumb. For every twenty minutes, rehearse two hundred minutes. And if you are pitching at APICTA, double that for good measure.