My First DEMO
DEMO, a launch pad for many cool products and services over the past two decades (PalmPilot, anyone? Boingo, E-Trade, Picasa?), holds a special place in my heart. In a way, I launched there too.
It was 2002. I was the account lead on a mobile software solution (when I say mobile, I mean it managed mobile phone usage – not that it was actually a mobile solution – funny how that changes). It was not purchased by business users, but business users – road warriors – would realize its benefits in a second. Thus, I set out to find Walt Mossberg, the “king maker” of all that is tech for the business user audience, and make my case.
It was cocktail hour, outside by the pool at Torrey Pines. Weather was perfect, and people were in a good mood – DEMO is a small, quality crowd due to the hand-picking of the presenting companies by DEMO goddess Chris Shipley, and hand-picked companies drew the top-tier media.
I practiced in my head what I was going to say. I knew it was a long shot – I had done my homework and knew Walt almost 100% of the time wrote about products the business consumer could buy directly. But there was that nagging 1% chance that perhaps this time he would make an exception, so I had to give it a shot.
There he was, he had just stepped out onto the pool deck from the hotel, and had already drawn a crowd. I gathered up my courage and stood on the perimeter, waiting to get my break.
Walt noticed my persistence, and for whatever reason decided to reward it. When the others took a breath, he looked over at me and said “Okay, let’s hear it.” I tell you what, if you think pitching on the phone is hard, just go pitch Walt Mossberg in person. Still, I made it through – and apparently didn’t do so bad. “That was a pretty good shot,” he said. “I still won’t cover it, but I see why you gave it a shot and I appreciate the effort.”
That was quite possibly the most fulfilling rejection of my career – both for the words delivered then, and for the relationship that continues today. From that point on, Walt has always responded to my emails (and I do NOT pitch him everything, only those very few products I know would be in the purchasing realm of his readers). He goes out of his way to say hi and greet me warmly when we run into each other, like at SXSW this year, and he even let me and the Bluetooth SIG pick him at the airport and drop him at his hotel at CES, with a briefing in the car en route.
I made some other enduring relationships at DEMO that year too – Ed Baig, USA Today, was another. None of it would have happened if I hadn’t stuck my hand out there and said “Hi, I’m Starr Million, and I have a story to tell you.” Take a lesson, PR folks: face-to-face connections build relationships that last, so get to that media event, tradeshow or tour. And none of it would have happened without DEMO.