Lesson Weekend

During the final class session, you will have the opportunity to give a five-minute presentation on your capstone. This presentation will take the form of a pitch.

A project pitch is a short presentation that is generally made to potential employers or investors. The goal of a pitch is to hit on several key points about your project in a compressed amount of time. We need to keep our target audience engaged — otherwise, they might not want to employ us or invest in our project.

Your pitch is an opportunity to practice for future showcase events (sometimes refered to as "demo day"), interviews, and even meetups. By fine-tuning your pitch, you can get others excited about your project — and by extension, excited about you. When you deliver your capstone pitch, imagine that you aren't just talking to your peers and instructors but also potential investors and employers.

Remember, the presentation should be about five minutes. At the five-minute mark, your instructor will give you a notification. At the six-minute mark, your presentation will be cut off if it is still going. Then there will be time for questions.

Your instructor has the final say on the length, timing, and structure of capstone presentations. Check in with your instructor to learn about the plan for capstone presentations and follow any direction they give you.

Preparing your Pitch

Start by watching Demo day pitch: make your 5 minutes memorable. Focus on the first three minutes (until about 3:15) and the last three minutes (starting at around 6:35) of the video. The middle section of the video focuses on differentiation, monetization and opportunization — all concepts more focused on start-ups pitching a product to an investor. While you are welcome to watch this part of the video as well, we won't be incorporating these into capstone presentations.

Here are the things that you must absolutely have in your capstone pitch. These are adapted from the video above.

As Donna Griffit states in the video:

When it's demo day, you have about five minutes, give or take, to really wow your audience, put on a show, and be a rock star.

You don't have to share everything.

You only have five minutes — pick out the strongest details about why you picked this project to work on and what excites you about it.

Quickly introduce yourself.

While your classmates may know who you are, attendees at future showcase events or meetups won't know you.

Quickly summarize what your application does.

You should be able to do this in just a sentence or two. Here's an example:

Green-minded Solutions is an application where users can learn more about what can and can't be recycled in their state.

Identify pain points.

In the video, Griffit talks about making the audience feel the pain. While she's talking about pain points in the context of a target audience for a product, for the purposes of your final presentation — and for future presentations for potential employers, we can extend this to also discussing problems we solved in our projects. If we can convey to employers the pain of a particular problem we had to solve — and then demonstrate how we solved it — that's going to be a big plus in terms of helping others visualize you as a great employee.

Here are two examples of pain points we could identify in our presentation:

Example 1: Identify a pain point for our product's audience.

Do you ever find yourself standing in front of a recycling bin, wondering if you can recycle this kind of plastic? Or this kind of paper? Or if the glass jar you're holding is clean enough to be recycled? Improper mixed recycling costs bundlers millions of dollars each year and results in overflowing landfills — and there aren't good resources out there for consumers, making the confusion even worse.

Example 2: Identify a pain point in the project's development.

There are three different APIs that include state recycling data but none of them included all of the data I needed. A fourth site included data but no API. On top of that, the APIs used different authentication methods.

These examples show two different approaches to identifying a pain point — one product-related, one developer-related. You will probably not have time to do both in your presentation so pick one. If you are really proud of a problem you solved in your application, that would be a good approach. On the other hand, if there aren't any developer-related problems that stand out for you, you can pick a product-related pain point instead.

Discuss your solution.

Next, you need to discuss how you are solving the pain points you've brought up. Remember, this is what employers and investors are looking for — solutions to problems.

Let's look at two more examples, each addressing one of the pain points from above.

Example 1: Identify a solution for our product's audience.

Green-minded Solutions pulls data from three different APIs to allow users to easily determine recycling guidelines by state and city. Users can search by product type and location. Each search result provides clear visuals so users know exactly what can and can't be recycled.

Example 2: Identify a solution in the project's development.

I realized the best approach for this application would be to have an in-house solution in addition to making API calls. I wrote a script to scrape data from the site that had the most useful information and then added that to Firestore. When a user makes a recycling-related query, the application can either check the database, make an API call or both. I used a series of conditionals to determine which query would be best. I also had to set up OAuth for one API and token-based authentication for another. The end result is that users can get the data they need through this application.

Demo the application.

This is the heart of your presentation! By this point, you should be about two minutes into your presentation — give or take. It's time to demo. Remember, your audience hasn't used your application before — so it's essential to target your demo towards users that have never seen the application before. There are several approaches you can take to demoing the application.

Live Demo

This is the most common approach to demoing an application. You use the application as you explain what it does. If you take this approach, it's important to stage your application so it's already on a relevant page when you demo it. For instance, you don't need to show your audience the process of logging in. We have seen many painful demos where presenters mistype their login several times while trying to give their demo. Plan the process of walking through your application ahead of time so you're ready to go.

Video Demo

If you wish, you can screen capture your demo ahead of time. This will allow you to put some polish on the demo. You will still need to speak while the demo is occurring, though.

Use Slides

A third option is to prepare slides of your application demo. This is also a potential solution if your capstone has breaking changes that make it difficult to do a full demo. Slides should include screenshots and can also incorporate GIFs or video screen captures to demonstrate UI features.

To summarize, your presentation should include the following:

  • A brief introduction to both you and your project
  • A pain point (or two)
  • A solution (or two)
  • An application demo (the heart of your presentation)

Additional Tips

Practice and make sure you hit the sweet spot. As we've already mentioned, the sweet spot is right around five minutes. Practice will also give you time to smooth out your demo (especially if it's live) and rehearse your delivery.

Make sure you hit all the points and don't rush. Five minutes is actually plenty of time for a great presentation. Don't rush through a one-minute pitch and demo.

Longer is not better. Some of the best presentations we've seen from Epicodus students clocked in at 4 to 5 minutes. These students knew exactly what they wanted to say and delivered excellent, to the point presentations. They came across as professional and prepared. They made people excited about their work without wasting their time. On the other hand, we've had students that went way over 5 minutes. These students were, unfortunately, the least prepared and the least aware of their audience — in other words, the most likely to drive a potential employer away. A longer presentation doesn't mean a better project. Even if you have lots of things you wish you could share, you really need to identify just a few pain points and solutions and make your demo concise. Don't overstay the welcome and goodwill a potential employer or investor might give you.

Slides are great! Slides are not required for your presentation — but they are a great way to add visuals and structure to your pitch. Slides are also reusable — you might find yourself wanting to reuse your presentation slides (or at least a few of them) for a future demo.

Be at your best for the presentation. As Griffit states:

This is not the time to be a wallflower. This is not the time to say, well, I'm not an actor. I'm a little bit shy. That has to go away. You need to be at your best. You need to be memorable.

This is hard for a lot of people — but that's all the more reason why this is really important practice. Make sure you project your voice, be energetic, and be at your best. If necessary, practice ahead of time. The more you can make yourself stand out, the better your chances of landing a job. As we've mentioned, the ability to give a good pitch isn't just useful for future showcase events — it's an essential skill for interviews and meet ups.

Ultimately, it's important to take the time to prepare for your presentation, not just build your capstone project. Even if you don't have a fully-functioning MVP that you are excited about for your presentation, you can still put together an excellent pitch.