Demo '06 prep doesn't go without a hitch

With less than 24 hours to go before giving a presentation at Demo, one company's execs sweat out the rehearsals. Photos: Multiverse does Demo '06 Photos: The faces of Demo '06

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.
PHOENIX--It's 19 hours before Corey Bridges and Bill Turpin are scheduled to step onto the stage for their all-or-nothing presentation at the Demo '06 conference here, and they're fighting some serious technology problems.

The hallmark of Demo is its format: Companies pay thousands of dollars to come here and get just 6 minutes to make the case for their product or service to an audience of hundreds of journalists and venture capitalists. And they'd better be ready. If something goes wrong, or if they forget their lines, too bad. The next presenter is waiting in the wings.

Demo

So for Bridges and Turpin, of The Multiverse Network--which has created a platform for developing online games--the clock is seriously ticking. And it shows as they sit in their hotel suite, running through their presentation over and over again.

On the coffee table, the remains of a room service pasta dish lie forgotten, and shaving is left for later.

"We've done a couple run-throughs (today), and I keep forgetting my lines," said Turpin, the CEO of Mountain View, Calif.-based Multiverse. "We're a little late to this, so the script's not finished."

Turpin explains that for the past few weeks, he has been working to line up venture capital support, while Bridges, the marketing director, has been polishing a press release announcing that film director James Cameron has agreed to join Multiverse's advisory board. These are important things for such a nascent company. But it's not helping them prepare for Demo.

"Getting ready for Demo kept getting pushed back," Turpin said.

In their suite Monday afternoon, Bridges and Turpin are fighting with two computers, trying to get the machines to properly run the demonstration. At the moment, the hotel's network is down, so their battle with the machines isn't bearing much fruit. And it's a problem for Turpin, who is trying to run through his script in time with the digital side of the show.

He walks over to one of the computers and tries to hack his way through the problem. Bridges grins and watches his boss.

"This is a benefit of having a CEO who's been an engineer," Bridges said.

But the network problems are making life hard for Turpin, who curses the "unusable" technology.

With things going so poorly for Turpin and Bridges, it's natural to wonder if they're going to be up practicing all night. But Bridges said the structure of the conference forces them into a hard stop in just a few hours, when Multiverse will do a dry run of its presentation on stage.

"We have to leave the computers in the (auditorium) tonight," he said. "If you're on in the morning, you do your technology rehearsal tonight. And then they leave your computers in

 

Correction: This article incorrectly stated the name of the CEO of Multiverse Network. His name is Bill Turpin.

the hall tonight. That's how tight a ship they run." Indeed, Demo is famous for its strict rules. Besides the 6-minute presentation limit, there's also a prohibition on PowerPoint slides, and even on the language that can be used. Bridges explains that he and Turpin had to get permission to use the phrase "what the hell" in their demonstration.

The faces of Demo '06

In any case, Bridges seems eager to get things moving so he can be ready for the onstage run-through. It is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., after which, he said, he plans to hit Demo's welcome cocktail party. But, he's informed, the cocktail party is only supposed to last until 7 p.m.

"This is cutting severely into my drinking," he joked. "That's OK. I'm on the clock until tomorrow morning, and then it's all easy-peasy."

Later, Bridges and Turpin are onstage in the hotel's ballroom, getting ready for their final rehearsal. All around them are technicians walking to and fro--some who appear to be helping the two get ready, others who are busy with other tasks.

At a table a few yards from the stage, another company is getting ready for its own final trial. Its executives and marketing types circle around. They're still discussing strategy for their demonstration Tuesday.

Onstage at 6:36 p.m., Turpin begins talking. He doesn't seem to notice the technicians still walking around the stage, the people talking in the front row, and the steady changing of the house lights.

In fact, it's hard to tell that this is the same presentation Turpin was trying to practice just three hours earlier, when he was struggling with his lines. Now, in fact, he looks like he's got them down cold.

Granted, Turpin is a little stiff--something that isn't helped by the fact that he's leaning on a cane to support his recently broken leg--but what matters is that he looks like he knows what he's doing.

Behind him, Bridges is controlling the computers, and it looks like things are working. The screens that are supposed to come up are, the graphics that are supposed to appear do so, and the tool set he's supposed to show off is available. This is all an improvement.

Finally, Turpin wraps up his demonstration. Immediately, a couple of technicians come up to him and Bridges, and make suggestions for the morning: where to stand, things to do with the computers. Even as they're talking, the lights are rapidly changing; the house music comes on and then goes away; and on the other side of the stage, the next company launches into its presentation.

But for Turpin, Bridges and Multiverse, months of sweat and preparation are nearly over. At 10:20 a.m. Tuesday, the two are scheduled to show off their platform to a room of people, many of whom likely know nothing about what they're talking.

Their challenge is to be interesting enough to lure reporters and investors to come see them on the Demo show floor later in the day.

What's unknown is whether the technology Demo provides--the network, the lighting and so forth--will work as planned. In previous Demos, . Regardless, companies like Multiverse have to be ready to make their case.

And for Turpin and Bridges, they won't have an answer to the question of "How did it go" until 10:26 a.m. Tuesday.

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