This morning I checked out the “How to Organize a Pitchfest” webinar, produced by the Center for the New American Dream. It was presented by Bob Marino, whose Sea Coast Local organization is dedicated to promoting local economies in New Hampshire. They’ve put on two local entrepreneur pitchfest events.
It was a good overview– nothing too surprising if you’ve been to pitch events before, but nicely put together and great to see. The recording and slide deck of the webinar will be available at the Center for a New American Dream website next week, and they also have a great Guide to Going Local that you can download free. I just checked it out, and very nice job. Pages 13-14 are a step-by-step “Holding a Pitchfest” recipe that’s also informed by the Sea Coast Local events, and page 12 links to a video about their Feb 2013 event. Meanwhile, I also learned that the BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) will publish a Community Capital Toolkit next week at bealocalist.org.
One slide in Marino’s deck compared a bunch of local entrepreneur showcase events by different org’s, and the CoCap event in Oakland will certainly be along the same lines. But I think we can help by developing some of the legal and procedural infrastructure further.
Specifically, the CoCap Event Template should include usable, open-source legal and descriptive language for the following three components:
1. Sign-in Sheet. Legal text for the contract that everyone has to sign before participating in the event. This includes:
1a. Non-solicitation. Declare the signer’s understanding that the event does not include (or tolerate) offers to sell securities, that such discussions must occur privately, etc. Like what they say on Shark Tank, “No offer is being made to or solicited from the viewing audience.”
1b. Prohibition of recording and photography. Prohibit use of any cameras or recording equipment for the entire event. This encourages people to actually show up and participate face-to-face, because if you don’t, you miss it. It also makes these events a safe place for people to discuss things freely, with no risk of leaking secret plans to the public or of having their half-baked remarks go on their permanent online record.
The event’s producers do videorecord one and only one part of the event, the entrepreneur presentations, adhering to the rules listed below.
2. Opening statements. The emcee reads boilerplate text reiterating that this isn’t an event where investments are solicited, echoing some of the Sign-in Sheet language.
At their discretion, the emcee can also use this as an opportunity to get “churchy,” by leading others in making shared declarations of values and hearing each others’ voices in unison. This is a time-tested group bonding experience that’s effective, grounding, and doesn’t cost a dime. “Repeat after me: We are here to help each other do good things for our communities and our world.”
3. Documentation by Event Producers. The “headline act” of the event is the entrepreneur presentations, where people who might be seeking money later (all disclaimers in place) present their business plans, causes, projects, etc., These conclude with an open Q-and-A with the audience. This is the only part of the event that’s documented, only by the event’s organizers, and following guidelines such as:
- Notify everyone at the event when the videotaped / documented part of the evening will begin, i.e. when the camera is turned on, and when it will end.
- Videotape each presentation in its entirety, and such that it’s clear and intelligible.
- For each presentation, include a pan shot of the entire room, to show the audience.
- Publish each presentation video within X days, alongside a listing of the event’s time, date, location, and the names of all of the event’s participants.
- Declare that the video has not been altered or edited in any way– that includes all Q-and-A, etc.
Documenting presentations in this way can help entrepreneurs raise funds later, especially if they aren’t producing a video pitch on their own. Anyone who watches one of these videos online later, such as on a crowdfunding page, can use the information listed to confirm that the presentation was not staged, it happened where and when it says it did, the people in the audience are not shills, the video was not abridged or manipulated, etc.