Defy the demo devil

When it comes to product selling, a good demonstration may tell more than a thousand slides. But at the same time, an ill-prepared demo may also ruin your whole presentation – as well as your reputation.

People who have done (or participated to) live demonstrations before, know that Murphy’s law always applies and that the Demo Devil is never far away.

murphys_law

But if you stick to a few simple rules, your odds to beat this annoying creature will be bigger than ever. Some tips and tricks to prepare and deliver a successful live demonstration:

  • First of all, don’t try to boil the ocean in one single demo run. Keep it sweet, short and simple. As most of your spectators may not be very familiar with your product (yet), don’t go into the nitty-gritty technical details. Show only a few key features that really matter for your audience. Focus rather on the user experience and the value of your product than on individual features.
  • Prepare and deliver your demonstration the same way as you would do for a presentation. Tell a story. Build a message house. Structure your demo the AIDA way. Get into a dialogue with your audience. Make it a visually pleasant experience.
  • Compose a detailed demo script and freeze it. Never show an unplanned (and often untested) feature! A presentation can survive some last-minute changes, but a demonstration likely won’t. A good practice is to create a two-column “tell this – show this” cheat sheet, and not to deviate from it.
  • Arrive early, and (when possible) test and dry-run  the demo a few minutes – not a few hours! – in advance. Special caution is needed when the success of your demo is relying on an internet connection. Wi-Fi and cellular networks may start behaving badly when too many people are accessing the venue’s communication infrastructure simultaneously (watch this video to see what happened to Steve Jobs and the iPhone 4.)

  • Prepare a few slides to display with the demo, that explain e.g. the value proposition, the physical setup and the interactions you’re showing. Always keep in mind that people came to see something, so keep the narrative short – and the demo experience exciting.
  • Just like for an oral presentation, be ready to take questions from your audience – but don’t feel obliged to illustrate all your answers with an on-the-fly extension of your demo script (see my point above about not doing non-planned things). Don’t let the people leave without a product sheet to handout of your visuals.

 More tips and tricks for doing live demos can be found in these articles:

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