Almost everyone sweats at the idea of doing a live demo in front of a group of people. Delivering a demo can feel as if you're about to go on a high wire without a net. The list of things that can go wrong is long. But so is the list of things you can do to help make sure you deliver a mind-blowing demo.
Here are some tips to give a killer demo that can engage, inform and inspire your audience.
Follow a Three-Act Structure
A well-planned structure is a key component of delivering an outstanding demo. Plan to have three clearly defined parts:
- Before the demo: Briefly introduce yourself and your company. Set the context or background for the demo. Give a brief overview of the demo.
- The demo: Conventional advice is to start with your best or strongest components. Instead of progressively moving to the big reveal, start with the key deliverable. This is the "wow" factor that can help hook them right away.
Then proceed with a step-by-step demonstration of the product. Help them stay on track by first describing each step and then executing it. Show your audience how the product can answer their needs or solve their problem. What makes this product stand out? Rehearse every step over and over until you can do it cold. Your aim is to show the audience how fast and easy each step is.
- After the demo: This is where you briefly reiterate what makes your product great. End with a call to action, such as how to order or download your product, where to get more information or what the next steps are to take the conversation further.
Are We There Yet?
You'll likely have a short window of time to grab and maintain your prospects' attention. It can be critical to get to the actual demo part as fast as possible. This also means you should try to be concise when moving through the pre-demo part.
Ditch the Bullets
If you use slides for the pre-demo and after-demo parts, you should follow up-to-date practices for good slide design. The last thing you want is for the audience to focus on your slides rather than on your words. So forget about bullet points and text-laden slides that force the audience to read. Instead, add a visual that can support your message and deepen understanding.
Ask yourself: Does the slide pass the glance test? That is, can the audience glance at the slide and capture its message while listening to you? Vision trumps auditory, so don't force them to choose between listening to you or reading what you display on the slide. If you do, they may tune you out and you could lose their attention. If you must have text, consider limiting it to one sentence per slide.
Do Some Pre-Demo Sleuthing
Find out from your prospect what outcomes they will be looking for when evaluating the demo. Doing this can help avoid any false starts and may help you deliver a demo that focuses on what they need to see. If you can't have a conversation before demo day, do some research to understand the client's needs or goals. Customize your demo to focus on the customer rather than on the bells and whistles of your product. This can make the difference between an ordinary demo and an outstanding demo.
Stick to What's Relevant
Avoid the impulse to demonstrate every feature of your product. Unless you're presenting to a bunch of software engineers, you may not want to go over the code behind the product. Try to keep in mind that you're demonstrating a solution for your prospect rather than a product you're selling. So, you may not want to show any features that are of no value to your prospect. Try showing only the features that are relevant and directly aligned with your prospect's needs.
But it may not be necessary to show all those features either. Focusing on too many features, even if they're all relevant, may take too long, become too tedious and result in an inability to drive home the message. This can be particularly important to remember if you're a technical person accompanying a salesperson to help them deliver the product presentation. It's a demo, not a training session.
As a general rule, customers watching your demo have three questions in mind:
- Does this product solve my immediate problem or need?
- Does it include the features I need?
- Is it reliable?
I Sync, Therefore I Am
Synchronize your speaking with the progression of the demo. That is, you cannot have dead silence while you're demonstrating a feature. If it takes 60 seconds to demonstrate an item, fill that time with pertinent comments while you're presenting. This pacing may require a great deal of preparation, but it can pay off. Dead silence while you go through your demonstration can disengage the audience. The same applies if something goes wrong. Continue to talk while you fix it.
Show Your Passion
When delivering a demo, there's often a tendency to be too absorbed in the technology or other details and to forget about showing your passion for your idea or product. Many angel investors and VCs may consider passion important to their investment decisions. So don't rely solely on your domain expertise and track record. You could lose if you don't display passion when going through your demo. The same applies when you're delivering a demo to prospective clients.
Passion can be displayed in your enthusiasm and your preparedness. You can express genuine passion by cranking up your energy and giving a more animated presentation. In addition to displaying richer body language and facial expressions, passion may be shown by using language that is active and intense: Use words such as "extraordinary," "incredible," "really great," "complete," "a dream," "indispensable," "valuable," "superior," "remarkable" and "designed for today".
Outsmart Murphy's Law
Even giants like Apple can encounter technical problems during a demo. The key is not to go silent and be frantic. When disaster strikes, continue with some appropriate chatter while you deal with the issue.
Above all, have backup plans for anything that can go wrong. For example, bring a backup laptop, projector, video cables, adapters, power cords, extension cord, flash drives and anything you may need for your demo. Bring backup demo units. Work with your network administrator or other technical specialist to help you set up a VPN connection in case the wireless network fails. Make a doomsday list and create a plan to address each of these situations if they surface.
You can also reduce your anxiety by videotaping your demo in the safety and controlled environment of your office. Have the demo clip at the ready should you find yourself unable to demonstrate certain features of your product live. Go one step further and take screenshots of the demo as a backup plan. While this may not be as effective as a live demo, it can be infinitely better than walking away with a failed demo. As a last resort, use the whiteboard to sketch diagrams. Practice drawing these diagrams before the event. You'll be glad you did.
When things go wrong during a demo, don't go with them. Stay calm and cool and announce that you're moving to your contingency plan and proceed with the demo. Most people will appreciate your preparedness.
Training yourself and your people to deliver outstanding demos can help add tremendous value to your company. Successful demos can be a powerful sales tool to engage your potential clients and start the conversation. And well-executed demos may be one of the most effective ways to inform and educate your clients on how your products work. Without a doubt, delivering compelling demos is an essential skill if you want to stand out from the crowd.
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