Tag Archives: Demonstrations

“I’m not dumb, just a little slow”

I picked up that very useful phrase from a passive mentor* of mine years ago.  It comes out once in a while in discovery sessions and in sales meetings.

While adding a bit of self-deprecating humor to a situation, it also conveys that you’re working with your audience to understand what they’re trying to get across.  And with the mix of business process, technology, new ideas, and salesmanship floating around any business meeting, it really can take a little bit for something to sink in.

It can get your audience to rephrase, re-approach, and even re-think how they’re explaining things to you.   They can get downright considerate for you, which is the opposite of the way sales situations are often perceived- a sales team trying to pull a fast one.

So keep it in your back pocket.

*Everyone has the potential to be a mentor if you’re paying attention.  Learn from everyone- the good and the bad.
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Record It

You invest a lot of effort learning solutions, understanding the marketplace needs, and preparing for presentations.

Why not save this effort by recording it?

Tools like Camtasia can capture your screen and even a cheap USB microphone records broadcast-quality sound.  If you spend an afternoon learning the basics of the Camtasia editor, you’ll learn to cut, zoom, pan, and merge media clips together into a tight, professional video.*  Now you have a backup, a leave-behind, a promotional video, and a growing library of recordings you can depend on down the road.

You might also want to record yourself as you learn.

Turn on the recorder as you work through product marketing presentations of the latest releases.  As you read through them, you can practice explaining the concepts to pretend customers or work out use-cases and examples.  Record yourself as you set up demo data or walk through standard scripts and you’ll always have a reference for those intricate bits.  You may never edit (or even look at!) these recordings, but they’ll be there for future reference.  You’ll be surprised how quickly you recall your thought processes and understanding as you review them.  You’ll be ready to share them with others who are starting down paths you’ve already covered.

And that’s the return on your investment.

*You can even add ukulele background music, if you must.
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Technology simplifies

For a recent demonstration…

I sat down to a web-meeting and conference call (VOIP telephony) and shared my desktop, while connected to my corporate VPN, running a virtual computing system (the demonstration system) accessed remotely (through a desktop emulator), which was itself running a virtual phone system / communications technology (the product being demonstrated), dialed into via cell phone by a peer on-site at the customer, which came back into my USB headset, which was itself full-duplexing the concall, the inbound call, and a conferenced demo role all at once through the same headphones and mic, recording the calls themselves to boot.  All from my laptop, wirelessly connected to a router connected to a cable-modem inside my home office.

I took a smooth sip of coffee and showed them how easy the products were to use.

I’m sure you would have done the same.

Rats! I forgot to show the email and chat features!
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Five Minute Demo

From way outside the enterprise software space, here is a pair of demonstrations we can learn from.

I would buy this product based on this fundamentally sound,* informative, and compelling demonstration:**

Let’s dissect it just a little:

  • A quick “hello, here’s what we’re going to be talking about”
  • Brief demo on his own terms of the product to give us a taste
  • Educational review of the major features, and what it does
  • Deeper demo showing the real use cases we care about and the resulting variety and power of the product we care about
  • Brief summary, praise, and call to action

There was joy and enthusiasm on the part of the presenter from the opening seconds, and he showed us enough to let our imaginations fill in the rest.  Wouldn’t you love to be able to coax your own sounds out of this unit?  Don’t you want to discover what else it can do?

I wouldn’t buy this product based on this rambling checklist:***

Let’s rip it apart:

  • Hello, here’s what we’re going to talk about
  • Tangential, distracting story
  • Long technical feature-function training course
  • More features and functions
  • Even more features and functions
  • Ineffective and out of place cross-selling pitch
  • Finally, demo!  …Well, ten seconds of demo, then back to the training class and another cross-selling pitch
  • Ten seconds of demo, thirty seconds of explanation; repeat, repeat, repeat
  • Thanks for watching, for more information go to the website

There was no joy on the part of the presenter.  Does he even like playing guitar?  Nothing was left to the imagination, no stone left unturned, and you walk away thinking “that’s all it does.”

* Sure, it could have used a little more editing and another draft.
** I did, actually.
*** From the manufacturer’s rep!
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Your Competition is out there

On YouTube, actually.

While your engagements will keep you busy discovering, preparing, presenting, and following up, it’s a good practice to check out your competition once in a while.

Watch their demos.  Take notes.  Observe what they say versus what they show.  They reveal an awful lot about themselves in a few short minutes.*  See if you can duplicate their use cases with your solutions.

Your customers are watching these demos too**, so you’d better be familiar with the expectations they’ll have of you.  These demos are the table-stakes in the game.  The better ones will set the competitive bar.  Match the competition’s bid, raise ’em, and call.

You should be knowledgeable enough of your competition to do a better job positioning their solutions than they would.

Because you’re the best.

*Or longer.  Customer conference keynotes, training classes, customer stories, future visions, press releases, and more are available to you within a few clicks.
** When your prospective customer searches for videos about your solution, what will they find?
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Climbing the Spiral Staircase

Every cycle we engage in- win, lose, or draw- we gain experience.

That experience brings out the finer points, the little touches and nuances that make a difference.  A point of positioning here, and understanding of the user’s life there, and tips about using projectors and podiums and whiteboards everywhere.

There’s always another level of competition.  There’s always a better way to convey the message.  There’s always a way to change, to improve.

Keep climbing the spiral staircase up and through the stratosphere.  Otherwise you’re just doing a job.

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Speed dating

This is when it all comes together.

I have 44 minutes, a cryptic spreadsheet of 40 requirements, a briefing, and some customer knowledge to work with.

I’m going to mix it all together with some eggs, a demo, and a fresh powerpoint and bake a demo cake.

This is fun!

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That’s his prerogative

When all the preparation is done, when all the stories are prepared, when all the data is set for stunning execution, it’s still the prerogative of the key customer in the audience to say something like…

“I don’t need to see the whole day-in-the-life demo and how a user goes about creating this or that- I just have a few key questions.”

That’s his prerogative, and it’s an invitation to step up and play some tough one-on-one.

It’s just you and him.  You’re ready.  It’s what you’ve really been preparing for.  Knock him out with all you’ve got.

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I made them up

I had a list of questions I expected in the demo and knew I wouldn’t be able to answer; questions about configuration of this and that, system architecture, product road-map, etc.

I shared the list during the dry run, asking who would take ownership for each in the meeting proper. This vetting of the list helped make sure we had the right people in the meeting, and that answering the questions was quick, helpful, and professional.

Someone asked where the questions came from. “I made them up.” Hilarity ensued. “Seriously. I think these are the questions they’ll have.”

We’re so programmed to solve problems, to score well on the test, that these were presumed a list of requirements- yet another homework assignment* – from the customer.  And by answering formal questions with the best answers, we’ll be picked.


This list of questions was ours.  It was necessary.  It was the result of thinking about the customer’s situation and what they’ll want to know, how they’ll perceive the solutions, how they’ll attempt to grasp our something different from what they have today.

The questions aren’t requirements. The questions are the poking and prodding the customer will do to understand our message.

*We sent some of the questions on to a new resource. He replied asking when the answers were due.

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Letting go?

We all work in teams.

Teams imply collaboration

Collaboration implies more than one person responsible for execution.

A challenge creeps into this cooperative approach, this division of labor, even when those in the team execute according to expectations. Their execution and vision isn’t the same as yours. It’s of a different quality. The writing – the messaging you’re trying to craft- obviously came from a committee. The audience can see this. It impacts the presentation of ideas.


How far can you push before the whole project crumbles? Do you let go and face the audience knowing it isn’t the best? Do you go all Steve-Jobs-it-must-be-insanely-great on the team?

Tough call.

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