8 ideas for delivering a better demo

Demos are a critical part of every business analytics implementation. There are frequent occasions during any project where we have to show present tools & processes: At the beginning, we might show the new software to our users to educate them. Later on we might want to review a prototype and we need to solicit productive feedback based on the demo. Training sessions require us to teach the new process and tool while also obtaining buy-in from the business. Overall, I would argue that being able to deliver a great demo is a critical skill for every business analytics professional.

BORING & UNINTELLIGIBLE

A great demo catches the attention of the audience

Unfortunately, not enough people work on their demo skills. And it shows: Too many demos suck. They are boring & unintelligible. The result? Stakeholders lose interest, users provide poor feedback, executives disapprove, etc.. Think about how often you had to sit through a boring presentation. On the other hand, great software demos can make a difference. Take a look at the master himself: Steve Jobs. He manages to excite millions of people. But the good news is that we can improve our skills. Here are a few things I have learned.

PREPARATION

Preparation is key. Before you even touch the software, go offline and work through the following questions:

  • What are the business problems of my audience?
  • How does the software/ new process solve these issues?
  • Which features & process steps would get the users really excited?
  • What does the user know about the new software or process?
  • What terminology do I need to use to help users understand?

These questions will help you create a solid plan & structure. Structure is important. Following a mouse cursor on a large screen is hard enough. To follow an unstructured story is even harder.

MORE TO THINK ABOUT

Once you have answered these questions start compiling your story. Keep the following things in mind:

  • Keep it short & simple: Following a demo is hard work for our brains. There is a lot to absorb and to understand. We therefore need to keep every demo as short & simple as possible. Just focus on the really important things. There is no need to discuss every single feature.
  • Break it up: Try to break your demo into smaller chapters. That allows the audience to take a short mental break. They will be much more attentive and it allows them to catch up in case they get lost at some point. You can show a quick slide between the chapters or ask for feedback.
  • Focus on fixing problems: Each demo should focus on a specific business problem. Clearly state what the issue is and show how the software or the new process fixes it. Once again: keep it simple and don’t cram too many issues into each demo.
  • Speak normal: Stakeholders don’t necessarily understand technical terms. Neither do they to want to hear how great the ‘XP937i protocol’ is, nor do they understand what it is.  So, try to avoid jargon and speak normal language. Focus on just the benefits. Explain where necessary.
  • Start with a bang: You need to grab your audience in the very beginning of your demo to secure their focus. Start the demo with something cool: an awesome feature, the solution to a big problem or something surprising. Don’t spend 5 minutes explaining the background color of the mouse cursor.
  • Show your passion: You want the stakeholders to be excited about the new software, right? So, go ahead and show your passion for it during the demo. Why should the users be giddy with excitement if the person demonstrating the new tool is aloof & uninspired?
  • Practice: This one is obvious. Prepare the demo carefully and practice it a few times. Remind yourself of the core points that you are trying to bring across. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience: would YOU want to watch this demo?

REMEMBER – IT’S FUN!

Delivering a great demo can be extremely rewarding for any project team. This is the moment where you can show the awesome work that you and your team have been delivering. You owe it to yourself and your team to do a super job. If you want to get some inspiration, just watch one of Steve Job’s product presentations. There is plenty to learn from him. Good luck!

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