Three simple ideas for better software demos

Better software demos

The other day I wrote about lessons for delivering a better software demo. This article ended up being one of the most popular ones in recent times. I have therefore decided to add a few more tips as a solid demo can really make a difference. Likewise a bad software demo can really hurt you and your project. Remember – the first impression is usually the most important one. You therefore have to make sure that you do a great job.

1. Keep it clean

A few weeks ago, I watched a demo. It wasn’t that bad. However, the guy ran it of his own desktop. And what a messy desktop it was. Icons cluttered a photo of him floating in a swimming pool. Oh well. Various apps were open and the person delivering the demo often had a hard time finding the right window. Also, his email program was open. The little Outlook bubbles kept popping up and we could read some of the email subjects (Viagra for sale!). Too bad! This could have been a good demo but the overall impression was anything but positive. You wouldn’t want to sell a dirty car, would you? Before you head out to deliver your next demo make sure to do the following:

    • messy desktop

      Does this look good enough for a customer?

      Close all apps that you don’t need

    • Kill all incoming emails, instant messages or Skype calls
    • Clean up your desktop
    • Choose a professional desktop background (the group photo from your bachelor party is probably not the right choice…)
    • Even easier: run the demo from a clean virtual machine

2. Keep it relevant

Demos need to be short and sweet. Don’t waste time explaining useless stuff. Imagine the car sales person talking about the spare wheel. Not all that exciting, is it? Spending time on irrelevant features can seriously harm you and your message. People might leave thinking your solution is not capable. You won’t believe it – but it’s true. I recently witnessed a person spending 2 minutes showing the audience how to change a password. It was irrelevant and painful to watch (message received: we have basic security). You have to make sure that what you show resonates with your audience and that it has impact. When you prepare for your demo, ask yourself the following questions:

    • What is the business pain of my audience?
    • Which features solve that pain?
    • Does that feature look great on screen?
    • Is it easy to understand?
    • Is this something interesting?

3. Fast forward

Have I mentioned that demos ought to be short and sweet? There are times, though, when it’s hard to stick to that idea. There are processes that may have to run, we might have to complete various ‘boring steps’ etc.. Don’t torture your audience with running through the entire process. It is so easy to loose people’s attention today. A good demo is like a river: It keeps flowing. Consider one of the following alternatives:

better software demo

  • Record the entire demo or parts of it. Recording the entire script allows you to edit out irrelevant steps. You can also enhance a live demo with some video to show those steps in a quick manner (kind of like a timelapse effect).
  • Prepare the irrelevant and lengthy steps before the actual demo. This is possible in many case.
  • Only show the relevant fragments. We don’t always have to show it all. A simple before and after often speaks louder than hundreds of demo minutes
  • Team up with a colleague. Show some slides during the ‘boring’ parts while your colleague advances the demo

Better software demos

Delivering better software demos does not have to be difficult. Follow some of these ideas to improve. It’s worth it. The greatest dashboard will have a hard time getting accepted if the demos really suck.

Good luck!

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  • Nikolai Novikov

    Very true, I always recall first Cognos presentation given to me :) changing password … Huh