Thu. Oct 6th, 2022

It doesn’t matter if you want to close a sale, gather end-user feedback, demonstrate the customer how your product is progressing, or simply explain the process of your software eventually or not, you’ll require a demo of your software.

Over time I’ve had the privilege to perform hundreds of demos to audiences of different sizes. I’ve also been able to be a part of demos held by others. The following are my top five tips I’ve learned during the last decade about demos.

Manage Your Audience’s Expectations

Have you ever gone to see a film that everyone was talking about, only to leave completely disappointed? Most of the time, moviegoers aren’t disappointed because the film was bad instead, it’s because the movie was more bad than they imagined. The movie didn’t live up to their expectations.

Similarly, if people show at a demonstration believing they’re about to see an actual product, they’re expecting that it’ll be flawlessly perfect, beautiful and user-friendly. They’re not likely to be impressed with, for instance, a Web-based application that contains typos or JavaScript errors If reconcile invoices they believe it’s due to go live within a week. However, if they know beforehand that you’re presenting a throwaway prototype, the audience will be much more accepting. They will also be willing to provide important feedback to assist in your ongoing work.

Setting expectations for your audience is crucial to an effective demo. If you want your audience to walk away from the presentation happy it is important to establish the right expectations before the event. Make sure you are honest with them. Don’t oversell your demo. Make it easy to sell it, and never strive to deliver it to the max.

One Bad Apple Spoils The Whole Bunch

All it takes to mess up a demo is one person. If someone starts to negatively criticize every single widget in your program, or keeps interrupting your presentation simply because they like to hear his/her own voice, your demo is likely to be disastrous. It is your job to make sure that the undesirable individuals don’t make it in your demo.

If you’re hosting a private demonstration, it’s extremely difficult to control who will attend the event. By removing someone from your invite list isn’t a guarantee that they won’t hear about your demo through word-of mouth and then appear.

Here are two methods to entice the uninitiated into not attending your demonstration:

Set up a time-slot conflict for the bad apples. Make sure they are busy or, better yet, not in the office when your demonstration takes place.

Book two separate demos. Invite the people whose feedback you value to the first demo , and the naysayers to the ones to the next. In most cases it’s the case that each group shows up to the demo they’re respectively invited to. When it’s time for the second demo take the opportunity to give the best you can, or if you don’t have time, just cancel the demo.

I’m sure the two tips appear to be an excerpt from Scott Adams’s Dilbert And The Way Of The Weasel however, unless you’re confident in telling your peers, superiors or customers to not show up to your demo and these two tips are the only options you have.

Do A Practice Run

I went to a demonstration last week that was hosted by the CEO of a local start-up. After having a conversation with him at a trade show, I was convinced that his company had developed an innovative technology that could meet one of my client’s needs. I also agreed to allow him 30 minutes of my time so I could show his product’s capabilities.

I didn’t require 30 minutes to realise that I did not want to deal with him. What I really needed was 30 seconds.

This guy couldn’t even log on to his own application that runs on the Web! He spent most of the demo trying to find a password.

Always run a test using the same system that you’ll be using during the actual demo. You might know the application in the palm of you hand. But if anyone else has access to the demo machine, who can tell what shape it’s in. It could be that they have removed features, updated components, or such as the one with this CEO the user’s credentials without notifying you.

If you don’t mind appearing like a fool, you should conduct a practice session on your demo system before present to your audience.

Pay Attention To Details

The hundreds of demos I’ve performed over the years I’ve learned that users pay more at how an application looks than what it does. You software might provide a solution to the world’s hunger but if someone in your audience notices a typo in your GUI and points it out, they will be sure to point it out!

People are particularly distracted by textual content, and that’s a fact. Take care when reading the text on your website and in your graphic designs. If you don’t have time to review and finalize the text, use Lorem Ipsum.

Lorem Ipsum is a more or less normal distribution of letters thereby making it look like readable English and not causing distraction to your viewers. I now develop new prototypes using Lorem Ipsum. I also add real text when and only the time is right to write content I know will not be the subject of discussion at my next demonstration. I strongly suggest that you follow the same procedure.

Point Out The (Obvious) Bugs

Software contains bugs. It’s as simple as that. Anyone who disagrees with this statement hasn’t worked in the industry for very long. Although we sometimes strive for flawless products, the truth is complex systems always contain imperfections, even when they’re readily available.

Doing a practice run before your presentation will help you to pinpoint and eliminate show-stoppers. Using Lorem Ipsum can take care of the nitty-gritty details that would otherwise distract your audience. But what are the other issues that can be attributed to Murphy’s Law?

In the event that you notice a bug that is obvious does show its self during your demonstration be sure to highlight it!

Most likely, your readers will have been aware of the issue. If you try to hide it, it will make them believe that you’re not honest. Consequently, they’ll start to consider what else you’re trying cover up.

Make sure to point out the issue Explain that you have a solution, be confident that the fix will be in place on a particular date and then move forward. The sincere approach will convince your audience in the knowledge that (a) you’re not attempting to sweep the issue under the carpet and (b) the defect will be addressed in the near future, when they launch your system.

I’m not suggesting that you hunt for bugs in your demo. If you’re able to avoid the issue, please do so. However, if a problem is discovered during your presentation, don’t try to pretend that it’s not there. The only person you’ll be kidding is yourself.


That’s it. Five ways to create a memorable software demo.

Be aware of the expectations of your audience.

Ensure that bad apples don’t make a mess of the crop

Practice a run

Pay attention to details and make use of Lorem Ipsum

Point out the obvious bugs.

Do these 5 suggestions represent everything I’ve learned from the hundreds of demos that I’ve held? Absolutely not! The most difficult thing about writing this piece was the fact that I had to limit it to five tips. It is possible to add in a few more for example: (a) take control of the situation, or (b) always have a backup plan. However, the aim was not to point out all the tips that could help you. The top five tips are the only ones that matter!

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