Seven Ways to Beat the Demo Demons
By Jerry Weissman
companies bet the farm on new products, their standard operating
procedure is to throw an elaborate launch party for industry
influencers and the press. These events are often staged with all
the razzle-dazzle of a spectacular Las Vegas show, with all of it
centered on a demonstration of the precious product. As anyone who
has ever attended or participated in these events knows, the demo
demons can strike suddenly, smiting the demonstration with a
software crash, hardware jam, power outage, blown lamp, dead
battery, mouse malfunction, pop-up screen, or sound system failure.
common sense, anticipation, preparation, and redundancy will avoid
or counteract most of the physical and logistical pitfalls, but
there is still the vital matter of showmanship: How do you
integrate all of the elements of your demo? How do you
successfully combine its physical components, your voice and body
language, and your all-important audience? The demon demons may even
give you a free pass and let you proceed without crashing, but you
still have to make the demo go smoothly. After all, you are the
stand-in for your audience; if you can’t make your own product work
easily, how can they?
seven steps to take that will make your next demonstration a
Get out of the way: When the demo starts, you become
subordinate to the demo and are no longer the focus of the
presentation. Shift your position to the periphery, and make the
demo the center of attention. Veteran actors get out of the way
when children and dogs are involved. The demo in business is the
equivalent of the cute kid or the adorable puppy on stage. Step
aside and let your demo be the focus.
Become the voice-over narrator:
Take a lesson from
how well-made documentaries do their narratives. The narrator is
unseen, but tells a clear story. Be the voice-over
narrator for your demo and make your narrative thorough. Don’t
be vague. Don’t ad lib. Be as precise as a synchronized
Say “you.” The Internet abounds with references to a Yale
University study of the most persuasive words in the English
language in which “you” is at the top of the list, ahead of
“love” and “money.” Yet most demos, in their effort to appeal to
the broadest possible customer base, are impersonal tutorials
that sound canned, and therefore, detached from the audience. By
incorporating the word “you” into your narrative, you involve
your audience as if they are participants in the demo and, by
implication, as buyers of the product you are demonstrating.
Take a lesson from Dell Computer: In their current
advertising campaign to promote the customization of their
products, their slogan is “We don’t make technology for just
anyone. We make it for only one. You.” And then, to emphasize
the message, Dell adds a tag, “Purely you.”
Make eye contact via the demo:
Look at your own demo or at
the projection screen showing your demo. Don’t try to engage
with your audience’s eyes. They are focused on the demo or the
screen, and if you face them they become conflicted about where
to look. Take the same point of view as your audience. Watch the
demo evolve as if you were an end user.
Pause for action: Allow the demo to speak for itself,
especially when there is a lot is going on. Pause at such points
and allow the action to run its course. Silence is golden and
actions speak louder than words.
Use verbal navigation:
Navigate your audience’s eyes with
your words. Direct their eyes by describing what is happening in
the demo. Reference colors, objects, position and direction.
Reference top and bottom, center and sides. Reference left and
right, too, but be sure that you make it clear which left
or right. Don’t force your audience to do the navigation. A
simple fail-safe is to orient yourself with same point of view
as your audience.
Learn Sullivan’s Law:
Sullivan’s Law is a corollary
of Murphy’s Law which reads, “Anything that can go wrong
will.” Sullivan’s Law reads “Murphy was an optimist.” Develop a
Plan B for what you will do and say if the Demo Demons strike.
careful preparation and planning, you can make your next
demonstration a success!
Read other articles and learn more about
[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis.
Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and