Giving a Great Demo is An Art

Some demos are ok….some are great.  I think that’s obvious enough.  It’s like having a good date vs. a great date.  When you’re on a date, there are tons of things you could talk about but what’s going to make the best impression?

The way I see it, if you’re a developer or a program/project manager, you have a lot invested in the product itself.  You know the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into creating this thing.  You know the emotional highs and lows that are behind every button, text box, and sort column.  It’s only human nature to want to talk about those things as if it were some sort of weird group therapy session.

The problem is that your audience, whether it’s your boss, the client, or whomever, doesn’t know about that stuff and more than likely doesn’t care.  They want to know about how the product is going to affect them.  So here’s my opinion of what goes into a great demo:

  1. Think it through beforehand if at all possible.  I pride myself on being fairly quick on my feet, but trying to field questions, click the right button (we all know that clicking the wrong button can lead to disaster in an unfinished piece of work), and smoothly move to the next talking point is too much to handle for most folks.
  2. The things you choose to talk about and spend time on should be the things that matter most to THEM, not you.  Think of the greatest date you’ve ever been on, and I bet there was significant amounts of that time spent talking about YOU or things you are interested in.  Let’s face it, we all think the world revolves around us.
  3. Do your best to read your audience and adjust your spiel as needed.  Item number one is valid, but you have to remember to be a little flexible.  I sat in on a demo where the presenter said to one of the major project stakeholders "Let me finish with this part" no less than 4 times.  That’s a huge red flag in my book.  Not everyone thinks of technology as fun or cool.  We have to make things as approachable as possible, even in the demo.