How to structure a demonstration

Your company has spent many months developing a new version of your system and now it is time to show it off to prospective customers. What is the best approach? How should you structure the demonstration for maximum effect?

To answer this question, we should first consider the reasons behind giving a demo. What is the demo meant to do? Is it to show how it works? Is to prove the technology works or is it to open your audience’s minds to new ways of working,  to the potential of your system in providing solutions to their current business problems?

For most demos the objective should be the latter. To create a vision of success which your prospective customers can buy into. Where many people go wrong is in thinking that the demo is the place to show how it all works and to impress people with all the nifty technology which they have spent so long developing. People aren’t really interested in the technology, they are only interested in what the technology enables them to do.

Remember when you are giving a demo, you should be giving a demonstration of a solution not of a product.

This one statement affects the whole process of giving a demo. It means it is imperative that you establish up front, before you even start the demonstration, what problems people have, what their current situation is and what they would see as a solution to those problems. If you do not have a good understanding of this then it is unlikely that your demo will address their needs. So I recommend that you start by asking some SPIN* questions so that you understand the Situation, problems, Implications and Needs of your prospective customers.

Okay, so now you know what problems the customers have, now you need to map your technology on to how it  helps solve those business problems. There are probably a whole host of different things your system can do which will help the customer. Pick the most impressive one and do that first.  Many demos that I have seen (and even some that I have done myself in the past), start by describing the environment, showing the background and then building to a climax. The problem with this approach is it can easily fall in to the frog in the pan syndrome. You know the old theory, if you drop a frog in a pan of boiling water it will jump straight back out, but if you put it in a pan of cold water and gently heat it, the frog will stay there until it’s cooked! If you build slowly to your climax then your audience get used to each small incremental jump and when you do reach your climax it will just be another small step.

The alternative approach of starting with your most impressive bit will be far more attention grabbing far more impressive.

Add to that if you build too slowly some people will get fed up and stop listening/watching or may just wander off and never see your best bit. By doing it up front you can be sure you will get everyone, no matter how short their attention span is.

Having wowed your audience with your solution initially, the rest of the demo should consist of examples of other ways you can help to solve their problem, or ways to solve other problems, just keep highlighting a problem and showing how it is solved. Finally as you come to the end of the demo, save your second most impressive bit for the end. The attention curve for most audiences is like a hockey stick, it starts high, slowly drops and the kicks up again as you are about to reach the end, so doing you second most impressive bit at the end capitalizes on the rise in attention and leaves your audience on a high.

Throughout your demo you should be focussed, not on the features and advantages of your system, but on the benefits to your audience, of your solution. In general, never show a feature without verbally accompanying it with an explanation of why it is a benefit to your audience. Don’t leave it to your audience to assume what the benefits might be, make sure your tell them.

At the end of the demo you then need to summarize what you have shown them and the benefits that it generated.

Finally, ask your audience if your demo has helped them to gain a better understanding of your solution and if they can now appreciated how it could help them achieve their vision of success. Ask them if there are any other areas that they would like you to cover.

 I now run a Demonstration Workshop training course to help people improve their demonstration technique. You can find out more on my web site on the Demonstration Workshop page.

I wish you all the best for your future demos.

* SPIN is a registered trademark of the Huthwaite training organisation.

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