Software Demonstration Success

Do you want to amaze your audience the next time you give a demo? Do you want them shouting for more?  Then think OPERA and put on a performance they will never forget.


Well OPERA is an acronym based on the first letters of the 5 key aspects of a software demonstration.

O  is for Objective

P is for Presenter

E is for Equipment

R is for Running Order

A is for Audience

Lets look at eachof these key aspects of a demonstration in turn:


You must have an objective for your demo. Why are you doing it? What do you want you audience to do after you have finished? How do you want your audience to feel?

Of course, any business objective should be a SMART objective, i.e. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.  This means having an objective of “I want them to see how it works” really doesn’t cut the mustard, for that matter neither would an objective of “I want them to buy the product”, as unless you are selling off the stand, it is unlikely that the sale will be closed with in a timeframe that meets the “Timely” element of a SMART objective.

Ideally what you want the demo to do is; either prove that the technology works, or more importantly, create a vision of success in your audience’s mind, where they can see how using your software would benefit their business. Now having such a qualitative objective is not measurable unless you ask the right questions at the end of the demo. “Has my demo helped you to gain a better understanding of your solution?” or “Can you now see how this system would be used to good effect within your business?” are good questions to ensure you objective was reached.

P is for Presenter

As the person giving the demo, your attitude to the demo is as important if not more important than the system you are demonstrating. Don’t hide in a darkened corner, make sure your audience can see you and that you can see them. Although they are likely to spend most of their time watching the screen, it is reassuring for them to be able to make eye contact with you, and to gauge the expression on your face during the demonstration. It is also very helpful if you can do the same to them. Then if they are looking bored you can speed it up, or ask them more questions. The old saying “people buy from people” is still as true as it ever was, not matter how technical the sale is. So make sure you can be seen.

E is for Equipment

Needless to say you need to know how all the equipment works if you are going to give a demo. But it pays to think through all the things that could go wrong and either eliminate them, or think up a work around in advance. The most obvious things to eliminate include: turning your screen saver off, putting you phone on silent and closing down instant messaging systems, such as Twitter or MSN to ensure no embarrassing or distracting messages are displayed.

It is not just the equipment you need to know, but the system you are demonstrating. Never try to show something in a demonstration that you have not been through keystroke by keystroke in your rehearsal. Such ad hoc activities may seem appealing, enabling you to show off your prowess in your software but if anything does go wrong you will look such a fool.

On a more general level, it pays to get there early so you are not rushed when setting up the demo. It also gives you the chance to ensure the room is tidy, the whiteboard is clean and the flip chart has a blank page at the front. My tip is to sit at the back of the room before anyone arrives and make sure there is nothing left lying around which may distract your audience. If there is remove it.

R is for Running Order

Having a running order for your demonstration is a good idea BUT it is always wise to check with your audience what in particular they would like to see (see below). The KISSS principle is a good one to stick to when you are giving a demo, Keep It Simple, Keep it Short, Keep it Slow. A demo should be no longer than it has to be. Once you have created a vision of how your system will benefit your prospective customers, stop. Even though there may be many, many other parts that you haven’t shown them, stop. By continuing on and on showing off every feature, you will not only become boring, you run the risk of showing them something they will not like, which in turn becomes a reason for them not to buy the system.

Be enthusiastic when you are giving a demo, but don’t go too fast. It is easy to assume that your audience understands what you are doing on a particular screen because of your own familiarity with the system.  Your audience has never seen it before so you need to slow down and explain what each screen is for and what you are doing. Always keep in mind that you are demonstrating a solution to their problems not telling them how to use a system.

A is for Audience

Last but by no means least, the most important part of any demonstration is the audience. The more you know about your audience the better the demo is likely to be. You are not there to show them how your system works, you are doing the demonstration to engage them in a vision of the future, a vision of how much better their life will be once they have this system in their organisation. To create that vision you need to know what they do now, what problems they may have, and establish a strong benefit oriented business case for why they need to have your system, which they can buy into. Remember at the heart of the demo is the old saying “What’s In It For Me”. You must show, through your demo, exactly what is in it for each member of your audience. You can not do that if you know nothing about who your audience is and why they have come to watch your demo.

So before your next demo, think OPERA, and you will have your audience and the salesperson singing your praises.

For more information about good demonstrations and details of my Effective Demonstration Training click on the link.


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