5 best lesson about software demo

When you have to make a sale, gather end-user feedback, demonstrate the progress of your product to customers, or simply explain how your product works, at some point or another, you’ll need to demo your software.

Over my career I’ve had the chance to present hundreds of demos to audiences of various sizes. I’ve also had the opportunity to take part in demos organized by other people. The following represent the top 5 lessons I’ve learned over the last decade with regard to demos.

Manage Your Audience’s Expectations

Have you ever been to see a film everyone has raved about only to walk away with a feeling of disappointment? Most of the time, moviegoers feel let down not because the picture was bad however, it’s because it was more bad than they imagined. The movie didn’t live up to their expectations.

Also, if people go in a showroom thinking they’ll see a finished product, they’re expecting it to be virtually unaffected, attractive, and user-friendly. They’re not likely to be impressed for example with a Web-based application that contains typos or JavaScript mistakes in the event that they think scan pay the application will be live in just a week. If they are aware beforehand that you’re only presenting a flimsy prototype, this same audience will be much more lenient. They will also be willing to provide the needed feedback to assist you in your ongoing work.

Setting expectations for your audience is vital to an effective demo. If you want your audience to walk away from the presentation happy it is important to establish the right expectations beforehand. Be sincere with them. Don’t try to oversell your demonstration. Just sell it, and strive to deliver it to the max.

One Bad Apple Spoils The Whole Bunch

The most you need to do to screw up a demo is one person. If someone starts negatively critiquing every single widget in your program, or keeps interrupting you because they want to hear the sound of their own voice, your presentation will turn into a disaster. It’s your responsibility to ensure that these people don’t come to your presentation.

If you’re hosting an open-door demo, it’s very hard to control who will attend the event. Omitting someone from your invitation list does not mean that they won’t hear about your demo through word-of-mouth or just attend.

Here are some ways to trick people who aren’t good at attending your demo:

Create a scheduling conflict for those who have a bad attitude. Make sure they’re busy or even away from the office during the time your demo begins.

Book two separate demos. Invite those whose opinions you truly value to your first demo and the bad apples to the second. In most cases it’s the case that each group shows at the demo they’re respectively invited to. If it’s time to go to the second demo make sure you give it your best shot, or, if you’re not able to make the time, simply cancel it.

I’m aware that these two suggestions appear to be an excerpt in Scott Adams’s Dilbert And The Way Of The Weasel however, unless you’re comfortable telling your superiors, peers or customers not to attend your demonstration and these two tips are basically the only options you have.

Do A Practice Run

I attended a presentation this week, which was hosted by the CEO of a local start-up. After meeting him at a trade show, I was convinced that his company had created an innovative technology that could meet the needs of one of my clients. I agreed to grant him 30 minutes of my time so that it could demonstrate the product’s capabilities.

I didn’t have to wait for 30 minutes to decide that I didn’t want to engage with him in business. The only thing I required was just 30 seconds.

The guy was unable to log into his own online application! He was for all of 10 minutes during the demo trying to find the password.

Always run a test on the system that you’re going to use during the actual demonstration. You might know the application as if it were one’s hand. However, if someone else has access to your demo system, who knows the condition it’s currently in. It could be that they have removed features, updated components, or as happened for this CEO, changed the user credentials without informing you.

Unless you don’t mind looking like a fool, always do a practice run on your demonstration system prior to giving your presentation to the audience.

Pay Attention To Details

The hundreds of demos I’ve given over the years has taught me to pay more attention to how the application appears rather than what it does. You software might be the solution to world-hunger but if anyone in your audience spots a mistake in your GUI and points it out, they will be sure to point it out!

People are particularly distracted by readable content – and that’s the fact. Deal with it by carefully studying the text in your web interface as well as in your graphic designs. If you’re not able or don’t have time to go through and edit the text, make use of Lorem Ipsum.

Lorem Ipsum has a more-or-less regular distribution of letters, thereby making it look like it’s English while not distracting viewers. I’m currently creating new prototypes using Lorem Ipsum. I also add real text only after I’ve had time to write content that I know isn’t going to be the topic of discussion during my next demo. I strongly suggest that you use the same method.

Point Out The (Obvious) Bugs

Software has bugs. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t agree with this assertion hasn’t worked in the industry for very long. Although we’re often looking for defects-free products, the reality is complex systems always contain defects , even if they’re readily accessible.

Conducting a test run prior to your presentation will help you to spot and fix the show-stoppers. Using Lorem Ipsum can take care of the small details that could otherwise cause confusion for your audience. What are the other issues that can be attributed to Murphy’s Law?

If an obvious flaw does manifest its self during your demonstration Please be sure to point it out!

In all likelihood, your target audience has already been aware of the issue. If you try to hide it, it will make them believe that you’re not honest. As a result, they’ll be curious about the other things you’re trying to hide.

Make sure to point out the issue, explain that you have a solution confidently state you’ll have it put into place by a specific date, and move forward. Sincere behavior will assure your customers in the knowledge that (a) your company isn’t trying to sweep it under the rug and (b) this issue will be addressed by the time they deploy your system.

I’m not advocating that you go hunting for bugs during your demo. If you’re able to avoid them then do it. However, if a problem does surface in your presentation, don’t try to pretend that it’s not there. The only person you’ll be kidding is yourself.


You’ve got it. Five ways to create a memorable software demonstration.

Set the expectations of your audience

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

Do a practice run

Pay attention to all the finer details and make use of LoremIpsum

Find the obvious bugs

Do these five tips reflect everything I’ve learned from the hundreds of demonstrations I’ve held? Absolutely not! The most difficult part of creating this post was the fact that I had to limit it to five tips. It would have been easy to throw in a few more for example: (a) control the situation, and (b) always have a backup plan. However, my goal was to not provide all the tricks that could help you. Only the very top five!

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