From SFbeta to SF NewTech, MusicTech demo rooms to my own, I have seen a LOT of demos. I’ve seen demo presentations and demo stations, pitches and slide shows. And it is maybe 1 in 15 that actually makes me say “Wow, that was a good demo.”
Now I’m not a VC, or one of those experienced entrepreneurs with a half dozen companies under my belt. But I am your audience in each of those rooms; I am your average user; I am your virality; I am your first step. So, take it or leave it, here’s the 5 tips I’d pass on to you that everyone seems to get wrong.
5) Know your audience. Are you pitching to a bunch of marketers, or to developers? Are they going to be users, investors, or partners? For example, a demo for investors should show how you are getting users fast and making money. To users, it should show practicality to THEM. You wouldn’t show your comic book collection to someone hiring you to work on their car. Don’t show your metric software at a medical convention. Regardless of audience, however, one thing is ALWAYS true:
4) You’ve got 30 seconds. Go. One of the biggest problems I’ve seen in demos is the time it takes them to get to the point. I want to know, in 30 seconds, what it is and why it is important to ME! I don’t want a snazzy drum roll, and 2 minute anecdote. Not at the start, at least. If, in 30 seconds, you can convince me it’s worth listening to you, then you can tell me the ins and outs, the hows and whys. When it takes a demo company more than 30 seconds to get to the point, I generally assume even they don’t know what it is, themselves.
3) Show and Tell. If you have to sell your product to me, argue why it is good, explain it in more than a dozen words, it probably isn’t developed enough to be demoing. Take it back to alpha testing and start again. You should be able to say “Xyjizio makes measuring your brand’s social media influence in real-time easy” (only with a GOOD company name and less buzz words) and then type in a few words, click a few buttons, and I watch while the numbers roll in. I understand you may not have enough reach or users to do this yet when you demo, but find SOMETHING visual that makes me go WOW, and isn’t you trying to convince me it would, hypothetically, be cool. Because yeah, so would teleportation abilities.
2) Be Energized! I cannot believe I am writing this here, but easily half of the demos I have seen have people talking like Ben Stein, being too quiet, staring at a screen rather than me, etc. If you can’t even be excited about your product, why should I be?
1) Practice. Again, this should be common sense. But I see too many demos where people stutter, lose their place in a slide, seem unsure how to answer a question or proceed. First, stand in an empty room and demo to yourself, then ask your self questions and answer them. All out loud. Speaking out loud changes the dynamic, they way you think, and gets you better prepared. Then ask friends to listen and ask questions. Then colleagues. This will not only make you get to the point faster and more efficiently (I promise, the first few times you do this, your audience will fall asleep), but it will make your answers sound intelligent and relevant, and convince me you know your shit. This one step will pretty much make the other 4 come naturally.
AN ANECDOTE: Well if you’ve gotten this far, if I’ve won you in 30 seconds, I can now tell a helpful, relevant anecdote that illutrates these points well.
I sat in an SF NewTech this last year, listening to a bunch of site and app demos. For the first time in awhile, I saw a product I would actually use. It made my travels online easier, it organized my information. But the demo itself was dull. The presenter was too quiet and couldn’t take his eyes from his computer screen. He’d complete a bunch of tasks, but never seem to be excited about any of them. He used an example totally irrelevant to most of us there (organizing apartment search information. Why not organize job search information? Resume review information? App metric information?) and never once summed it all up for me in a nice memorable blurb. Notice in #3 that I do say you must Show AND Tell. Dont JUST illustrate, make sure you tell me exactly what problem you solve and why I need it, concisely!
That same night there was a product I thought was completely useless. It had dozens of competitors and nothing made it stand out from them. I would personally never use it, and couldn’t see even an active user needing it more than a half dozen times. What a waste of internet space. But the presenter was SO excited. He was convinced this was THE answer to THIS problem. He gave an example from his personal use of the product – and as a fellow entrepreneur, this was relevant to me – and then showed how his use generated immediate revenue for the company. His slides were colorful, his message simple and clear, his examples relevant, and he even wrapped up 30 seconds early. If the product itself has just been a LiTTLE stronger, he would’ve had ME investing.
But thus far, neither has made it. Yes, you need a good product. We all know that. But despite what I know dozens of people say, a good product alone doesn’t sell. You need the character, skills, and tools to sell it. And a good demo presentation is right at the top.