Review of Great Demo! How to Create and Execute Stunning Software Demonstrations

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I’ve seen this book recommended by a number of people and finally had a chance to dig into it. I definitely recommend this to anyone who’s responsible for providing software product demos. This book focuses mainly on the presales/sales engineering role, but it’s also applicable to account reps and anyone else who conducts software trainings or internal presentations.

The author does a great job of summarizing the key concept of this book into one concise page.

Do the last thing first

  1. Begin by showing the best, most compelling screen(s) in less than 2 minutes. You want to leave them asking “wow, how did you do that?”
  2. Walk through how you created the result (compelling screens). Do it rapidly, smoothly, and without any detailed explanation in less than 4 minutes. Only show features that solve customer needs.
  3. Let the audience guide where the presentation goes next based on their needs and interests (i.e. critical business issues). Obviously you still need to have structure and control the flow. But this customized portion should be the bulk of the time (20 -30 minutes).

It’s that simple. If most sales engineers and account reps followed this principal there would be a lot less bloated, boring, uncompelling, and ineffective sales demos every day.

Here are some additional interesting points made by the author.

  • Showing “extra” functionality can make the customer feel that they would be paying for features they don’t need. Stick with what’s relevant to the client.
  • Start a demo with two general confirmation questions. 1) What are the expectations/needs, and 2) what are the time constraints. Yes you should have already nailed all this down, but you still need to confirm that nothing has changed.
  • Don’t close with Q&A. Close with a summary that you control. This is true of any presentation.
  • Sales engineers should always run through their demo with the sales team before demoing to the client. Obviously.
  • There are three types of questions during a demo. This is a really interesting section of the book.
    • Great questions – support and move a demo along. Answer immediately and briefly
    • Good questions – Pose the biggest risk of derailing a demo. Put these questions on a “not now list” for the Q&A portion
    • Stupid questions. Also go on the “not now list” but likely you won’t need to answer
  • When dealing with an unexpected, relatively large audience (up to 30 people) take time at the beginning to identify the audience’s needs and expectations. Create a “to-do list” for everyone to see. Cross out features your product doesn’t have, star each item you will demo, and bullet the items that are relevant but that will not be demoed. Once the audience understands what you will be covering give them a chance to stay or leave based on the outlined agenda items. Then run through your demo based on the structure you originally intended addressing the starred items along the way.

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