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Tips to Avoid Demo Drama

Started ‎11-19-2021 by
Modified ‎11-29-2021 by
Views 3,434

kalledemar3.pngI had a sobering experience last August during a demonstration of software to a client. On the face of it, all should have been well. I had done all my preparation, I knew what to expect, the customers had confirmed the date and time, the demo software was loaded on my laptop, and I even had a plan B to cover any possible technical issues. I was, I concluded, perfectly prepared. What could possibly go wrong?


I probably shouldn’t have tempted fate with that thought. My laptop started to lose power almost as soon as I was up and running, 20 minutes before the demo. I ran through the usual emergency checklist, but just couldn’t get it to work well enough to demonstrate anything. I switched to Plan B, a PowerPoint presentation, but even that wasn’t running properly. I managed the demo, and the clients seemed happy, but I was distracted, and a bit frustrated. It wasn’t ideal—though it could have been worse. Just 30 minutes after the end of the meeting, my laptop died completely, never to work again.


A valuable lesson

In hindsight, perhaps I was allowing my 22 years of demo experience to make me a bit over-confident. However, I was also right to be confident. After all, the client was happy, and my Plan B worked. It was, in effect, a demonstration of the benefits of planning ahead. However, it also highlighted two things. First, you can’t always predict every problem, and second, that you really, really need to look after your laptop.


These are two important lessons for anyone planning demonstrations. There is nowhere to go if your laptop dies. You may be able to borrow one—but that’s only going to work if you also have your demo backed up on a server somewhere, and can access it. Don’t delay updates, and certainly don’t delay getting help if it doesn’t seem to be running very well, or shows any signs of problems.



Flexibility is crucial. My client was happy because I was able to get my point across through my PowerPoint presentation. The lack of live demo was not ideal. Fortunately, it also wasn’t a deal-breaker. Perhaps I gave a better presentation because of all the adrenaline from trying to trouble-shoot at the last minute. However, I also believe that my experience over all those years means that I know how to showcase a solution without a live demo. I understand the importance of story-telling, and I am able to get my point across.


This demo, in other words, was a great exercise in getting just the right element of drama—but without the unnecessary kind.


It started me thinking about what else I have learned in the course of my 22 years of demonstrating software and analytics. The result of that thinking is this series of articles providing tips on avoiding demo drama. The primary audience of these articles is likely to be vendors, but there are plenty of other people who also have to demonstrate software sometimes. Internally, for example, we have found that analytics teams often have to demonstrate the potential of their proposed solution to get stakeholder buy-in.


A collaboration in curation

This started as a set of articles detailing my personal learning from experience. However, I very quickly realized that even here, two heads are better than one. My colleague Gregor Herrmann has turned out to be a fantastic partner on this curation journey. We hope you enjoy sharing it with us over the next few weeks.   


You must have gathered a lot of battle scars! Looking forward to the series. 

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‎11-29-2021 06:53 AM
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