When you have to make the sale, collect user feedback, display the progress you have made to your client, or simply explain the way your product functions eventually or not, you will be required to demonstrate your software product.

Through the years I’ve had the privilege to perform hundreds of demos for audiences of all sizes. I’ve also been able to attend demos hosted by other people. The following represent the top 5 things I’ve picked up over the last decade regarding demos.

Manage Your Audience’s Expectations

Have you ever been to see a movie everyone was talking Lorelai scan to pay about, only to leave dissatisfied? In most cases, moviegoers are disappointed, not because the picture was bad instead, it’s because the movie was worse than what they had hoped for. The movie didn’t live up to their expectations.

In the same way, if someone shows in a showroom thinking they’ll see the finished product, they’re expecting that it’ll be flawlessly free of defects, visually pleasing, and user-friendly. They won’t be impressed, for instance, if a Web-based application that is prone to typos and JavaScript mistakes If they believe they’ll be able to use it in a week. But, if they’re aware beforehand that you’re only presenting a flimsy prototype, this same audience will be much more accommodating. And they will gladly provide the needed feedback to assist you to improve your work.

Managing your audience’s expectation is essential to ensure an effective demo. If you want them to walk away from your presentation pleased it is important to establish expectations for them prior to the presentation. Be truthful with them. Don’t try to oversell your demo. Just sell it, and make sure you over deliver.

One Bad Apple Spoils The Whole Bunch

All it takes to mess up a demo is one person. If someone starts negatively critiquing each and every feature in your program, or keeps interrupting your presentation simply because they like to hear his or her own voice, then your demo is likely to be a disaster. It’s your duty to ensure that these people don’t come in your demo.

If you’re not hosting a closed-door demonstration, it’s a challenge to determine who’s going to attend the event. Omitting someone from your invitation list doesn’t mean they will not hear about your demo through word-of mouth and then attend.

Here are two ways to fool bad apples into not attending your presentation:

Create a scheduling conflict for those bad apples. Make sure they’re not working, or better yet, out of the office when your demo begins.

Book two separate demos. Invite the people whose feedback you value to the second demo and the negative apples to the second. More often than not, each group will show at the demo they’re invited to. When it’s time for the second demo make sure you give the best you can, or if there’s no time, you can simply postpone the event.

I’m fully aware that these two suggestions sound like an excerpt from Scott Adams’s Dilbert And The Way Of The Weasel But unless you feel comfortable confiding in your bosses, colleagues or clients to not attend your demonstration and these two tips are pretty much all you’re left with.

Do A Practice Run

I attended a demo last week that was hosted by the CEO of a local start-up. After meeting him at a trade fair, I was convinced that his company was developing a technology that could solve one of my clients’ problems. I agreed to grant him 30 minutes of my time so that I could show his product’s capabilities.

I didn’t require 30 minutes to decide that I didn’t want to engage with him in business. It only took just 30 seconds.

This guy couldn’t even log into his own web-based application! He was for the first 10 minutes of the demonstration looking for a password.

Always do a practice run on the machine will be used during the actual demo. You may know the program as if it were you hand. But if anyone else has access to the demo system, it’s hard to tell the condition it’s currently in. They might have removed features, updated components, or such as the one with this CEO, changed the user credentials without informing you.

If you’re not afraid of looking like a fool, perform a test run on your demonstration system prior to presenting to your audience.

Pay Attention To Details

The hundreds of demonstrations I’ve done throughout my career are a reminder that the public pays more attention to how the application appears than to what it can do. The software you choose to use could provide the answer to hunger however if one of your audience notices a typo in your GUI, he/she will be sure to point it out!

The attention span of readers is heightened by text that is easy to read – and it’s true. Take care when reading the text on the interface and within your graphic designs. In the event that you do not have the time to review and finalize the text, make use of Lorem Ipsum.

Lorem Ipsum features a more or less normal distribution of letters thus making it look like it’s English and not causing distraction to your viewers. I’m currently creating new designs using Lorem Ipsum and add actual text when the time is right to write content that I know isn’t going to be the topic of discussion during my next demonstration. I strongly advise you to use the same method.

Point Out The (Obvious) Bugs

Software can be contaminated with bugs. It’s that simple. Anyone who doesn’t agree with this assertion hasn’t been in the software business for a long time. Although we’ll often try to make free of defects, the truth is that all complex systems have flaws, even when they’re accessible.

Conducting a test run prior to your demo will allow you to pinpoint and eliminate showstoppers, and using Lorem Ipsum will deal with the nitty-gritty details that would otherwise distract your audience. But what about the other problems that are blamed on Murphy’s Law?

If you discover an obvious bug does display itself in your demo be sure to highlight it!

The majority of your audience will have already observed the issue. Any attempt to conceal it could give the impression that you’re not being honest. In turn, they’ll begin to be curious about the other things you’re trying cover up.

Make sure to point out the issue, explain that you have a solution be confident your commitment to have the solution put into place within a certain timeframe, and move to the next step. The sincere approach will convince your readers that (a) it’s not trying to sweep a problem under the rug , and (b) the issue will be resolved by the time they deploy your system.

I’m not suggesting that you hunt for bugs during your demo. If you are able to circumvent them by any means, please do so. But if a defect does surface in your presentation, don’t try to pretend it’s not there. The only person you’ll be fooling is yourself.


You’ve got it. Five suggestions for a successful demo of software.

Set the expectations of your audience

Ensure that bad apples don’t cause harm to the entire crop

Practice a run

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

Note the obvious bugs.

Are these 5 points representative of everything I’ve learned from the hundreds of demos I’ve held? Absolutely not! The toughest part of writing this piece was condensing it to just 5 points. I could easily put additional tips for example: (a) be in control of the circumstances or (b) always have a backup plan. The goal wasn’t to provide all the tricks to help you. Only the very top five!

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