BEST Tips For Software Demo

If you are looking to close the sale, collect user feedback, display the progress of your product to customers or explain the process of your software, eventually or not, you will need to demo your software.

Over time, I’ve had the opportunity to demonstrate hundreds of times to audiences of different sizes. I’ve also had the privilege to take part in demos organized by other individuals. The following list of tips are my top five tips I’ve picked up over the last decade regarding demos.

Manage Your Audience’s Expectations

Have you been to see a film everyone was talking about,billing reconciliation  only to leave totally disappointed? Most of the time, people who go to the movies are disappointed not because the film was bad or not good, but because it was worse than they anticipated. The movie didn’t live up to their expectations.

In the same way, if someone shows for a demo believing they’ll see the final product, they’re expecting that it’ll be flawlessly unaffected, attractive and easy to use. They’d be disappointed with, for instance, a Web-based application that has typos or JavaScript errors in the event that they think they’ll be able to use it in a week. But, if they’re aware beforehand that you’re presenting a throwaway prototype, this same public will be more lenient. They will also be willing to provide the needed feedback to assist you to improve your work.

Managing your audience’s expectation is vital to the success of your presentation. If you want them to leave your presentation pleased it is important to establish the right expectations beforehand. Be truthful 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

All it takes to screw up a demo is just one person. If someone starts snarkily critiquing every single widget in your software or continually interrupts your presentation simply because they like to hear the sound of his/her own voice, the demo you are presenting will be disastrous. It’s your duty to ensure that these negative individuals do not show up at your demonstration.

If you’re hosting an open-door demonstration, it’s a challenge to predict who will be attending it. If you don’t include someone on your invite list does not mean that they won’t discover your demo via word-of-mouth and simply appear.

Here are some ways to fool bad apples into not attending the demo

Set up a time-slot conflict to avoid those who are a problem. Make sure they’re busy, or better yet, not in the office when your demo takes place.

Book two separate demos. Invite those whose opinions you really value to the first demo and the bad people to the 2nd. More often than not it’s the case that each group shows for the demo they’re respectively invited to. When it’s time for the second demo make sure you give it your best shot, or, if you’re not able to make the time, just cancel the event.

I’m aware that these two suggestions are reminiscent of an extract of Scott Adams’s Dilbert And The Way Of The Weasel However, unless you feel comfortable telling your peers, superiors or clients to not show up to your demo These two suggestions are pretty much the only options you have.

Do A Practice Run

I went to a demonstration last week hosted by the CEO of a local start-up. After a meeting at a trade event, he managed to convince me that his company had created a technology that could solve one of my clients’ needs. I therefore agreed to give him 30 minutes of my time , so he could demonstrate his product’s capabilities.

I didn’t require 30 minutes to figure out that I don’t want to engage with him in business. What I really needed was just 30 seconds.

The guy was unable to log in his own Web-based application! He was for all of 10 minutes during the demo searching for the password.

Always practice running on the system will be used during the actual demonstration. It’s possible that you know the software as if it were one’s hand. However, if somebody else has access to the demo system, you don’t know what condition it’s in. It could be that they have removed the services, updated components or, as was the case for this CEO, changed the user’s password without notifying you.

If you’re not afraid of looking like a fool, try a run-through on the demo system prior presenting to your audience.

Pay Attention To Details

The hundreds of demos I’ve given over the years I’ve learned that users pay greater focus on how an application appears than to what it does. The program you’re using could be the solution to world hunger but if someone in your target audience spots a glitch in your GUI, he/she will point it out!

Readers are attracted by readable content – and that’s a fact. Take care when reviewing the text on the interface and 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 is a more or less normal distribution of letters, creating a look that is it’s English while not distracting readers. I’m currently creating new designs using Lorem Ipsum and add actual text only when I have time to write content I know isn’t going to be the topic of discussion at my next demo. I strongly recommend that you use the same method.

Point Out The (Obvious) Bugs

Software is not without bugs. It’s that simple. If you don’t agree with that statement clearly hasn’t worked in the software industry for very long. Although we’re often looking for free of defects, the truth is that complicated systems are always full of imperfections, even when they’re readily accessible.

Conducting a test run prior to your demo will allow you to find and solve the show-stoppers. Using Lorem Ipsum to deal with the small details that could otherwise distract your audience. But what about the other defects attributed to Murphy’s Law?

If an obvious flaw does manifest it during your demo Make sure you point it out!

In all likelihood, your readers will have observed the issue. If you try to hide it, it will give them the impression that you’re not truthful. Consequently, they’ll start to consider what else you’re trying conceal.

Highlight the problem Explain that there is a solution available, affirming how the change will be implemented at a specified time, and then move forward. The sincere approach will convince your audience in the knowledge that (a) that you aren’t trying to sweep it under the carpet and (b) the issue will be resolved at the time they install your system.

I’m not recommending that you go hunting for bugs while you demo. If you’re able to avoid them by any means you can, do it. But if a defect occurs in your presentation, don’t try to pretend it’s not there. The only person you’re kidding is yourself.


That’s it. Five suggestions for a successful software demo.

Set the expectations of your audience

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

Try a running practice

Pay attention to the details and use LoremIpsum

Make sure you spot the obvious bugs

Are these 5 points representative of everything I’ve learned through the hundreds of demonstrations I’ve hosted? Absolutely not! The most difficult thing about creating this post was condensing it to just 5 points. It would have been easy to throw five more suggestions like (a) manage the circumstance, or (b) always keep a backup plan. The goal wasn’t to provide all the tricks to aid you. Only the top five!

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