I have been involved in Software demonstrations for the last 15+ years. I have done a lot of software demonstrations, some good ones (where we have earned the trust of the customer, and the project or product got sold) and some not so good ones, when the customer was not very convinced and wanted to repeat the process or sometimes even dropped us as a prospective vendor. I have tried to learn from all these and have also taken initiative to increase my knowledge on the subject of effective demonstrating.
Now the question is “How do you make a demo effective?” or “What do you expect from a good demo?”
If we summarize what most of the folk will agree as a good answer to the above question, we have the following three points emerging:
1. Interesting (throughout)
I shall try to explain the most widely accepted means of staging a demonstration, which effectively handles all the above 3 points and ensure that the presenter can draw maximum benefits from his audience. Three principles of effective demonstration:
– The Reptilian Brain, Limbic System & Neocortex
– Pareto’s principle
– The Movie View
1. Reptilian Brain, Limbic System & Neocortex:
My intention is not to scare you off with these medical jargons, so don’t be afraid, this is just a conceptual explanation of how human brain behaves when something happens in front of him / her.
1.1 The Reptilian Brain (instinctual):
Lower animals, such as fish, amphibians, reptiles and birds, don't do much "thinking," but instead concern themselves with the everyday business of gathering food, eating, drinking, sleeping, reproducing and defending themselves. These are instinctual processes [source: National Geographic]. We humans perform these functions as well, and so have a "reptilian" brain built into us. So, to grab attention (generate interest), you must stimulate the reptilian brain first. This means; you have to do some sudden and abrupt action (not violent off course!), to grab the attention of your audience. For instance, you can flash a prop or start with a contemporary news story (choose wisely, don’t use anything political, social or religious, which might instead create a feeling of disinterest and dejection). Once you are able to grab attention of the audience, half of your task is done. Now you have to ensure that the interest is retained throughout. This can be achieved by periodically stimulating the Limbic System.
1.2 The Limbic System:
It supports a variety of functions, including emotion, behavior, motivation, and most importantly long-term memory. It appears to be primarily responsible for our emotional life, and has a great deal to do with the formation of memories. One should also keep in mind that human limbic system requires arousal at regular intervals. How to keep the limbic system active is something I will discuss in the later sections.
1.3 The Neocortex:
While we still don’t know where exactly the memories are stored, we know one fact that Neocortex plays an important part in storing of memories. So the most important goal of the presenter is to activate the neocortex and keep the limbic system alive.
2. The Pareto’s principle: (80-20 principle)
– 20% of the workers produce 80% of the result
– 20% of the customers generate 80% of the revenue
– 20% of the bugs cause 80% of the crashes
– 20% of the features cause 80% of the usage
– And the list goes on…
Why is Pareto dragged into this?
What you should essentially do while preparing for a demonstration is to concentrate on the 20% functionalities of your software which you think will give 80% benefits to the audience.
Enough about human brains and Pareto’s principle, let’s come to the point! I will try not to pour all that I know, instead, I will describe what I generally do to grab the reptile, and regularly poke the limb and the keep the neon lights on...
3. The Movie View:
I follow what most of our Sandalwood, Bollywood and Tollywood filmmakers do…
The movie view
– Building the story (10% to 20% time)
– The detail story (70% to 75% time)
– Happy ending (5% to 15% time)
I follow a simple step-by-step approach to do this. I break up my demo into scenes and sub-scenes. It all happens like a movie in front of the audience. Some call this as the ‘Tell-show-tell’ technique.
I generally break up my demo scenes and sub-scenes in the following way: (This is for a demo of 1.5 to 2 hours, and the time scheduled for these may vary with the timespan of your demo)
• Scenes (10-25 minutes)
– Opening tell (2-5 minutes): Start with a small story or a scenario which is very common. Mention some common issues faced by the people handling a situation.
– Show (8-20 minutes): Walk through the software component which covers the functionality and addresses the issues you have spoken about in your opening tell.
– Closing tell (2-5 minutes): Talk only about the benefits of using your software to handle the issues.
• Sub-scenes (5-10 minutes): This is similar to the scenes, but, is much shorter and crisp in the approach.
– Opening tell (2 minutes)
– Show (5 minutes)
– Closing tell (2 minutes)
I hope this provides some guuidelines and some thought invoking pointers for our little grey cells.