Joel has written a great article on howto demo software. So good in fact, that it reminded me of my most successful demos – All of which took the advice one step further.
You walk into the room, and before you’ve even gotten to the lectern / desk / stage prop, you tell the audience, that you decided that your pre-prepared demo was too boring to present again, so you ask them, “What problem would you like me to solve for you today”. After the moments shock dies down, you can (assuming your audience is big enough to contain a good cross section of existing customers) be pretty sure that there will be at least 2 difficult problems that are not only fascinating to most of the audience, but were hard to do in the last release.
Then, you proceed to solve these problem, using techniques that seem familiar to them, but also show off the new system. It’s sure to draw them in.
This approach relies on several incredibly important things
- You must know your product incredibly well (both the older version, and the new release) – In my case, I had worked as a trainer, support engineer and had done some development of the system.
- You must know your audience, and have a good feel for the problems they have been experiencing, and their expectations of the new system. Again, working as a support engineer, and supporting Systems integrators gives you the opportunity to observe.
- You must be creative, and be able to think, talk, and type at the same time – So having several years training experience helps immeasurably.
- You must also trust the development team – because there’s a good chance that you’ll be needing to solve the problem in a way you’ve not done before.
If you’re not quite willing to risk it, this can also be a great way to spice up a training course – you can teach, and solve problems that are relevant.
Every time I’ve done a demo like this (and thinking back, thats quite a few, for quite a few different products) its been the most fun I’ve had all day, and the audience loves it, because they get to see us sweat, rather than being the cool calm font of knowledge.