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insights on communication skills

Insights on Communication Skills and Relationship Building

Demo Dilemmas: Part 2- Running a Demo

Posted by Bridget Beirne on January 10, 2013

“But I can’t! I’m running a DEMO!!”running a demo


This seems to be the defensive mantra when it comes to developing a demo. A demo is a very specific type of presentation, and comes with questions and concerns all its own. Sometimes, it seems as if demos are a sacred, precious, and profound thing- no stories, no levity, and no errors allowed! Unfortunately, that is exactly the mindset that can lead to messy, uninspired, and forgettable demo presentations. And that just doesn’t have to be.

A few weeks ago, we brought you the first installment of our Demo Dilemmas series. (In case you missed it, you can find it here.) Now that you’ve thought about setting the stage, freeing yourself from your machine and allowing movement to come into your demo, it’s time to talk about some more conceptual questions that may arise during your work:


“This is a technical presentation. How can I possibly include a story?”


We talk about the importance of stories not only when presenting, but when communicating in general. Often, people think that including a story can undermine the gravitas of their presentation- that a story will make their demo seem silly or take away from their technical information. Nothing could be further from the truth.  A story helps your audience connect and process your information on a deeper level. Stories help keep an audience’s interest, and give their minds an opportunity to step away from the facts and refresh with some new thoughts. When they return, they will be revitalized for some more content.


We witnessed a great example firsthand when we attended a demo that was structured around the idea of cooking a fabulous meal. Because the presenters invested in their idea, and shared personal stories about cooking that metaphorically related to the demo they were running, the audience followed along with interest while absorbing all of their content. As a result, their demo was a great success.


“If my demo doesn’t run, I’m sunk. What can I do to deal with errors?”


First of all, have a plan B. Things go wrong. Computers develop a life of their own. WiFi signals somehow get trapped in outer space. Your perfect, flawless system suddenly bugs out. Be prepared! Have a backup of your demo that doesn’t have to be run live- keep it on a USB that you can just pop in and take things off line. During your rehearsals, make sure you know how your plan B will run, just in case you need it. Next, leave a cushion of time in your presentation to deal with the unexpected. (Read about the 75% Rule here.) If everything goes smoothly, the worst thing that can happen is that everyone gets to leave a little early.


Lastly, if you need to deal with an error, calmly ask your audience for a moment to deal with it, and then keep quiet to avoid rambling. (And a tiny bit of humor can keep the situation from seeming dire. Just be sure you don’t get carried away!) If you can’t make things run the way you would like to within a few minutes, time to switch to your plan B.


“This is a group demo. Where the heck do we all go?”


Some simple choreography can help when it comes to a group demo. (Don’t worry, we’re not talking about the Jets and the Sharks here…) There should be three main positions- the demo runner, the presenter discussing what’s happening, and the “on deck” position. Decide ahead of time who will hold what position when, and have the switch choreographed so there isn't any tripping on the way. Here’s an example:


Shelly, Shira, and Daniel are running a group demo.


Topic: The new CRM

Part of the Demo: Introduction

Shelly: Presenter

Shira: Runner

Daniel: On deck


Shelly presents the Introduction while Shira runs anything that may need to happen on the machine. After Shelly introduces the next section, Shelly crosses to the “on deck” position, Shira becomes the presenter, and Daniel moves to become the runner. Keep the rotation moving accordingly. Regardless of the number of people involved in the presentation, the rotation will continue to work.


Remember, those waiting on deck should be standing to the side so as to not take away from the main event- the demo runner, and the presenter who is giving the information. Planning all of this movement ahead of time can ensure that the physical movement in your demo flows smoothly.

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Topics: Public Speaking, Presentations