You're giving a demo, and you’re so proud of the new system. You and your team have worked for months to make it the best it can possibly be. It’s revolutionary. You are all certified geniuses! But there’s one problem- you have to demo the product at an upcoming conference.
You know your coworkers, colleagues, and competitors are going to flock to see this demonstration speech. You need to run this demo confidently, efficiently, and dynamically. Well, we know a few things you can do to make that happen! In part 1 of Demo Dilemmas, we’re going to discuss how movement can help you connect with your audience, convey strength, and keep you from getting trapped by your brilliant technology.
Setting the Stage
All demos require a major prop (your computer) and a major set piece (the table your equipment sits on). Assuming you have some say over how your particular presentation space is set (and chances are that you do!), place the table off to stage left or right, ideally on a diagonal. This will open up the space and ensure that you are not just a pretty face while running the demo- your audience will be able to see more of your body. Next make sure you have a few feet of empty space downstage* of your table. If you set your table right at the edge of the stage, you have very little choice when it comes to where you can stand when you are away from your computer.
Let’s Get Physical
Demos can make you bend and hover over your machine. To avoid folding in half while you click away, make this your mantra: “straight back, straight arms”. Keeping your arms straight when using the keyboard will force you to stand up taller and keep from hunching over. Your posture says a lot about your confidence- stand strong! Also, consider using a computer stand- raising your screen even a few inches closer to eye level will help if you tend to be someone who has to squint close to the screen to see.
Remember, you don’t have to stare at your computer to run an effective demo. When you don’t need to be attached to your keyboard, don’t be. At the very least take a step away from it, and free your hands to gesture. This also gives you the opportunity to increase eye contact with your audience.
Step AWAAAAY From the Table!
Imagine an actor performing an entire play while standing behind a couch. The performance would become awkward, the actor would appear weak, and the connection with the audience would suffer due to the constant physical barrier. When you are trapped behind your table for the duration of your demo, it has the same effect.
We encourage leaving space downstage* of your demo table so you can get out from behind it and MOVE! We know what you’re thinking- “I can’t leave my keyboard! I’m RUNNING A DEMO!” Trust us, you can. Anytime you are commenting on an aspect of your program (without needing to touch your keyboard) for more than 30 seconds, you can leave the table. By stepping in front of the table, you will be connecting more directly with your audience, adding interest through variety of movement, and conveying the confidence and strength that your demo deserves!
*Bonus Fact: “Downstage” is the front of the stage closest to the audience, “upstage” is the back of the stage farthest from the audience. For more useful terms from the theatre, check out our “Speaking Technically” series!