Whether you need to close an offer, gather user feedback, demonstrate the progress of your product to customers, or simply explain the way your product functions, sooner or later, you’ll be required to demonstrate your software product.

Through my career I’ve had the pleasure to give hundreds of demonstrations to audiences of various sizes. I’ve also been able to be a part of demos held by other performers. The following list of tips are the top 5 tips I’ve learned in the past decade with regard to demos.

Manage Your Audience’s Expectations

Have you ever gone to see a movie that everyone was talking about, only to leave completely disappointed? More often than not, moviegoers are disappointed, not because the movie billing reconciliation wasn’t good, but rather because it was worse than they anticipated. It did not meet their expectations.

Also, if people go at a demonstration believing they’re going to see an actual product, they’re hoping it to be flawlessly perfect, beautiful, and user-friendly. They won’t be impressed, by a web-based application that has typos or JavaScript errors if they’re under the impression they’ll be able to use it in a week. However, if they know beforehand that you’re presenting a scrappy prototype, that same public will be more lenient. They’ll be more than happy to give important feedback to assist with your work in progress.

Controlling your audience’s expectations is critical to an effective demo. If you want them to leave your presentation feeling satisfied, make sure you set the right expectations before the event. Be truthful with them. Don’t try to oversell your demo. Just sell it, and strive to deliver it to the max.

One Bad Apple Spoils The Whole Bunch

All it takes to mess an entire demo is one person. If someone starts negatively critiquing every single feature of your program, or keeps interrupting you simply because he/she likes to hear the voice of their own, your presentation will turn into disastrous. It’s your duty to make sure that the bad apples don’t show up at your demonstration.

If you’re not hosting a closed-door demonstration, it’s a challenge to predict who will be attending the event. If you don’t include someone on your invite list isn’t a guarantee that they won’t be aware of your demonstration through word-of-mouth and simply show up.

Here are two ways to fool the uninitiated into not attending your demonstration:

Create a scheduling conflict for those bad apples. Make sure they are busy or out of the office at the time the demo is scheduled to take place.

Book two separate demos. Invite the people whose comments you truly value to your second demo and the negative ones to the next. In the majority of cases it’s the case that each group shows up to the demo they’ve been invited to. When it’s time for the second demonstration, go ahead and give it your best shot or if you’re short of time, just cancel the demo.

I’m well aware the two tips sound like an excerpt from Scott Adams’s Dilbert And The Way Of The Weasel however, unless you’re comfortable confiding in your bosses, colleagues or customers to not come to your demonstration and these two tips are all you’re left with.

Do A Practice Run

I attended a presentation this week, which was hosted by the CEO of a local start-up. After having a conversation with him at a trade fair, he managed to convince me that his company had created a solution to one of my client’s needs. I agreed to grant him 30 minutes of my time , so I could show his product’s capabilities.

I didn’t need to spend 30 minutes to realize I didn’t want to engage with him in business. All I needed was a few seconds.

This man was unable to even log into his own online application! He was for in the beginning of his demo trying to find a password.

Always test a run on the machine you’ll use for the actual demo. You may be familiar with the application in the palm of one’s hand. However, if somebody is able to access your demo machine, who can tell what shape it’s in. It could be that they have removed services, changed components or such as the one with this CEO the user credentials without informing you.

If you’re not afraid of looking as if you’re a fool, do a practice run on your demo system before presenting to your audience.

Pay Attention To Details

The hundreds of demonstrations I’ve done throughout my career has taught me to pay greater at how an application appears than to what it does. You software might be the solution to world-hunger however if one of your target audience spots a glitch in your GUI or interface, they’ll be sure to point it out!

Readers are especially distracted by textual content, and that’s the fact. Make sure you are looking over the text on your website and in your graphics. If you don’t have the time to look over and finish the text, then use Lorem Ipsum.

Lorem Ipsum features a more or less normal distribution of letters creating a look that is readable English while not distracting readers. I’m currently creating new prototypes strictly with Lorem Ipsum. I add text when and only whenever I am able to write content I know will not be the subject of discussion during my next demo. I strongly recommend that you take the same approach.

Point Out The (Obvious) Bugs

Software can be contaminated with bugs. It’s as simple as that. Anyone who doesn’t agree with this statement hasn’t worked in the industry for very long. While we often strive to create defects-free products, the reality is that complicated systems are always full of flaws, even when they’re available.

Doing a practice run before your presentation will help you to spot and fix the problems that are causing the show to fail, and using Lorem Ipsum can take care of the nitty-gritty details that would otherwise cause confusion for your audience. But what about the other defects attributed to Murphy’s Law?

If you discover an obvious bug does display it during your demo Please be sure to point it out!

The majority of your customers will have noticed the bug. Any attempt to cover it up could give the impression that you’re not being honest. They’ll then be curious about the other things you’re trying to cover up.

Find the issue and explain how there is a solution available, be confident that the fix will be implemented on a particular date and move ahead. Sincere behavior will assure your readers in the knowledge that (a) your company isn’t trying to sweep it under the carpet and (b) the problem will be fixed by the time they deploy your system.

I’m not recommending that you hunt for bugs during your demonstration. If you can circumvent them by any means that you are able to, please do so. However, if a problem does surface in your presentation, don’t try to pretend that it’s not there. The only person you’re fooling is yourself.


You’ve got it. Five tips for a great demo of software.

Set the expectations of your audience

Ensure that bad apples don’t make a mess of the crop

Try a running practice

Pay attention to all the finer details and use Lorem Ipsum

Point out the obvious bugs

Do these 5 suggestions represent everything I’ve learned through the hundreds of demos that I’ve hosted? Absolutely not! The toughest part of creating this post was the fact that I had to limit it to five tips. I could easily put in a few more such as (a) manage the circumstance and (b) always have a plan B. But the goal wasn’t to list all the ways that can help you out. Only the top five!

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