The 30 Second Demo

April 20th, 2009

One of my signatures in product demonstrations is to start with a “30 second demo”. In most cases this is a demonstration of a key feature of the software, such as a simple configuration, that I do right at the start of my presentation. There are a lot of good reasons to start a presentation in this way.
When I say, “the start of my presentation”, I really mean at the very beginning, even before I introduce myself. Studies have shown that people are most focused at the start and end of an activity, including a presentation. The first few minutes of a presentation are critical, and often wasted on introductions of both individuals and companies. To take advantage of this phenomena, the first words out of my mouth once I am introduced are:

“Hi, before I get started, I wanted to show you something quickly”

Then I dive right into the application and show a 30-second demo of one key feature that I want to highlight. Immediately after that, without pausing to allow for questions:

“My name is Dave Sohigian, and that is just one quick example of the power of our applications. We’ll refer back to what you just saw in that demo as we go through these topics…”

Here is an example (actually about 45 seconds) showing how to add a plugin to WordPress:

Where you go from here is up to you, but the point is to get the product in front of the prospect as early as possible. In the example above I could refer back to this quick “demo” whenever there were gaps in WordPress functionality that required a plugin (“you already saw how easy it would be to add a plugin…”).

The 30-second demo accomplishes many things:

  • Shows them product while their attention is very high at the start of the presentation
  • Gives them comfort that they will see your product before the end of the demonstration
  • Many people that attend a demo are itching to see how the product performs. Although it is very useful to give them a context for your demonstration and you need to build your credibility with an effective introduction, there will be people in the audience getting impatient right from the start. “Would you just do the demo?” you can almost hear them saying during the obligatory company introduction and list of key features. By doing a demo, even a ridiculously short one, you can put these people at ease so that they are more likely to hear your initial message.
  • Ensures that everyone sees the product, at least a little.
  • Often people come and go during a demonstration, but most try to at least make it to the beginning. By doing a quick and effective demo you can ensure that everyone will have a chance to see something powerful about the application.
  • Avoids starting at the beginning This post from Kathy Sierra at Passionate Users outlines how you should start “after chapter one” in your presentation, and doing a quick demo does just that. You get to the compelling stuff first and add a bit of mystery about where you are going right from the start.

So instead of making your audience squirm in their seats while they “wait” through your introduction and setup slides, why not just give them a quick taste of what is to come. Try it in your next demo!

Demo Skills, Demo Tips, Selling , ,

  1. June 24th, 2009 at 23:51 | #1

    Hi Dave
    This is an excellent tip – you're starting off with a bang and gain their attention immediately. In this particular example,depending on the reason you're showing it, what about showing the stats output!

    • June 27th, 2009 at 02:35 | #2

      @Bill – great point. Finding something really compelling that you can show quickly is the way to go. I have always found that showing how easy to configure or install in 30 seconds is really a great one because it makes a powerful point. The Stats output in WordPress is certainly a great example too.

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