Content and Delivery in Software Product Demos

Part of a Product Manager’s trade is to perfrom demos. Quite often requestors of the demo and the Product Manager mistakes a demo to mean training. It is extremely important to differentiate between the two because the content and delivery are different for each. I will focus on the demo and leave the training for later.

There is a reason why a product is built. The most important being to satisfy a customer need – a pain-point if you will. And a collection of such pain-points become the fulcrum of a product manager’s demo. Every show and every tell must relate back to them. Contrast this with a training, which is essentially addressing the “how” problem. That is, how a product works. On the contrary, the product manager’s demo is the “why” story. That is, why does this product exist. Resonance of any or many of the pain-points with the audience guarantees rapt attention and exponentially increases the probability of acceptance. Creating the content for a demo is not trivial and this unswerving attention on the “why” is a nice way to focus.

Delivery is another important aspect of a demo. Anyone who has watched Steve Jobs at MacWorld would exactly appreciate why delivery is important. The happy marriage of content and delivery is called a script and I strongly recommend that all major demos have one. If showing the “why” is more important than showing the “how”, more important is weaving the “why” story into a – well, story. All throughout the ages people have huddled in street corners, in coffee shops, around fires, around grandpa to hear stories. We are genetically wired to respond to stories better than anything else. So script your demo into stories and it is okay to be animated and a little theatrical while speaking. Introduce a bit of drama by pretending you are mentioning cool features (mostly what are called bells-and-whistles) almost as an afterthought (“Oh, I almost forgot. The portfolio search box remebers those portfolios you have pulled up most often so it prompts you with them just as you activate the drop-down. If these are not what you are looking for, don’t worry, you can do the normal search without breaking anything”). And for heaven’s sake have humor in the demo (I have seen self deprecating humor too, where the demo-er goofs up on purpose to show that the system can elegantly handle such situations).

Product Managers demo-ing a product must bring a different perspective to the audience. Otherwise we might as well send in the trainers.