Tips & tricks for doing a demo at show & tell

There is an art to demoing a new feature or product.

You and your team have spent weeks or months working on this project so you justifiably want to show it off to everyone.

A lot of companies have a show & tell or a demo day or system demo.

It has numerous names but essentially it’s the same thing: different teams take the time to show to other teams what they’ve been working on recently.

If you’re unsure how to go about doing a demo or just want to get the most out of it, here are some tips & tricks to enhance your demo.

Tell the story

Before you start sharing your screen and jump into showcasing the new functionality, it’s important to take the time upfront to tell the story.

Tell everyone what the problem you're solving is.

Tell everyone how you settled on this as a priority. Were customers complaining about it? Was it something you noticed by looking through the data?

Explain why you NEEDED to build what you did and build it NOW.

This gives vital context to your audience. You and your team have sat with this problem for weeks or months now so you assume everyone knows the context. Many, probably most, will not.

Giving this context upfront will make everything easier thereafter.

Likewise you can refer back to this throughout the demo to illustrate how you solved this problem.

Ultimately, humans are hardwired to listen to stories to incorporate that structure into your demo.

Keep the demo focused

By focusing on the key features, you can ensure that the audience is able to understand the value of what you’ve built and how it can help them.

This will also help to keep the demo from becoming too long or overwhelming.

You’re still telling the story throughout the demo so don’t go off on tangents.

At the end of the demo, when people ask questions, then you can explore the tangential stuff but for the actual demo itself keep it simple and focus on the main happy path and use cases.

Additionally, it's important to keep the demo focused not only on the features but also on the user experience, this will help the audience to understand how easy it is to use what you’ve built or how it can simplify their work.

Show how you solve specific problems

Instead of simply showing the features, it is more effective to demonstrate how they can be used to solve real-world problems or make existing processes more efficient.

This will help the audience to see the practical value of the updates.

It's important to show not only how the new features solve problems but also how they integrate with the existing features and how they improve the overall user experience.

Don’t talk about what you’ve built in a nebulous way, ground it in what your audience already knows.

Use real-world examples and data

Using real-world examples and data will help to make the demonstration more relatable and understandable for the audience.

Wherever possible avoid having to use empty test accounts. Try and populate everything you show and use with dummy data so what you’re showing is what a real user would see.

(Be very mindful of ever using real user data as this would be a privacy breach)

It will also help to demonstrate how the product  can be used in different contexts and scenarios.

For example, say you’ve redesigned a social media product. Having accounts for a new user who just joined vs a returning user with multiple friends etc. will be very different UX and so you can showcase both options as real-world examples.

Additionally, it's important to use real-world examples that are relevant to the audience and that they can easily connect with, this will help them to understand the benefits of the product and how it can improve their work.

Nothing stalls a demo like an unexpected bug. Squash them with a bug bash: How to run a bug bash

Highlight the key differentiators

This helps to demonstrate how what you’ve built stands out from its competitors and why it was worth building.

By focusing on the unique selling points, you can better convey the value of the software to the audience.

It's important to show not only the key differentiators but also the competitive advantages of the product, this will help the audience to understand why this product is better than others in the market.

Don’t be afraid to actually show your competitors products during a demo. So long as you contrast it with what you’ve built and discuss the pros and cons of each.

Explaining your rationale for picking a particular solution will go a long way in helping your audience understand.

Practice in advance

To ensure that the demo runs smoothly, it is important to prepare and practice beforehand.

This is particularly true if it’s a live demo using live software.

This will help you to identify any potential issues and make any necessary adjustments before the actual demonstration.

It's important to practice not only the technical aspects of the demonstration but also the storytelling and the delivery of the message.

This will help you to be more confident and engaging during the demo.

You don’t want any surprises during the actual demo so everything you can do to cover your bases beforehand will go a long way to improve the overall quality of your demo.

Include pre-recorded elements in your demo

Adding pre-recorded elements into your demo can really enhance it. This can save a tonne of time and make certain aspects of your demo more reliable.

Doing something live can be stressful and no matter how much you prepare sometimes something goes wrong.

A classic example is from Tesla’s demo of the CyberTruck’s window strength.

Prior to the demo they tested this numerous times and the ball bounced off the window.

However, earlier in the live demo they used a sledge hammer to show the durability of the doors.

The sledge hammer hitting the door made the window go down just a fraction, but no one noticed.

This eventuality was never considered before the demo, where they just tested each part separately.

If they had just prerecorded them throwing the ball earlier they would have saved themselves a lot of embarrassment.

Instead, well:

So depending on your demo it might make sense to pre-record certain elements of your demo beforehand.

Then you just have to play them instead of doing them live. is the perfect tool for this. You can easily  screen record, annotate, include voiceover and other data like network and console logs all with one tool.

This is also a good way of getting multiple people involved in the demo.

You can have different team members pre-record a section they worked on. This saves you having to hand over and back to different presenters throughout the demo.

Encourage questions and feedback

By actively encouraging questions and feedback throughout the demo and at the end, you can ensure that the audience is engaged and interested.

This will also help to identify any areas of confusion or uncertainty, which you can then address during the demo itself.

Additionally, it's important to establish a Q&A session after the demo to address any questions or concerns that the audience may have.

Another tip, if you find no is asking any questions, is for you to ask open questions of the audience.

Make sure and have a few of these prepared in advance.

For example:

  • Do you think this solves the problem better than the current version?
  • Was any part of the demo confusing?
  • Any part of the UX you think still needs to be improved?

Questions such as these might help the conversation get started and then more people might feel like contributing then.

Record the demo for those who couldn't attend

By recording the demo, you can ensure that those who were unable to attend can still see the demonstration and learn about it later.

This can also be useful for future reference and for sharing with others who may be interested and also can make good reference material for future demos.

Additionally, by making a recording of the demo, you can also use it as a training material for future employees or customers.

If you run demos then you might also run retrospectives. Get some tips to improve your retros: How to run a retrospective (remotely)

Follow up with the audience afterwards

Following up with the audience after the demo will help to ensure that any questions or concerns they may have are addressed.

A simple option is to email everyone on the invite with the recording and ask for any further questions or feedback.

A lot of people need time to process before asking a question.

It's important to follow up with the audience not only to address any questions or concerns but also to gather feedback and insights on the product and how it can be improved.

Oftentimes I’ve found the best questions and feedback came after the demo.

As some people sometimes feel by asking a question publicly at a demo it might be seen as a criticism for the work being shown. So some people feel more comfortable sharing privately afterwards.

Don’t forget to celebrate your team

No matter who demo’s a new product or feature it’s unlikely everything was done by the person presenting.

Whoever is doing the demo should take the time throughout the demo to give shoutouts to team members or other teams that helped throughout the process.

Demo’s are a great opportunity to give recognition to team members and improve team and company morale.

So make sure and celebrate the victories and the people who made them possible along the way.

Presenting a demo can be a daunting experience.

It truly is an art that requires proper planning, preparation and execution.

However, By following these tips and tricks, you can for sure turn any demo in an engaging story and showcase your product in the best possible way.

Remember to always keep the audience in mind and tailor your demonstration to their needs and interests.

By doing so, you can ensure that your demo is effective and engaging, and that your product is well received.

Enjoyed this blog? Check out another: 10 tips for onboarding as a new product manager

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