Solution Demos

I had the opportunity to see a company demo Wednesday, and was struck by the disconnect between the demo-ers and the audience.  Pretty much like a Solution Pitch situation.

The audience were investors in the company and wanted to see how the new platform “looked”.

What “looked” meant to the audience, I thought, was “how a user might use it” and “which features would delight users”.

If I had been the demo-ers, and I knew that this was what the audience wanted, I would have structured the demo as “walking through a couple of use cases”.  “Signing up”.  “Making a transaction”.  “Getting a report.”

Instead the demo-ers focused on something like a guided tour of the product.  They started walking through screen after screen showing the various commands that could be executed at that place in the product, and the various options (in the form of dialog boxes) that could be selected to go along with the command.

Not hard to imagine what happened next: the audience began to fidget and display other signs of unrest.  Signs to which the demo-ers remained insensitive.  Or maybe they noticed and didn’t know what to do so just went ahead with the tour.

A common scenario.  The audience wants to see use cases, scenarios, stories, and benefits.  The demo-ers give them screens, options, and features galore.

Outcome?  The investors didn’t get to appreciate how cool the new software was (and it did seem cool behind all the guided-tour noise).  The demo-ers felt that the audience wasn’t paying attention.

I’ve been there myself, on the demo-ing end, so I don’t feel any superiority to the poor guys giving the demo.  In fact they kind of grokked what was going on and tried to switch to a more use-case style, but even here they dwelt on the many options that the user might select at each point in the interaction rather than building the interaction into a compelling story.

I think a moment spent beforehand brainstorming about what the audience will be thinking and what they therefore might want to see would help many a demo.

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