Advice for Delivering Great Product Demos
I’m a designer and product owner at my day job, which means I spend most days solutioning out products based on the business needs set out by product management. We’re a small product team, so this means I’m doing wireframes, UI design, UX implementation, user testing, user acceptance testing, and general task management with a dev team (I work in the same room as the devs for easy access).
One more responsibility on my plate is to demo the products we’re building every couple weeks to other employees at the company. These could be product managers, sales people, support staff, other dev teams, and VPs. The goal of these will vary depending on your audience, but I’ve iterated my way to a pretty good list of things to make sure I do at every demo to get the best responses and suss out the best actionable feedback from the audience.
Explain the Why
Why did you work on this project? What is the user problem you’re solving in the first place? This is table setting, and even if you think that everyone in the room should “just get” why something made sense to do, don’t assume that it’s at top of mind for them.
Explaining the current problem that exists, especially by giving a real world example, is super useful for getting people on board. At the end of this explanation, your audience should be chomping at the bit for something better, making them more receptive to whatever you’ll be showing since it should solve the problems you’ve just presented.
Explain the New Thing at a High Level
Before diving into the weeds (whatever the proper level of weeds is, based on the audience), give a high level overview of what you did. hit a couple bullet points, and show a visual if one makes sense for the product you’re building. If you’re replacing something that looked ugly with something beautiful, a side-by-side can get people on board quickly.
This high level overview should hit on the problems laid out in the “why” section. You want people to understand right up front that this new thing fixes the issues you all just agreed on are problems with the current solution.
This is more fuzzy, but it’s important to sound like you believe in the thing that you’re showing off. Try not to go “and we’re not too sure about this” or “it isn’t perfect, but the timeline was short.” If you don’t believe in your work, no one will. Don’t be an asshole or anything, but believe in what you’re showing.
Don’t Apologize for a Work In Progress
This is a little thing, but it goes a long way. You’re telling a story more than anything else, so if something isn’t done yet, just keep going and explain what the final result will be, don’t say “I’m sorry, this bit isn’t built yet, so I can’t really show you.”
Compare to Competitors
If there are competitors in the market that have similar solutions, bring them up and explain how your solution stacks up. Maybe you’re leap-frogging them or maybe you’re not caught up yet, but sales and marketing especially will like to know how they should be talking about this with clients and prospective customers.
This is something I think is easy to forget, but is hugely important. You didn’t make this thing all on your own; at the very least a developer implemented it, maybe a designer made it look good, a product manager laid out very clear requirements, and any number of others might have lended a hand along the way. Recognize them partially because it is good leadership, but also just because you don’t want to be a jerk who sucks up all the credit.
Prepare and Have a Couple Slides to Keep You On Track
This is all too much for most people to remember off the top of their heads, and coming up with a good demo on the fly is almost guaranteed to lead to a muddied message and thoughts of “oh, I wish I had said X!” soon after the demo. Prepare as much as you can justify, even if that’s only 30 minutes, but make the time somehow.
Also, and this isn’t required, but people like to have a visual, so I usually have a 3-5 slide deck for most demos which consist of mostly:
- Title slide with the name of the product and a picture/icon/logo
- Slide explaining the problem statement
- Slide explaining the solution at a high level
- Slide with a few details and thanks
- Slide that says “Demo time!”
I use the same slide deck for each demo, and just duplicate the old one and plug in the next product’s details.
There is silver bullet to a great demo, and each company may have different expectations for what happens at these meetings, but I think the above tips will apply most places, and will give you a good foundation. Did I miss anything obvious? Let me know on Twitter and I’ll be happy to update this article!