One of the most helpful skills needed for starting a business is learning how to demo your product. The concept is simple, you need to clearly and efficiently demonstrate the problem that your product solves whether it’s with potential investors or buyers. However, to really seal the deal, you need to get the audience to connect with your product (and you!) in order to leave a lasting impression.
How do you convert your audience into believers?
We’ve had a lot of experience with demos at Abacus – in the last couple of months alone we’ve demo’d our product at the NY Tech Meetup and SMWNY for the Entrepreneur Startups to Watch presentation. We wanted to take some of the lessons we learned and a few of the tricks that we picked up along the way and share them to help you navigate your own demo style.
Here’s some firsthand advice from our founders
A feeling lasts longer than content – It’s important to decide on a key message for your presentation and stay focused. It’s unreasonable to expect your audience to remember more than one thing about your presentation even 10 mins after it’s over (let alone the next day). The combination of the story you tell and your energy will contribute to the feeling they leave the presentation with and that feeling will stay with them longer than the content you delivered.
Be Prepared – It’s hard to give a great demo without a lot of planning. It’s like navigating a new city – it’s difficult to read a map while driving. When delivering your presentation, pick a good ‘route’ so that you can focus on your delivery rather than worrying about what comes next. Also try to prepare for the worst case scenario. At our NYTM demo the cable to our iPhone came unplugged, disrupting the presentation. It’s hard to stay calm during something like that, but we had a supportive audience and it ended up helping us connect with them. It’s scary to think about what can go wrong during your presentation, but preparation will help you stay calm.
Don’t demo everything – As an engineer I know how easy it is to get lost in all of the cool stuff a product can do and how much you want to show off every little feature. You really have to fight that urge and focus on what makes your product special. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. People are going to miss a lot of what you say, so if the option is between showing a small cool feature or reiterating your value prop, always go with the repeat.
Other tips for hitting your demo out of the park
- Whatever you want to say, cut it in half, then cut it in half again
- Either say it or display it – slides should consist of supporting material and not tell the story for you. Your audience should be listening to you, so don’t distract them with a bunch of words on a slide.
- Use your time wisely – don’t spend your time talking about how you came up with the idea or why you selected your company name. Give people the context they need and then get right into the demo and value of the product.
- Talk slowly – giving a demo is different than having a conversation with someone. You need to take your time and enunciate so that people can easily follow along. Slow down your speed of talking until it starts to feel unnatural – once it feels a little weird, you’re probably doing it right.
Paul Graham often tried to drive this point home: the audience will remember at best about 1 sentence from a 5 minute presentation. Really try to make sure the audience absorbs the important stuff versus covering more territory.