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5 Common Mistakes Startups Make in a Demo

  1. Starting the demo with your company history … who cares?
  2. Too many bullets on one slide. See Guy Kawasaki’s "10/20/30 Rule of Powerpoint."
  3. “Why I should care about your product” is left to the end of the presentation (long after the high level execs have left the room).
  4. Live demo that does not work. Have a slide deck that covers your most compelling features or benefits. If that triggers a more detailed discussion of the prospect's needs, it's a win.
  5. Detailed explanation of every product feature...regardless if the audience want to see them or not. Gear your demo to what your audience is interested in and ask them if you don’t know.

If DAC will be your first trade show then a floor demo in a 10x10 booth is very different from a 30 minute conversation in someone's office. Here are three rules of thumb for a floor demo:
  • Get to the point immediately, summarize a problem statement and differentiated benefit in a minute or less. It's very frustrating to have folks walk up, ask you "What do you do" and have them walk off three minutes later before you get to your punchline--for you and for them.
  • Be able to walk through 4-8 slides that substantiate your one minute overview in another 90 seconds to two minutes.
  • If you have a quote from a customer that can substantiate the benefit that you offer, put it up on a poster in your booth or on one of your early demo slides. Use their words.

This post is derived from "5 Mistakes CEO's Make in Demos" which triggered these remarks by Chris Edwards in "Does Anybody Enjoy Presentations?" where he observed that many press briefings suffer from the same problems:

Many briefings are like some ghastly cross between company brochure and time-share sales. Most presentations make you feel like you're being set up for a con. There is slide after slide of selective evidence, all meant to make you think that the thing to be unveiled at the end is the answer.

There are two problems with this. Until I got bored with doing it, I could happily chip away at the setup slides to the extent that some presentations simply ran out of time. And it doesn't help get a story written because all the information is coming in reverse order.

The problem with the time-share pitch is that it is designed to sell. Unless you're selling pens, it's pretty unlikely that the hack is going to buy one. (OK, it's different for gadget makers but the launches I've seen for those have largely been "look, shiny stuff").

At regular intervals in a briefing, I will be thinking: "What's my best possible introduction for a story?" And, most of the time, the answer will be: "I wish I knew."

People really need to think about the thought processes that their intended audience are likely to use. A journalist is, in the case of a briefing, looking for a story. They may well not take away the story you presented but if you start off with what you think the story is, things might at least unfold in the right order.


Read Chris' whole post it's very good may offer you a perspective you haven't considered before as you prepare for DAC.

Peter Cohan's "Great Demo!" book is an outstanding resource on how to give a great demo.

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Comment by Kathryn Kranen on July 22, 2009 at 12:13am
Awesome tips, Sean! A must-read for AEs and anyone else involved in sales/biz-dev.
Comment by Ron Craig on July 17, 2009 at 12:25pm
For me it has often boiled down to the 'So what?' test. If a slide doesn't pass the test it should be yanked out of the presentation.
Comment by Sean Murphy on July 16, 2009 at 12:25am
For some good and bad examples from last year's DAC of EDA firms trying to get their point across in about two minutes take a look at EDA Cafe DAC 2008 interview videos

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