“Tell them what you are going to tell them; tell them; then tell them what you just told them…”
We are often provided with this sage advice (for delivering any message, not just for demos). Aristotle taught this idea over 2300 years ago – and people are still trying to remember to follow his advice! Interestingly (and perhaps a bit sadly) I rarely see people actually put this advice into practice in demos.
Why? I’m not sure, but most likely because we are rarely trained do it (other than in Great Demo! Workshops, of course). Here’s what happens in typical demos:
“Tell them what you are going to tell them…”
This is generally done as part of an agenda at the very beginning of a demo. Very good, nice start. But if the demo lasts longer than 20 minutes and/or has multiple segments, your audience won’t remember the overall plan. Similarly, presenters generally don’t summarize at the close of a segment (see below) or do anything to introduce the next segment – they just dive right in.
Solution #1: Return to your agenda at the end of each segment – have it available as a PowerPoint slide, for example. Use it to remind you to summarize at the end of the segment – then pause, to give time for the audience to take it in and formulate any questions – before introducing the next segment.
Solution #2: Remind yourself to introduce each segment at the beginning of each segment. Many demonstrators ask, “Any questions so far?” when they have completed a segment – simply remind yourself to follow this by doing the intro for the next segment this (once any questions have been addressed). You can use the “Any questions…?” inquiry as a trigger to prompt the intro. Once you’ve done this a dozen times you’ll have formed a good habit and you’ll continue to do these segment intros naturally.
OK, this is the easy one – this is what presenters do in their traditional demos. The sad news is that most presenters never leave this mode!
“Tell them what you just told them…”
As noted above, most presenters simply move “seamlessly” from segment to segment: “…And the next really cool thing I want to show you is…” (as the mouse whizzes around the screen). This is called the “Run-on Demo” – and there is a tendency for these to get worse and worse over time. [Why? Each new release demands so much more to show, often in the same amount of time, along with the tendency to “pre-answer” questions we’d heard in previous sessions. The result? Much more talking about features and functions, many fewer stops to summarize or take new questions...]
Remembering to summarize at the end of a demo segment is an act of personal discipline – and it can be supported by the use of triggers (as above) as well as by help from colleagues. We coach sales people to gently step in and “rescue” their presales counterparts with periodic summaries.
For example, at the end of a demo segment, our sales person interjects with, “John, before you go on, let me do a brief summary of what you just covered…” John, our presales person, is relieved – he now has a few moments to take a breath, review where he is in the demo, and get ready for the next segment.
Very elegant, very professional!