ThatJeffSmith

Get More from Product Demos

You know the drill: an email from your manager is inviting you to attend a dog-and-pony show for the latest widget some company has added to their best software product ever. The invite goes into your calendar and don’t think about it again until your screen starts flashing 5 minutes prior to start time.

So, you head over to the conference room/LiveMeeting/WebEx/GoToMeeting, sit down, and prepare to zone out for the next hour or so. If you’re lucky, the demo-monkey has some carny blood in them, and is able to actually entertain you for a few moments. But, when it’s over, it’s over. If your manager asks you what you thought, you might have an opinion, but it won’t be a very strong one.

So what’s wrong with this picture?
Absolutely nothing! Sometimes you just need a break from the drag of work and productivity. A little mental-nap here and there is great. However, if you suspect you could be getting more than just a timeout from these meetings, please continue reading.

Me, presenting in front of a live studio audience

Dog or Pony? You decide!

Yes, I am a Demo-Monkey for a software company.
I do not have any carny blood in me, and I would not ever be confused with a Game Show host. So for me to deliver an adequate presentation, I require my audience’s attention and interaction. I probably get that about 75% of the time, which isn’t so bad. But enough about me, I’m writing this to help my fellow IT professionals out there.

Come to the demo prepared.
Yes, I know that’s bogus and you want to call shenanigans on me. When you get that invite to attend, you should probably have a few questions dancing inside your head. Address those BEFORE the meeting.

  • Does this product/widget/magic have the capability to change my life?
  • WHY is my manager asking us to look at it?
  • Does it really do what the product literature claims?

Yes, I know, just like Lost, these questions will just bring more questions, and the answers you are looking for are just around the next corner. But, if you can come to the table armed with a little knowledge, there IS a chance it won’t be just another wasted meeting.

Super-Duper-Bonus: Install the widget and play with it prior to the demo!

If you can manage to play with the technology yourself a bit beforehand, you’re going to have a much better appreciation for the material being presented, and you’ll definitely have better questions prepared. If that’s not possible, then most vendors will have pre-recorded demos you can watch.

Get to ‘No’ right away.
No one likes to waste their time. If you understand the technology being pitched, the problem being solved, you will be able to determine very quickly whether this new-fangled tech is going to be a good fit. Your boss won’t be mad if he has to tell a sales droid ‘No’, and believe it or not, us sales-dweebs don’t mind hearing ‘no’ either (actually what we hate most is the word ‘maybe’ which is just a 3 month version of ‘no’). You’ll save yourself a bunch of time too. That PoC install and fighting through the product manual/help file – doesn’t always need to happen.

But, for you to get to ‘No’, you need to be able to ask intelligent questions during the demo. Yes, that’s right. Sometimes you need to open your mouth and say something. I know, no one likes to let others know what they think, less they risk being ‘wrong.’ Of course there’s always that one guy (and it’s usually a guy!) who likes to let everyone know just how smart they are, but again, I’m getting off target…

I hate to let people down.
It’s a character flaw, I get validation of self-worth based on the reactions of others around me. When I give a product demo, I want it to be worth the audience’s time. If you come to the meeting unprepared, then you’re just wasting everyone’s time – most importantly your own. Make it your MISSION to leave the presentation with at least two questions answered:

  • Can this thing help me?
  • If yes, how can I increase the odds of getting my dirty paws on it?

You may have noticed my posts tend to get a little personal sometimes…
To be honest, I checked the rates, and buying the blog-space is WAY cheaper than booking couch-time with a mental health professional. I don’t think it’s an accident that I’ve wandered from a pure IT career into a pseudo-sales one :)

Shenanigans!