3 important lessons for providing software demos

As a support consultant I help people working for equipment dealerships to understand how software solutions can make their tasks easier and more pleasant. Part of my job are also demos of our software solutions for customers and prospects. Introducing our software to people is an exciting thing to do. And it is completely different than providing training and support services. Here are a few things I have learned that are important when it comes to a software demonstration.

Tell the audience what you are going to do demo

Your audience probably broadly knows what they will get to see in your demo. They have explained to you what is important for them and they received the demo agenda from you. However, it is still very important to tell your audience step by step what you are demonstrating. Especially in demos that take a bit longer, you need to be sure that you hold the audience’s attention. By telling them what process comes next, they will be better focused.

Keep it simple

The purposes of a demo are to introduce the software, reveal the potential of the system and create interest and awareness. There is no need to show all features and functionalities or to proof your system can handle all details and exceptions. Therefore, keep it simple. Show the key processes, use simple and relevant examples, and save the extras and detailed stuff for later sessions. Besides, in many cases it is impossible to cover everything in a demo, simply because that would take too much time.

Know how to handle questions

Make sure that your demo is interactive. Especially in an online remote demo, that can be difficult as you don’t see the faces and body language of your audience. Tell them to interrupt you with questions and regularly check if they understand what you are saying. And save some time at the end of the demo for questions and discussion. Don’t worry, people don’t expect you to instantly know the answer to every question. Here is some advice how to deal with questions from your audience:

-   Don’t go into too much detail; some people in your audience might want to know everything about a very specific topic. But that may slow down the demo, you might lose the attention of the rest of the people or you get to deal with questions you did not prepare for.
-   It is ok to ‘park’ questions; you might want to handle a question a bit later in the demo or at the end. It is ok to do that if it keeps the pace in your demo.
-   ‘No’ is also an answer; a demo should convince your audience that you offer the right solution for their organization. But don’t try to say ‘yes’ to everything they ask for. Sometimes people will have to take ‘no’ for an answer.
-   You don’t know the answer to everything; some questions may be too complex to answer immediately or may require some research or consulting one of your colleagues. Just say you will get back with an answer soon.

Ashley Harris is support consultant at Dysel and an expert in how business software helps equipment dealerships to become more successful.