Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Marketing Presentations: How To Plan And Deliver Memorable Online Demos

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In the last few years I have attended so many boring and useless online demos, tutorials and web presentations for new tools that I have been asking myself how is it possible that while we create tools and technologies that provide such powerful means of communicating and distributing information, we behave like primitives when it is our turn to use them for serious commercial or educational purposes.


News, blogs and social media sites preach the relevance of direct open communication, of listening to the roots, whether they are customers or prospective students and to interact and participate rather than impart and impose your vision and info on others.

Collaboration, sharing, participation, engagement are the passwords to the new mantra for effective communication, marketing and learning. Across the board and media these are the attitudes that guarantee an opportunity to tune in and ride the communication frequency of our times.

But in the universe of online demos, software demonstrations, tutorials and showcases, time has frozen itself in 1999.

If you have attended any of these yourself you know how bad and frustrating it feels to be held captive by someone who has already decided, no matter who you are, what he is going to communicate, broadcast-style, to you. There is little or no involvement, at least until the company presenting to you has not finished delivering its scripted announcements, its institutional boring stuff and its dose of self-served marketing of their own product.

The perceived honour and excitement I used to have for these invitations has gradually turned itself into a-very-hard-to-manage allergy for any such low-level communication delivery approach. The bad thing is that the worst offenders are often not the small startup guy or the improvised demo person from the a new software house, but the very market leaders, at least when it comes to their profitability and popularity.

That speaks clearly for the type of disease these companies are facing. While they build tools for next generation of communication and collaboration approaches, these very companies are facing an internal, critical limit, imposed by their yet undeveloped ability to adopt and interpret the language and working style that their very own tools would require.

The communication philosophy of the new, post-traditional media approach, whether in marketing or customer support, is all about abandoning institutional facades while opening the door to true, honest, spontaneous conversations. From the Cluetrain Manifesto to the spirit supporting much of what is now defined as Web 2.0, the mantra that "markets are conversations" has only increased its credibility and status thanks to its re-unite sellers and buyers as well as teachers and students away from newscasts and lecture-type communications and into fruitful open conversations.

But how is it then that in those very special, unique and rare instances in which a company can actually get me down to stop, sit down and listen to it, it decides to communicate to me as if it was a TV station and I someone sitting at home on a sofa?

Why when I am fully focused and available to be engaged, listened to, and used for my ability to provide user feedback, insight, critiques and ideas for improvements I am not given any such option?

It's like the old days in school. The teacher would talk for an hour and then say: "Any questions?"

It drives me mad to see, the very companies that should be the models for great communication (as they often build the very tools that augment such capabilities) are the ones that fail most blatantly at this.

This is why I have decided to take this as an opportunity to pull together a set of simple guidelines that any organization, large or small, should adopt when in need to present or demonstrate a new tool, software or service to one or more potential customers or students.

Here my ten-point strategy guide to plan and deliver memorable online demos. I have delivered this presentation live, for the first time, a few days ago as an official guest of the Luminaries Adobe eSeminar series, and decided to make it available here as well in a variety of formats (text, slides, video recording - Check it out and help me improve it more by suggesting your own ideas in the comments section.)

Update: Next Thu June 25th at 12:30 NY time I am delivering a live interactive webinar on this very topic in which I will summarize my key points I am presenting here below. After a short but very passionate 15-min presentation I will leave the floor open for an open discussion and Q&A on brainstorming further ideas and techniques to make those boring and frustrating online demos a thing of the past. If you are a company looking to improve the quality and effectiveness of your online product demonstrations, join me by signing up here:


How To Plan And Deliver Memorable Online Demos


Welcome to everyone to this presentation about how to deliver a memorable online demo.

Who am I taking to and what's my objective here today?

My goal is really to address people like me and many others, probably like Ken (Molay) as well, who are in the position of showcasing, presenting, demonstrating to other people - they can be customers, they could be students in an academic setting - to whom we want to present something new: new software, a new web-based service, a new tool that they could utilize, buy from us, subscribe to or just ask for a follow-up from them if they're interested in what we are showcasing to them.

My goal is to bring up what are the key things we stumble on as a user, as somebody who tests, as a job, many tools every week, every month to report and review on trends on what is happening on the new media front.

I am myself totally surprised that the amount of difficulties that I encounter when I'm attending demos. I am sure you feel the same when you are in those situations.

In fact, for what I've seen most of the online demos, the majority of them are really not offering a great user experience.

When I don't get bored or kind of annoyed, sometimes I get very frustrated because I perceive that I'm not really at the center of a conversation, of an exchange that is targeted at me but something that is somehow either pre-packaged, or is running too fast, or that I cannot follow, that I cannot really jump into the part that I'm interested in or is too filled with institutional information is coming at me faster that I can say anything with very little options to interact.

That's the situation I find myself in.

I would like in this session to analyze very rapidly for you, because I want to try to walk my talk as much as possible, what are the things that we think first of all are the problems, the insurmountable ones, and what would be then the solutions if those are the actual issues.


Typical Things That Do Not Work - What We Blame


The key question is: What is it that doesn't work? But the point like in many fascinating games, any magic as well, is from which viewpoint you are looking at things.

If I look at what is the problem from the viewpoint of those that are delivering the online demo, the showcase, the presentation, typically what they complain about are four things:

  • the technology
  • the time
  • the customer
  • the format

These typically are the things that we bring up as - I don't want to say excuses, I don't want to say justifications - the reasons for which we can't really do a better job.

a) Technology


About the technology we say:

"We don't have the right connectivity, we changed the computer at the last minute, the guy wasn't connecting up, we don't have enough bandwidth, there was no connection, or the line dropped several times..."

There are a million different things that can go wrong with technology, and in fact they do most of the time unless you do double backups for everything you need to do.

I have to confirm that is also my experience. I think that sometimes, many times, technology can be an issue. Just like time.


b) Time


We complain that there is too little time to deliver this presentation, too little time to find things about the customers we want to present things to, there's too little time to organize both the presentation and the institutional info, get into a Q&A. It seems that this factor is working against us all the time.

On this one I'm a little less confident that there is really so. I guess it is us maybe wanting to do many things sometimes, and not been more flexible and open to alternative approaches.


c) Customer


I don't know what is your experience. Certainly I hear many people saying that the customer is the problem, because not knowing when you do those - the customer or whoever is attending and listening to you in that showcase - if you know what the person wants, why she has come there, what kind of background she has, what kind of things she really wants to know... most of the times we don't know all that information and for one reason or another we then blame it on the customer.

We blame it on us not having been able to acquire these information, or being just too difficult to collect that information, that you find yourself in that way like:

"If I knew what I discovered only later on, maybe I would have done a different presentation, I would have shown just this and this, but God, I didn't know, so I went through the whole thing, I'm sorry she felt so frustrated afterwards, I'm going to send her an email after two or three hours..."
and then we complain...

I think here we really try a little bit to justify ourselves: "We're not performers, we've not really been presenting things that are flowing fast, but got it, I accepted it."


d) Format


People think that everybody who's making a showcase on this side should know properly how to do this stuff.

Who like me is on the side thinks that to do this properly you need maybe some training or you need to be a little kind of a DJ, or having some experience in presenting to people. Not many have all these opportunities.

We feel pressed, we feel nervous, we feel anxious, we feel making mistakes, this is normal. I think many of you have felt the same in that type of situation. And having also different reactions while we're talking, from the customer, from the person listening from that group about how they're reacting, they're really listening, they're watching back what I'm showing to them, are they interested, are they taking notes...

Many times we know nothing about this. We feel that probably is not so much our fault.

These four typical things:

  • the technology
  • the time
  • the customer
  • the format

are the things that we bring up in somewhat trying to rationalize why these presentations online are difficult to be really good all the times.


What Can You Do To Deliver A Memorable Online Demo?


I would like yo take you for a different route for one time and completely forget all of those items.

For a minute, suspend your evaluation on those and try to look at things from a different viewpoint and see if you can altogether forget those problems and approach things in a totally new different way.

I'm going to give you right now ten specific suggestions, that I've learned from my own experience, from attending literally hundreds of seminars, webinars, online presentations in which people have showcased to me all kinds of tools, software and services.

I think I've a book of notes of the frustrations that I felt during those things and so out of that recently I said: "Let's sublimate all of this anger and let's extract from this what could be really some specific suggestions that I have picked up here and there".

Maybe in those very situations that were less favorable to do a great presentation, maybe because sometimes they were from a small company or somebody that really had all that technical support and time to prepare and they did absolutely great.

What did I discover across time is really significant, valuable if you introduce it into your own online showcases. There they are:

1) Hold No Hostages


First of all, you need to hold no hostages. What it means is that we need not to keep people watching a presentation we have decided beforehand for a long time.

Attention time is really very short and getting shorter everyday.

When we get captive these customers, the potential customers, or interested people in what we have to showcase, then we lock them in our room, into a telephone call and we keep them here listening while we talk, and talk, and talk...

That is the first thing we should avoid doing.

It would be wonderful if we did something that is very simple: send to these people the basic information that we're going to deliver them typically with a PowerPoint thing, the institutional info, the general product info, maybe some specific feature data, whatever we have, that generally we want to give everyone. Let's send it to them.

If you put an audio track on it as an option, if you have a video, so much better.

The guy can look at the stuff beforehand, at his own, her own pace make it understood and clear for everybody what this is all about and come to the meeting with a clear idea of what you've got and with some relevant questions, and comments, and maybe critiques and suggestions on your product, on your tool and service.

Send stuff before, is so much easier!


2) Listen


Number two: listen. I know that should be easy, but that's the one thing that probably is on the list of all the ten that I'm going to show you: listening.

It is so much the way, the fear to run the full story, to tell them everything you got, from the institutional, to the technical, to the commercial info and then there is very little space that is left in your agenda for them to talk and that's space that is generally filled by your questions.

"Any questions now?" People get scared, or they don't get scared, sometimes they get so angry that they just are so educated they don't react to that because that would be a good point to punch in. They're just too good.

They stay silent, not because they have nothing to say to that questions, but because they would have wanted to say ten minutes before when you covered that specific feature, and now that you know you've covered with another 10,000 windows and it's going to be just too difficult to bring it back.

Listening really means being there and listen through the sentences, through the words of the people at the other end of the line and on the other side of the screen, and understand what they're looking for, what they're trying to get from you.

Don't try to serve them a pre-made menu. People like to order. Some like pizza, some like spaghetti, right? Let's find out from them.

Ask sincere questions, put them at ease confidently and find out and serve them the dishes they really like.


3) Ask


To do that, you got to ask some questions, not the typical standard ones but some interesting ones.

Some about "How are you going to sue this for?", and "why did you come to this session?" "What do you want specifically to find?" and "What are your expectations?", "What do you like to find out at the end of this session, what do you really need to get?"

Simple questions like this make me feel like a potential customer, reviewer, journalist, whatever I am, so much better because I know this guy is not just taking advantage of me for 45 minutes. He wants to have a conversation.

Isn't this the age of Web 2.0? Didn't they teach me all over the web that this is the age of sharing and collaboration, and having a conversation with everyone someone else when there some affinity with you?

When I was going to do that, if we don't do that in this very situation where we have somebody who has given up all restraints and decided to sell his personal time to you just to see what you got?

If you don't have a conversation then, when are you going to have it? On Twitter, on Facebook? I don't think so.

That's the very key marketing time for you to use and to take advantage of, but not by pushing your own things, but by being nice and open to a real, sincere conversation.


4) Compare


What is "compare" now Robin? This is a critical item, don't push for this. Let me explain this clearly. Compare is a credibility point that presenter, people that showcase really need to acquire.

Way too many companies, way too many startups, no matter if they are large, small - I think this happens too many times - know too little about what others are doing in their same sector.

They got such a great tool in their eyes, in their own view, that everything else doesn't count.

"We have invented this revolutionary thing, what does it matter what these guys, on that company has done. Could they ever come close to what we have here? Look, look, click, try."
That's the attitude, but that's not right.

We have grown pretty tired of this corporate type of advertising that claims "we're the best, we're the first ones in everything, we've got the best prices and so on".

We now have conversation points across the web, we have forums, we have social media. We talk to each other, we find out what stuff doesn't work.

We know many times earlier than you presenter, my dear, what really works and who are your competitors, and why am I going to buy your competitors instead of you. And you're not going to know, while I do what's the difference point.

First, do your homework and then show me that you've done all your homework by comparing as many times as possible, things that you know others are doing or they're not doing or are much higher than you, because that instills in me, the customer, total trust and credibility about you.

You now feel like an expert, a passionate guy who I can go to and ask questions, because you know about this stuff. You're not just like that agent of the shop who wants to sell something he feels good right away and he knows less than you.

And when you answer with some relevant questions he evades with some logic that holds up for him only.

Show you know your stuff by comparing as much as possible your product, your service with other people's ones.


5) Illustrate


And then come down from your throne and explain. Don't present. Don't lecture.

I say "illustrate" because that means really come down and slow down at the pace of the attendee and work with him through the things.

Have him guide sometimes, have him try, give him control, have her click through that procedure you're showing.

Don't do everything yourself.

It feels so bad for an adult to be treated like in elementary school, you can believe it, but we forget just like in a second when we're doing those presentations.

Why is it that? I don't know, but I can tell you having been on the other side as well it feels very bad.

It feels good when you're sitting down next to me and we're going through the things together. If you're an expert, you let me try.

Illustrating means slowing down, explaining things, having a good time exploring new stuff together. Don't hand in down stuff from the top.


6) Be Open


What is next is: Be open.

In the sense of having in that approach some openness for what is coming from the customer, from the attendee, from the potential student.

Whoever you have in front of you is going to have ideas and suggestions, and way too many times we sit there, again on a throne, thinking we got such a great tool or service or product that...

We want to have a conversation, we want to explain things like they like and spend more time on features rather than on prices, that's what they're interested in, but very rarely we take the opportunity to gather, to bring in ideas for us.

It's juts like a potential customer can't have ideas. A potential student or client of mine cannot suggest something. He's going to only critique and I should fend off those critiques because I have to look good in his eyes.

Is that really so still? I don't think so.

People like to co-contribute, to co-create, to co-produce with you.

If the product that is out there is also the fruit of some of my suggestions, if your presentation can be improved by mimic in a comment, or a suggestion, or if your web service could add this extra feature seems just as determining as this other tool you just haven't seen yet.

This is all such valuable feedback that not inviting it - not just listen to it - but inviting it would be foolish for anyone who works in a serious company and there's people who don't do this are not really serious.

Listening for those ideas and suggestions because those one-to-one sessions are so precious you can come back with such filled notebooks of ideas, things that don't work, stuff that people don't really tell you because you don't put them at ease to do that. But if you do install a conversation between you and them, you will collect great stuff. I can absolutely assure you this.


7) Take Good Note


To collect those good ideas, I guess, you got to have a good notebook and people like not so much that you have a notebook, because most of the time they cannot see you, but they like for you to acknowledge that you are taking those notes.

You, the presenter, are taking notes of the suggestions, and comments and critiques that are given back to you.

You feel to them like somebody who's eager to capture more and more. They catch you slowing or stopping down because you're giving them too much feedback and they are not able to take all those notes.

That is the ideal situation. When the customer, the other person you're presenting to is so enthusiastic, is so involved that is giving you so much feedback that you have to slowing down.

Take note of that feedback is very valuable and precious. Don't fake it and...


8) Feed-back!

How_to_deliver_memorable_online_software_demos_robingood_img17.jpg /> know what works? That you really need to show that you have taken good note.

Across the presentation or the showcase, or right at the end, maybe in a summary, review, tell them.

"You know? You told me that you would like to see that in that position and here is not very good... and you said that we'd change the price offering and give a free trial, that slowing the price about $20 or %20 it would be better... is that what you said?"

This approach, this humble, open, listening, caring approach "I'm here because I want to hear you, I'm not here because I want to push down stuff" works very well.

People like really not to just trust you but really to feel somewhat partners in what you're doing and if they go out to talk about the experience they've had with you probably they're going to say good things, because they feel they have contributed something and that what they said back to you was very valuable to our company.

That's not something typical, it's something that we're not used to. If you do it, that makes a big impression on us.


9) Create Something Useful


My last two points are really some tricks I think that you can use. They're valuable, they're useful things, but they make the experience really stay with the person you're delivering that presentation to.

You know what happens in many of this showcases... that maybe you're showcasing some technology where you have to sue some text or images and you just bring up some samples, you scribble some things, you just hit the keyboards a few times, making nonsense appear on the screen. You all have been trough these experiences... it's so sad, believe me.

If you are ever deciding to go and make some showcase, not only just prepare it beforehand because it really destroys your reputation.

Believe me, no matter how beautiful the logo of your company, or how many billions is worth in the stock market, you just destroy the reputation of your department whenever you do a showcase by jogging things happen there because, unless you're talking to a geek, an expert like you, that lives in the office down the corridor, other people are going to judge you also by this.

It's the same way that when you let somebody enter in your home you just don't do the same things you did when you were a teenager sitting on a bench.

Treat them properly, prepare stuff, and create something useful.

You may have different types of customers, and you may have a set of different things you create, but you could create things that stay with them, produce something they may use right after the showcase or presentation, something that makes them want to come back and add to it.

Think if we were building, I don't know, a map. Because I was representing a company that has a software to build maps.

If I build during my presentation a map of your company, a map of the products you sell and you show all the cool features that you have, where you could put the price or the relationship between the people working in your company you are really impressed you now got something that is really useful whereby you want to come back and use this thing.

That's one thing.


10) Leave Something Memorable


Secondly, leave something memorable. No matter who they are, how many they are, prepare a special gift which can be be the very thing we just mentioned, that is something useful you created during the demo, that you could leave for them to download.

Don't just leave them the institutional presentation and send them by e-mail, that really sucks. People want something that is genuinely special, that is unique, that they especially don't expect from you.

Go out of your way, be a little creative, think of something they would not expect.

Maybe is really a creation that you have done yourself or something nice, doesn't have to be something that is valuable or doesn't have to be something tangible, it can be a little extra thing, but leave something memorable with your attendees when they come to the presentation.

This ten things I discovered and learned. If you have followed them up, these can really drastically change your approach on how you deliver a presentation.


My Ten Suggestions To Plan And Deliver Memorable Online Demos


Let me briefly go through them at all because we've seen them one at a time:

  • Hold no hostages. Send them stuff beforehand, don't hold people there for a long time, talking to them, talking to them, talking to them... Attention time is really short.
  • Listen in between the sort, timid, shy comments at the beginning, where they're coming from, what they're looking for, try to be fluid, flexible. Go where they want you to go.
  • To do that best, ask genuine questions open ones, really go where they want you to be led.
  • Then show you're very credible and competent by showing that you know the competition, the other products out, prices, whatever is out there and don't hesitate whenever is possible, to compare those different abilities with the ones of your tool and be open to admit when you're not the best.
  • Slow down, sit down next to your attendee and illustrate things slowly. Go at their own pace, let them guide, let them click. Try to be a guide, a facilitator, and not a teacher, a lecturer, the "expert" sitting on top of the throne.
  • Be open also for them, if you treat them as equals, to bring you suggestions and ideas on how you can improve whatever you are presenting to them, because they are a treasure trove, and if you haven't realized this, it is about time you do. This is the age in which we should be working this way.
  • Take tremendous good notes of what they do. Serious, valuable notes and transform me in a management so i can look at them and pass on to product development.
  • Show to your customer, potential one, attendees that you have taken those notes. Feed them back, show them you got good ear s for what they have to say.
  • Make something useful during that presentation. Don't do that silly stuff once again in your life.
    Leave some wonderful gift.

That's what I, Robin Good from Rome, Italy I drastically recommend to change and transform the way you deliver online software, web service presentations to your audiences.


Additional Resources On "How To Plan And Deliver Memorable Online Demos"

Upcoming Live Event - How To Prepare And Successfully Deliver A Memorable Online Demo

Join me, Robin Good, in a live interactive webinar on Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 12:30pm NY time, to discover how to prepare powerful and unforgettable online demonstrations that will lead to closed sales and to building long-lasting relationships with students or trainees.

If you are in charge of delivering an online demo, software presentation or tutorial in which you explain how your production / service works and what it has to offer, come to find out what are ten revolutionary things you can do to transform your long and boring sessions to memorable, feedback-rich conversations.

Sign up:


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Originally presented by Robin Good for theAdobe eSeminar series, and first delivered on June 4th, 2009 as "How To Deliver A Memorable Online Software Demo".

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posted by Robin Good on Wednesday, June 17 2009, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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