How to demo your product in public
Public speaking is scary. We’re not used to it. We’re not trained for it. And when we have to do it, the stakes are usually pretty high.
And if any public speaking can be intimidating, product demos are arguably the worst case. No fancy slides, no Q&A to help you break the monotony and a strong desire to just go in depth about every single detail you’ve worked on, showing the behind the scenes.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are a few notes, built from my own experience in Sales and Product, but also delivering pitches to various audiences, to help you unlock the best of your product potential.
Even if they came to this room to see you demo, no one cares about your product. (sorry!) They came to learn what they could do with it, how it will help them and more importantly, how it will make them stand out.
So if the audience wants to be spoken to directly, it’s important to
1/ know who is attending and
2/ give context around what will matter to them.
So don’t show a feature, show a flow. And don’t talk about the work that went into that feature, but talk about the benefit they will get from it. The magic is only a reason to believe. Not the main topic. Craft your key message and repeat it as you go through the demo.
Research your audience. Meeting VCs? What’s their focus, latest blog posts, latest investments? Meeting a prospect? Start by asking how they currently solve their problem and challenge them into a better way of doing so, with your product as the key part.
Be personal & give context
Why should we listen to you? There’s a natural instinct of defiance against speakers as they take the stage and a higher position than the audience.
Don’t go straight into the demo. Even if you only have 15 minutes, give 1 minute or 2 to provide context on who you are and what you’re about to show. It can be about a personal anecdote from your past experience which pushed you to create that product. An explanation of the general direction your product is going through. People like context and everything will resonate better if you can anchor it with a real life experience or objective. That helps engagement and memorisation.
If you’re demoing your product, you probably want the audience to feel convinced by the end. While it’s normal to feel shy / stressed in front of an audience, it shouldn’t affect how you describe your product itself.
Avoid any vocabulary that reflects doubt in what you’re showing (even though you’re probably aware of many defaults most people won’t know or see).
A few examples are: “It it works…”, “We try to do…”, “We thought maybe…”. We may try to be humble, but you’re just shooting holes in your product.
Instead, focus on getting more and easy “yes” from your audience. Ask questions no one will say no to and present your solution to this problem. Every sales guy wants to close more deals. Every marketeer wants to develop its brand. Every CEO wants better understanding of their market and help to make the right decision. Take this common knowledge into play and show how they will achieve it with your product. You will also build confidence as the audience nodes happily to your questions and pays attention. That idea is entirely linked to the one of the Challenger Sale, where you prove there is a better way and build trust and confidence around it with proof (hint: numbers and real cases help).
Relax. You got this 👌.
Your audience will probably not remember more than 2 or 3 key elements of what you talked about. And that’s okay. If you have 15 minutes of demo, how do you make sure the 3 sentences they will remember are the ones you want them?
Structure your presentation around it. Repeat the core message again and again. And leave a real pause after them. A pause of a few seconds is not awkward. It’s a breathing time for you and it gives time for the audience to understand and remember what you just said. Pauses are usually the best indication of what matters and what doesn’t.
Drop the mic
Don’t go over time. Don’t try to say everything. Don’t describe every button and every screen. One of the most viewed TED videos of all time was done on a sketching pad. And yet, he got the full message across better than a deck full of statistics. So you can afford to skip one tab. Openly say that you will not show all these features on purpose and that you’re happy to go into further detail during questions or in a personal discussion / demo. It will even create more excitement for the Q&A / next step.
Know where to stop on a high note and open yourself for questions or the next step. Leaving yourself a bit of time to go back to a higher level discussion about the roadmap ahead, not talking in depth about features but about a general direction, will give gravitas to the presentation you just delivered. Engage the audience if you have a Q&A session following.
That’s it. Go out there and be amazing!