No Questions Please
When delivering a software demonstration I’ve always encouraged the audience to ask questions throughout. I never want to leave something unsaid or leave the audience wondering if our solution could meet a certain need or perform a certain function. The trade-off in taking questions throughout the demonstration is clear: I will sacrifice my ability to follow the script as written, and potentially miss items the audience has requested in advance but in exchange, I will show them what they really want to see at that moment. Audiences, for their part, have always embraced this model. The demonstration organizers like to see their staff engaged with the demonstration. They like to see their questions answered. They like to have all objections handled in real time.
Recently, a potential client who was organizing product demonstration explicitly stated ahead of time, and in writing, that there would be no questions during the demonstration. Audience members would write their questions down and forward them to the organizers who would in turn ensure the questions were answered by us, the demonstrators. As I said before, we do not see this stipulation very often and it gives us great pause. As the primary presenter, I wondered aloud to my colleagues about audience engagement, about lack of interaction, and about keeping the audience’s attention.
In the end, it turns out, I had nothing to be worried about. While the audience did not ask any questions, we did and they answered. We created engagement through laughter, through dialogue and through shared experience. Relying on audience questions is an easy way to kick start engagement but relying on the audience to make engagement happen is lazy at best. As the presenter, it is your job to ignite the spark of engagement. Ask questions; identify who is from the department you’re speaking about; ask them if the scenario is relevant to them; be authentic in creating a connection about the subject matter. In short, show why you were the sales engineer chosen to give the demonstration.