How to Create Product Demos

As a product manager, I’ve created and presented demos for years. At Salesforce, I created the core Community Cloud demo for Dreamforce 2015. Dozens of product managers, sales engineers, and product marketing managers studied the demo script I authored and presented the demo to thousands of customers and partners every single day at the biggest tech conference in the world. Even now, it’s being demo’d every single day, wherever there is a lead or opportunity for Salesforce…which is everywhere.

100k+ customers and partners come to Dreamforce each year and get inundated with demos, demos, and more demos

My Dreamforce 2015 demo was called “Northern Trail Outfitters”, which is the name of a fictional brand that Salesforce created a couple of years ago. The highlights included:

  1. Responsive design to optimize the community experience on desktop, tablet, or smartphone
  2. Data science to power recommendations and engagement features
  3. Full suite of community management and analytics features
  4. Integration with Service Cloud’s Knowledge Base and Case Management (workflows and escalations)
  5. Integration with 3rd party e-commerce solution (product catalog and checkout experience)

It took me three weeks to set up the entire demo, clone it for everyone and their mothers, and then present comprehensive trainings to everyone who’d leverage it at Dreamforce. THREE WEEKS. In addition to my day job running product for three scrum teams, setting up this demo for Salesforce was a massive, overwhelming undertaking.

Once it was all over though, I felt like I could take on any demo in the world. It’s like a senior thesis project back in university, except that it’s Salesforce and hundreds of thousands of people review it.

Northern Trail Outfitters, the brand that I will never be able to forget for the rest of my life

So that I never forget the pain that I experience in setting up a “world class” demo, I’m writing this blog post to document the effort that went into it. I also hope it provides some insight for anyone interested in how Salesforce creates its demos.

10-Step Guide to Creating a Demo

My first boss in product management used to be a Hollywood screenwriter. He said, “It’s the same thing.”
  1. Create the script. Create a google sheet to serve as your master blueprint. You’ll be referencing this over and over again. First, you need to identify the personas in your demo and ideally there should be only one or two. Any more than that and you easily lose your audience. Second, just like in a three-act screenplay, define the overarching demo vignettes, within which your personas will be going through a demo flow to accomplish a specific objective. Third, within each vignette, write the step-by-step story line AND the corresponding click-path.
  2. Create an action item list. After you create your script, walk through it end-to-end and identify which features need to be enable or configured to support the storyline. For each of these features, create an action item for you to crank through when setting up your demo.
  3. Set up the demo environment. Based on the action item list, set up your demo environment and features. Depending on the complexity of your product, this could easily become the most time-consuming part of the entire demo creation process.
  4. Do your first dry run. Once you have the nuts and bolts of your demo environment set up, do your first dry run, ideally with team members who can critique the flow and provide ideas. Your primary objective here is to make sure the script is (1) realistic and (2) easy to follow by your primary audience. If neither of them hold true, you must simplify the script. Your secondary objective is to identify any other action items you need to take care of to facilitate the entire demo flow.
  5. Revise the script and set up any new features. Based on first dry run’s findings, revise the demo script as needed. Set up any new features that are added to your demo script.
  6. Do your second dry run. Your primary objective here remains the same in that you must make sure the script is realistic and easy to follow.
  7. Make your last revisions to the script and set up any new features from the second dry run. Don’t get distracted.
  8. Create the powerpoint presentation. Before we present demos, we often run through a handful of slides to set the stage. Typically, this includes: (1) Intro to the Company, (2) Intro to the Product, (3) Customer Success Stories, and (4) Intro to the Demo. In the “Intro to the Demo” slide, introduce the audience to the fictional brand and the characters in your script (their personas and objectives in the demo to plant the seed).
  9. Rehearse in front of a live audience. Nothing beats a live rehearsal. Even if you’re a natural at presenting, rehearsing in front of a live audience will provide invaluable feedback on everything from the demo flow to whether or not jokes land on target. Optimize your delivery.
  10. Adapt the demo to the audience. At the Community Cloud Keynote at Dreamforce 2015, we had thousands of people in the audience, all of varying backgrounds. Some were executives, some were IT staff, some were community managers, some were partners, and many others came from an even wider range of backgrounds (e.g., investors, analysts, journalists, etc.). Thus, our demo had to be general purpose and impact as many of them as possible. However, if I was speaking to just one customer instead of many, I would tailor script to the customer’s industry, interests, and brand. Sometimes, this would involve some tweaks to the branding of the demo environment itself, but every time, this approach optimized the impact on audience. Personalization is king in any successful demo.

While the above describes my experience creating demos for Salesforce, it’s certainly applicable to any product, any company, and any industry. I hope it helps provide a framework for putting together incredible demos for your organization and one day I have the benefit of seeing it!


Alas, my days of creating Salesforce demos are now over, as I joined a new startup called Directly on January 5, 2016, to revolutionize the customer care industry. Essentially the Uber of Customer Support, we enlist expert users to serve as an extension of the customer service teams of brands like Airbnb, Pinterest, Lyft, and Mobile Iron. Our intelligent routing platform powers this service, and these companies are seeing response times drop down to minutes, customer satisfaction ratings rise above 90%, and their own support agents having time to focus on the most difficult issues.

My new gig. We’re going to change the world.

And just today, on just my 4th day at Directly, I completed the setup of my first demo and am presenting it to the entire company next week. That’s what happens when you go through the graduate school program that is Salesforce product management. You become a demo ninja.

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