Tag Archives: demo

9 Ways People Screw Up Their Product Demos


I don’t know about you, but a bad product demo can turn me off a deal/product/company really quickly. A poor demo shows a lack of pride in your work, or laziness – neither are good signs. Here is a list of the 9 most common mistakes I have seen people make in their demos.

1. They show features and don’t tell a story. Your product is only as good as the problems it can solve for someone. What I want to hear during a demo is what problems you are solving and for who, not a laundry list of features in your product. Tell me a story about whose “day in the life of” we are about to embark on. Some people like to get really specific (e.g. Sally is the VP of Sales at XYZ Co, etc), some prefer to just use a title only. I’ve heard people argue about the merits of each approach, but I believe it doesn’t matter. What is critical is that you need to be a storyteller! Make it compelling, interesting, unexpected… something that grabs my attention and keeps it. It’s even better if you can work in a story from an actual customer that benefited from your product. A week later, people will have forgotten the demo, but they will likely still remember the stories.

2. They try to show everything In the product. You may love all your new cool features, and remember how and why each one was created. But I don’t, and I usually just want to get a quick overview and a feel for the product. Most people aren’t going to love your product like you do, so leave them wanting more… don’t bore them to tears.

3. Executives bring in somebody else to do the demo. I’m not saying your Exec’s need to be able to answer all product questions, demo everything in the product, etc – but if you have a standard demo that you pull out for meetings with partners, conferences, etc, everyone should be capable of showing it without any help. This one is particularly egregious if you talk about how “easy to use” your product is – if it’s so easy, why can’t your own executives learn how to use it to show the demo?

4. They give no context before the demo. Before you begin a demo, please at least tell us what your company does – your sub 1 minute elevator pitch – and what problems you’re trying to solve. Otherwise I spend the entire demo trying to work out what box to put you in, instead of actually analyzing the product.

5. They don’t reinforce their USP’s throughout the demo. As I wrote in my last blog, you need to know what makes you unique. Make sure you draw people’s attention to these key differentiators during your product demo, and make sure your demo is actually supporting what you are saying.

6. They show features that are not in production. This one seems so obvious that you may wonder what it is doing in here, but I’ve seen it so many times now that it has to get included. People show things their product can’t actually do (yet) as part of the standard demo, without disclaiming that what I’m actually looking at is a PoC, WIP, whatever. Please, especially for a “first meeting” type of situation, just show real product.

7. They use really old data. If the data in your demo is 2 years old, you’re fine. If your data is 5 years old, we have an issue. If you show 5 year old data, I am going to assume that either: you don’t care about putting your best foot forward; your product hasn’t changed enough in the last 5 years for you to even need to update your data; your product is so complex to configure, that changing the data is so hard that nobody has the time/motivation to go through the work. Please make sure your data is reasonably up to date.

8. They don’t practice. Technical glitches happen – especially during demos – so most of the time you’re going to get a pass for those type of issues. What you never get a pass on is not knowing your demo script. You should never, ever been saying “I click here and then… oh wait… no, I click on this…”. Please don’t let this be you.

9. In the world of Business Analytics / Intelligence, they have a pre-defined discovery path to insight. I left this one until last, because it only applies to Enterprise Analytics companies, but, this one of my biggest demo pet peeves. I can’t stand demos of BI or Analytics software that goes something like: “I can see Sales are down in Europe this quarter, so I filter to Europe and drill down by Product Group. I can see Product Group A is causing the issue, so I drill down by Sales Rep, and find that it’s Bill who has been underperforming for this particular Product Group…”. I think almost every BI vendor demos this way, and in my opinion, they are all doing it wrong. An “intelligent” system would be telling you what the issue is, not making you hunt around in the data looking for answers. In your demo, you knew to drill down by Product Group then Rep. In the real world, the business analyst looking at the data might have needed an hour to find the same thing. Putting all the onus on the user to find out what is going on is a crappy way to build a product, so it bugs me to see a demo that tries to actually sell this back to me as a good way to analyze your data!

So that’s my list, but I’m sure I missed some other good ones. Let me know what your demo pet peeves are in the comments.