How to demo to the press

Long day of demos at Streaming Media West. All very interesting, some suboptimal from the standpoint of effectiveness, so while I’m waiting for the Tiramisu I had after dinner to function like organic Ambien, I thought that I would write down some tips for sales and marketing types to consider before their next product demos.

By way of background, I was a marketing and sales type for about ten years last century, and while the technology has changed, the rules of the demo haven’t. Here they are in rough order of importance.

1.  Assume that I’m there for a reason. Find out that reason before you start your demo. Maybe I’m there to write an article, maybe just to get perspective on your product or market. If you start demoing before you know why I’m there, you’ll give me a generic demo and you probably won’t show me what I need to see to accomplish my goals. Blow my mind and ask something like “tell me about your readers,” or “what do your readers care about when they’re buying a widget.”

2.  Do tell me about your company and market. Make it short, but do tell me how long you’ve been in business, how many employees you have and who your big customers are. This helps me understand your perspective and how much weight to give to your comments. If you’re sitting in a bar and get a stock tip from a stranger, you may buy the stock or ignore it. If you find out it was Warren Buffet, you call your broker.

3.  Install the product first. Give me the high level view of how your product is used. Are you a product that I install, a software as a service, or both? Where does the product get installed and how do I interface with it? Better yet, identify some prominent users and tell me how they use your product. Help me to visualize how the product will work in a customer environment so I can understand the benefits you say it will deliver.

4.  Paint me a picture. If you’re a systems product with lots of modules, don’t explain it to me, show it to me. Create a simple diagram that identifies the modules and shows how they interrelate to my current systems.

5.  He who creates the features table wins. In new markets, don’t be afraid to say “here are the ten features you should consider when choosing a widget.” Then tell me why you’re better, feature by feature. When I look at other products, I’ll use your features table and evaluate their product against your strengths. At the end of the day, it’s all about how your product compares to the competition, so give me the structure that helps me understand why yours is better. 

6.  Define your product so I can remember why I liked it. They say that Steve Jobs never covers more than three products or concepts in a presentation – folks listening can’t retain more than that. So define your product before you start and tie back all features to that definition. For example, say – “our product is the most configurable, the easiest to use and the most affordable.” Then, tie each feature back to that definition. So, you might say “this is how you configure our perambulator – just one of 40 features that  customers can configure – pretty simple, eh?.” When you create that features table mentioned in number 5, break it into those three major categories.

7.  If I haven’t said a word in 30 minutes it’s a bad sign. Use response checks like “pretty simple, eh?” to gauge how the message is getting through. Make me talk and give you feedback. This gives you valuable data and also makes it look like you care about what I think.

8. Assume that I don’t have a photographic memory. Have materials available – either on paper, or on a USB drive – that prove the major points you made during the presentation. I may try to write an article on the plane home, where I can’t go online for more information. Or, I may write the article in two weeks, where I have only a vague recollection of the demo. Include screen shots, spec sheets, user studies and the like.

9. Use examples that matter to me and my readers. Folks who sell to video producers tend to use examples that relate to high profile use cases like Spielberg or Disney. They’re high profile, I get it. The problem is, my needs, and the needs of my readers, may be entirely different. I’m glad you’re helping Disney — tell me how you’re helping me.

By the way, most of these rules apply to demos given to booth attendees or even prospects that you’re selling to. So don’t keep them within the PR team, spread them to the sales staff.

About Jan Ozer

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I help companies train new technical hires in streaming media-related positions; I also help companies optimize their codec selections and encoding stacks, and evaluate new encoders and codecs.

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