Demos are a vital part of the feature development process in product-led businesses. They not only show what the team got done that sprint, they're an opportunity to experience a feature or product the way a customer would.
30 Apr 2021 · 3 min read
To help us unpack why demos are an essential craft that needs to be honed in start-ups, we talked to four product legends to get their insights, thoughts, and opinions.
All were kind enough to share their take on The Art of the Demo.
When we asked why they think demos are important, Jens and Somya both spoke of demos as breathing life into projects. Jens believes they make the abstract tangible and provide an opportunity to clearly demonstrate how specific problems are solved. Somya thinks of demos as "windows into the vision", where you distil the idea potential and capture the audience.
Sherif and Mindy agreed. For Sherif, the demo audience simulates the customer, so the presenter has to be very aware of the customer experience during delivery, more than with other modes of presentation. He added that "it’s much more effective to have a meaningful discussion and make prioritisation decisions when you use your demo as a shared language, rather than using a bunch of text and bullet points". Demos simulate reality, whereas bullet points abstract it.
Mindy puts it beautifully when she says that "giving a demo is so much more than showing someone your product. It's about telling a story and doing so in a way that marries customer insights, data, and a product experience to take your audience on the journey." We love this and we wholeheartedly agree.
Demos are a story. A very important part of your product story. They allow you to empathise with customers, understand their challenges and see how to solve their problems. You can't get this effect with a slide deck. Empathy is built when you can put yourself in the shoes of the customer. As Mindy says, "the more effective you can be with creating that empathy and understanding, the more likely you will be to get the support you need to be successful".
Sometimes demos reveal something that has not been noticed before. Sherif recalls when the team building software for mobile showed how they solved a particular customer problem. But only on mobile. The same problem existed for desktop users, but the solution approach had not been discussed with the desktop engineers. Sherif remembers that "the demo highlighted that we were letting our internal team structures influence the customer experience." The demo showed the need for better information sharing and highlighted a creeping silo problem between teams.
Never underestimate the hunger of a demo audience. Mindy tells us how she was preparing for a huge public product launch and the engineer who was running the demo did a rehearsal with her beforehand. She thought it might be too detailed and make people bored. "Boy, I was wrong" she reflects. "The accountants in the audience were sitting on the edge of their seats that night. They wanted all the detail so that they could understand exactly what impact the new experience would have for them and their firm."
You can talk it up all you want, but you've got to show people how things work. "In a world where AI has become a buzzword appearing on every marketing website, it was important for Search.io to demonstrate how easy and practical it is to implement a personalised search experience". Through demo storytelling, Search.io could highlight the personalisation and focus on the "benefit to customers". Jens believes their simple but effective demo has closed the majority of customer deals.
During our Seed round raise the product was nascent, but our vision was crisp. While it wasn't quite fake it, till you make it, the demo we shared with Tidal and other investors was expressive enough to convey a rich end to end experience. It communicated the land value proposition, the hook for our target audience and even hinted at our future potential. Akin to Jens, Somya was able to successfully complete her raise in quick time as the demo was a key part of investor conviction.
You can demo anything, even if it’s an API change or a bug fix. Make sure to start with the problem and why it was worth solving and make sure everyone is aligned on why the solution is designed in that way.
- Sherif Mansour
Don't just run through the motion and explain what's happening on screen. Focus your energy on a couple of key highlights that you want the viewer to remember.
- Jens Schumacher
Not more than one minute and engage the audience every 30-45 seconds - especially in the zoom world or else you are just another screen they are looking at for hours.
- Somya Kapoor
When demoing to senior stakeholders, spend less time on the nitty-gritty and more time on the customer insights, data, and the story. This will help the audience connect the work. For sales team type demos, focus on the customer benefits and concerns to help guide those conversations.
- Mindy Eiermann
If there is a downside to demos, we haven't found one. Demos take concepts and make them real for your teams, your customers, and the people you want to draw in as investors. Keep them short, purposeful and relevant for your audience, and you can't go wrong.
Big thanks to Charlotte Jiang for helping me draft this post and to all our demo experts featured.
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I’m Fee Lal, the latest addition to the Tidal Investment team. With a foundation in corporate law and M&A, my focus has always been on supporting founders from their earliest stages through to exit and beyond. I thrive on tackling complex challenges, balancing my human-centred ethos with my corporate strategic approach. Keen to hear how I got here? Well, jump in!
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