As a sales engineer, I do a lot of online presentations for clients, prospects, colleagues and partners. When conducted well, online presentations and demos can be very effective sales tools. We strive to make our demos interactive.
The sales rep and sales engineer work together like a well-oiled machine throughout the demo. We encourage interaction and strive to be most efficient and effective as possible within the given timeframe.
Each presentation follows the same schedule. There are things to do before the demo, during the demo, then after the demo. In this post, I’ll share 32 tips to help you rock your online presentations.
Preparation is an obvious step. I mention it as a reminder that attendees are giving you their time, and their time is valuable. Be respectful of their time by thoroughly preparing and providing value to them. Ultimately a demo is like anything else in life: if you put your time and energy into it, then it will turn out well!
Agreeing on the agenda beforehand helps set expectations, reduces wasted time on the demo, and ensures that we only review functionality in which demo attendees are most interested. Since there is generally an hour or so for the demo, we need to make sure we hit the mark given the allotted time. By agreeing on the agenda beforehand, we drastically increase the productivity of the demo.
I learned this one the hard way. I had a webinar to present with a few hundred people waiting on me and as soon as I was made the “Presenter” my machine’s memory overloaded and I got the blue screen of death as my computer crashed. I had been working in numerous programs before the demo and apparently had nearly maxed out my memory and making the presenter passed the tipping point resulting in a few hundred people waiting awkwardly on me to reconnect. Now I restart my computer before demos so that my memory is not used up.
At some point, the presenter role will be passed to you. When his happens, the software (GoToMeeting, Join.me, or whatever you use) will ask you which screen you want to share. If you have a multi-monitor setup, this can become challenging if the monitors aren’t numbered or have similar names. Knowing your monitors names beforehand can reduce missteps. You don’t want to accidentally share to the wrong screen!
Be sure to reduce the number of potential distractions. Ever been on a demo and as soon as the leader shares their screen, you see their desktop icons and you start looking at all their files to see what they’re interested in? You are not alone, as everyone does it (admit it!).
In order to remove this distraction, be sure to hide your desktop icons or demo from a monitor that doesn’t have any application or document icons on the background. With fewer things to look at, your attendees will be more focused on what you show them.
Along the lines of removing distractions, you should turn off all pop-ups that occur on the screen from which you are presenting. The last thing you want is a sales person to send you a Skype message cracking a joke and have it show up during the demo. If you do leave Skype (or any messaging application) on, be sure you know the monitor on which the pop-ups occur.
Everyone knows it, but I’m still listing it here. Mute cell phones so that while you’re presenting there is not a constant vibration happening anytime someone emails or calls you.
If you use the same environment over and over, your browser’s cache can become corrupted. Browsers often try to remember passwords, cache content, cache URL paths, etc. and these cached items can sometimes trip you up. I usually clear my cache before each demo to ensure everything is fresh.
Just when you think you’re getting in the groove you will get a “tickle in your throat” and get choked up. You’re going to be talking a lot and a glass of water can save you in long-winded demos and in the moments that you may need to wet the whistle.
I always have a backup environment prepared should something go wrong with the primary environment. This takes more time up front, but it’s worth it. Having that backup environment can be worth its weight in gold.
Have a back-up plan for getting online. Yes, it only happens once in a blue moon, but what if you are scheduled to give a demo on that particular blue moon? Having a My-Fi or hotspot is well worth the investment.
Before the demo, try to find out who will be attending, so that you can speak the right language to them. You don’t want to talk about server architecture if you are demoing to the marketing team; you don’t want to talk to the server guys about lead generation. Tailor your story based on our audience.
This won’t apply to all of you, but I demo websites and online communities.
I make sure I have my site up and loaded in memory by the time they make me the presenter. I don’t want any time wasted on something to load up. So I keep my site “warm” just minutes before the demo so that the site is up and ready to rock by the time I get controls.
Some sites load URL’s from third party services, such as Google Fonts, Facebook, and Twitter. In my demo sites, I try to remove these external calls, so that if Facebook is having a bad day, it won’t affect my load time on the demo. There are scenarios where you have to rely on these external calls, but reduce them as much as you can.
During the introduction, attendees will tell you new information. In some cases the information shared during the intro can drastically alter what you present.
Listening and waiting to talk are two entirely different things. By listening, you can pick up things that may alter your demo. You can also pick up on personality traits, the mood in the room, and social queues that may help you better connect with the demo attendees. Listening carefully can help you establish better rapport with demo attendees throughout the demo.
We like to do a roll call during the intro of a demo as well. It never fails that there is someone in the room that we didn’t anticipate being there. It may be some manager, marketer, or developer who just happened to have another meeting cancel and was able to attend, but usually there is somebody either there or not there that we didn’t expect.
This again helps us to more accurately hone in the demo. If all of a sudden the CEO shows up on the demo, then we’ll be sure to add in the value proposition and benefits of each feature as executives don’t necessarily like to know the nuts and bolts, but ask the “why’s” and the “what results can we get” or “what does this help us do” type questions. Taking roll call will help you be on point with your delivery.
I ask the question early on as to whether or not the attendees have a “hard stop.”. This helps me know whether or not we can get long-winded with explanations or if we need to be very mindful of the time. Attendees may have an extra 10 to 15 minutes at the end and when that happens we know that we have more time for questions. Finding out the exact ending time of the demo early on can help you better manage time.
One thing I strive for is smooth transitions throughout the demo. Whether it’s transitioning from one subject to the next, transitioning from me talking to the attendees talking, or the transition of the “passing of the presenter role,” we want everything to flow as smooth as silk.
I ensure that our sales reps know how to pass the presenter in the meeting software we use.
I also tell them to pass the presenter as they are finishing up their last few points. This gives me time to get the presenter role and share the correct monitor. Otherwise, there is an awkward pause where everyone waits on me to get the presenter controls.
People present in different ways and that’s a good thing. Some like questions and interactivity and some don’t. Whatever your style is, set the tone early so that demo attendees know how to act and what to expect. I encourage questions, interruptions, and interactivity, so I put that fact out there very early on in the demo. Setting the tone will eliminate any guessing on the part of your attendees.
I encourage questions during the “Setting the Tone” stage because I want attendees to feel comfortable asking questions. At the same time, each question equals an interruption. The more questions there are and the more disruptions there are, the less smooth the demo goes.
Over time, you will begin to see where similar questions get asked. After you denote a trend in the same question being asked then just go ahead and answer the question before it gets asked. This will help things flow more smoothly. So, again, while I encourage questions, I hope to give such a thorough presentation that I remove questions just before they get asked!
On some occasions, there will be an attendee who is determined to get you hung up on some very minor technical detail. In these situations, it is your job to control the demo and not let the train de-rail. When these scenarios happen, it’s good to schedule these topics as “follow up” topics so that you can get your demo back on track.
Ever listen to a very dry presenter and wanted to be somewhere else? Don’t be that presenter! When appropriate, I like to inject humor. I crack jokes on the sales guys or on my own Southern accent. Your attendees will relax and build a stronger rapport and maybe even remember you more as a result.
Oh the echo, ooo… ooo… ooo… You know the echo that I’m talking about! We’ve all been on meetings where one person is using their speakers and their microphone picks up on the sound from the speakers which creates an echo effect. The person usually denies that it’s them, it makes things awkward, and then you have to recover and make things un-awkward again.
So what can you do about this? One option is to mute your participants. You can see which participant is making the noise and then mute them. In some meeting software, you can mute all attendees.
You may have heard of the “Power of the Pause” before. If we are presenting a demo and the attendees are not very lively, then I will show a feature and then ask them what they thought about that feature. Sometimes these pauses seem like an eternity and I just let the awkwardness hang until someone responds.
While it seems like a long time on my end, I know that attendees may be in a meeting room with the phone on mute and they may be talking to each other or going around the room seeing if anyone has a question.
When I first started giving demos I was scared to death of not knowing something. Though, not knowing something is perfectly fine. If someone asks you a very technical question there is nothing wrong with saying “Hey, I don’t know that answer, let me check with our engineers and then we’ll get back to you.” Admitting that you don’t know something lets the attendees know that you are human, builds credibility, and it also gives you something to follow up on. Following up continues the conversation and gives you another touch point with the lead.
Just as I’m doing here in this blog post, tell a linear story. Build on top of things you’ve already covered. Telling a sequential or linear story makes it easy for attendees to follow you and better consume the information you are presenting to them.
There will come a time when you have to present or demo something that is complex in nature. When this happens it’s best to try to describe these via multiple concepts. Sometimes people refer to concepts differently so using multiple descriptions can help ensure clarity and that everyone understands and is on the same page.
As you get close to the end of the demo, be sure to check on the clock. If you have a hard stop, you may have to cut a feature set short so that you can leave time for questions. Q&A is critical to the demo because there are some people who will remain quiet until everything is over and then they speak up. We want to ensure that we give those people ample time to voice their thoughts because they can provide great insight.
This is a chance for you to get vital information about the demo. Attendees’ comments can be key indicators as to the demo’s effectiveness and whether or not the lead is ready to move forward.
After the demo is over, we work hard to solidify next steps so we can keep the process moving forward. Identify any “deliverables” that you need to follow up on. Often times these deliverables are PDF documents, blog links, or videos. Summarize the set of deliverables and let attendees know when they can expect them.
Once you’ve established those deliverables be sure to follow up in a timely manner. This will help you keep the process moving forward while things are fresh on the demo attendee’s minds.
The reason we conduct demos is to progress a sale forward. If the demo is effective then the lead will want to continue the conversation. Ultimately the demo is a reflection of the presenter and the organization they represent. By fine tuning the process of a demo you can better move your deals forward! I hope these tips have given you some insight into things you can do to have your demos and presentations at their best.
DNN is an open source .NET CMS and application development framework that is a member project in the .NET Foundation. As the DNN Ecosystem Manager I am well aware of the benefits that our community reaps from the .NET Foundation. Last year I articulated several of these benefits in a blog titled “5 Reasons Why We’re Glad to be a Part of the .NET Foundation”.
Promoting Open Source & the .NET Foundation at Microsoft Conferences
Not too long after I posted that blog, I got an email that included a call for volunteers to help staff the .NET Open Source booth at Microsoft’s Build Conference. I responded to this call for assistance as I felt it was a great way to give back to the .NET Foundation since we receive so many benefits from it. A few weeks later I found myself at the conference and I was telling the story of DNN’s journey in open source. I spoke with attendees and articulated how the .NET Foundation plays a big role in the DNN Community’s ability to sustain and thrive.
The call for volunteers came again this year and I returned and it was apparent that developers in the .NET ecosystem are more aware that the .NET Foundation exists, but they may or may not know exactly what the foundation does or why they should be a part of it. Now that the .NET Foundation has a board in place it is a great opportunity to continue the messaging of the value the foundation provides.
DNN: A Great Case Study Example for the .NET Foundation
As I engaged with attendees over the past 2 years it became clear that DNN is a great case study example of why the .NET Foundation exists. It’s one thing for someone from Microsoft to explain what the .NET Foundation does and it’s a completely different thing for someone who is a member project of the foundation that represents the “living and breathing” example to be there on-site to convey the value and benefits the .NET Foundation provides. Telling the DNN story to attendees helps them understand a “real life” example of an open source project that’s reaping benefits from the foundation.
I think it’s somewhat of a poetic justice that DNN is the prime example of an open source project in the .NET Foundation given DNN’s history of being one of the earliest, if not the first, open source project in the .NET space.
Developers Love Open Source!
Another trend I noticed was the increased energy, appreciation of, and momentum around the open source movement at Microsoft. We had several people come up and show appreciation for how Microsoft is embracing the open source movement and for the role the .NET Foundation plays in that movement. It’s great to see this energy and it’s neat to help turn the lightbulb on for those who weren’t completely aware of what the .NET foundation is doing to help continue the OSS movement at Microsoft and in the Microsoft ecosystem.
.NET Foundation Panel on MSDN Channel 9 Live-Stream from MS Build 2019
If you’ve never been to Microsoft’s Build conference it is pretty big-time production. That is, everything is live-streamed and you commonly see video crews following people around, interviewing speakers/attendees/thought-leaders, and setup all around the stages for the keynotes. There is also a big stage where the cameras are permanently set-up and interviews and panel discussions take place. This year the stage was set up in a corner of the convention center not too far from our .NET Open Source booth.Sometimes you just end up at the right place at the right time and that is exactly what happened to me on the last day of the conference. There was a session scheduled to discuss the .NET Foundation which was slotted for the last day of the conference in the late afternoon. As things turned out, Jon Galloway, Executive Director of the .NET Foundation, had to leave early which left an open seat on the panel. Beth Massi felt bad for me and so I got to be the Jon Galloway stunt double on the panel. You never know where you’ll end up! The panel was more about the .NET Foundation in a broader sense rather than DNN specific, but it was still fun to represent the DNN Community on the panel.
You can find info from the session on the Channel 9 site and you can check out the replay below: