Q&A: How do you keep software demos lively?

In a recent webinar Worth asked the following question that we didn’t get to during the live session:

“Most of my webinars demos of software or websites.  How do you keep those lively?  It’s obviously easier to tell or show a narrative arc in PowerPoint.”

For those of you who might not be familiar with the term, ‘story arc’ refers to how a story unfolds from beginning to end.  I like the graphic representation of it you find here if you want to learn more about it.

Worth, if you are presentation-literate enough to be thinking about “narrative arcs,” you’re going to do just fine.  This means you have a level of awareness that will serve you well…you get the idea that one, you’re needing to lead someone from Point A to Point B and two, you realize there are points of tension and release.

If you’re using desktop sharing to demonstrate something, the downside might be that you don’t have those “anchor” or “roadsign” slides that clearly point out to the audience where they are on the journey… or do you?

There isn’t a right or wrong answer here.

In a software demo having a story arc means you want to have a clear outline of where you’re taking the audience.  Tell them what the primary learning objective, tell them how you’re going to take them there, remind them (verbally) along the way about where you’re at.  In other words, tell them where the “dots” are and then connect those dots.

Software demos have one typical characteristic that introduces a new challenge for you…audience size.  You will have to grow in your own skills to balance being interactive and answering questions while maintaining a flow that ultimately tells the story you want/need to tell.  How much you do this is an issue of judgment.

One thing I’d be aware of, in real time, is your audience.  Some people love free-flowing discussions, whereas others want you to get to the point.  The risk in more open-ended sessions is that someone might ask you to dive into detail that isn’t relevant for your whole audience.

Which, I might add, is the typical problem of software demos where someone is thinking about “showing features” rather than “telling a story.”  It’s easy for some demonstrators to get enamored with “oh, and there’s this other really cool thing” and lose sight of the meaning or solution that your audience cares about.  Remember, they don’t care about features…the features are a means to an end, a solution to a problem.  That’s where story is powerful.  That’s where Worth, thinking about “story arc,” is ahead of the curve.

How do you keep software demos lively?  The basics are the same as any other presentation… know your audience, understand the problem they’re trying to solve, state clearly what problem you’re solving for them (even if and especially if you don’t know them and their problems personally), and make sure to ask them questions to make sure you’re on track.

One other thought:  depending on the web conferencing solution you are using, you may find it useful to alternate back and forth between PowerPoint and live demonstration.  Some solutions let you do this a little more elegantly than others, but all are manageable with some practice.  This might help you visually support the key points or checkpoints you have as you take your audience from Point A to Point B, including providing natural breaks for questions.

Keep your software demos lively:  audience-focused, on mission, and interactive.

1 Comment

  1. Jacqueline Lawson

    I found your article to have excellent points. Because you can not see the audience it is hard to judge whether or not someone “get its!” Your tips will help me to keep my webinars lively and focused.

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