Top 5 tips for a great live demo presentation

You can often find 3Sharp behind the scenes of large event keynotes like Microsoft Ignite helping to ensure the live demonstrations go off without a hitch. In our nearly two decades in technical sales enablement and live event support, we’ve seen it all. Below are the top five tips to keep demos running smoothly.

1. Practice

It may seem like a given for anyone planning a keynote or live demo to practice prior, but for maximum likelihood of success, practice to the extreme.

When you think you've practiced enough, run through your presentation three more times.

Not only do you want to know the flow of your presentation and ensure you have the right ration of demo and story, but you want to make sure you’re familiar with the areas of the demo where there might be risk of something going awry.

Typically, a demo ebbs and flows. There are “wow!” moments and there are times where clicks are required just to transition.

Sharpies Peter and Mike behind the scenes supporting a large keynote

Becoming ultra-familiar with the flow of each demo ensures you are comfortable enough to get through any timing issues and keep your audience engaged.

2. Prepare & plan

For any live demo, especially those at conferences or events, you must prepare and plan ahead. If you are showing at an event, engage the production crew early to address specific needs of your demo.

Things to consider:

  • Do you have enough connections to support all the devices in your demo?
  • Is the internet connection broad enough for your needs?
  • Do you need to plan specifically for wired or wireless connections?
  • Are there any room layout changes needed?
  • Is there enough space on the podium for all of your devices?

Also, put together a full plan for your demo prep – including rehearsal time, setup, and tech checks.

We always try to have a dress-rehearsal on the days leading up to the demo to ensure we’ve accounted for any location-specific challenges.

And don’t forget: on presentation day, you may demo after a presenter who required different configurations.

During your planning, make sure you are aware of exactly when you’ll have access to begin setting up your own configuration.

3. Double-triple check

The devil is in the details and it’s always Murphy’s Law when it comes to live demos. The one thing you forgot to check will definitely backfire once you are live.

It's 100% okay to be paranoid and obsessed with your demo.

More often than not, your presentation is one piece of a very large effort to produce an event. When there are so many moving pieces, you have a very good chance that something will be overlooked. Don’t be afraid to double check your connection (even if the A/V team swears they already did it), and ensure you have what you need and it’s operating as expected. 

4. Fix it for forget it

Sharpie Demo wizard, Scott, behind the scenes at
Dev Intersection supporting Microsoft Azure

If you’ve been giving demos for some time, you understand that sometimes the demo gods are just not on your side.

Technology can be fickle and we often have to make the call in the heat of the moment to either address an issue, or just keep going.

In some scenarios, particularly for smaller or tech-friendly crowds, it’s okay to troubleshoot the demo to get it working. The audience can learn a lot from watching how you problem-solve within the technology. 

For big crowds and less tech-friendly audiences, this can distract from your overall message and you need to move on swiftly.

In either case, don’t dwell on an issue that occurs, over-apologize, or say, “Well, it worked earlier…”. Your confidence in your demo – hiccups or no – drives your audience’s confidence in your product.

5. Expect the unexpected

In the demo world since 2002, 3Sharp and our Sharpies have learned to always come armed with our demo first-aid kits: back-up devices, every possible type of dongle for device connection, extra network cables, batteries, thumb drives, power banks… whatever we may need when we get to the venue and something is missing or simply doesn’t work.

For larger events, we also make sure we have our little black books loaded with the right contacts to quickly resolve issues on-site, including product engineers, backup resources for last minute environment changes, and anyone on the ground from A/V to IT.

Be ready to solve problems.

In some scenarios, particularly for smaller or tech-friendly crowds, it’s okay to troubleshoot the demo to get it working. The audience can learn a lot from watching how you problem-solve within the technology. 

For big crowds and less tech-friendly audiences, this can distract from your overall message and you need to move on swiftly.

Essential Go Bag List

READ MORE: The essential “Go Bag” packing list when demoing at a conference

Whether you’re a seasoned presenter or embarking on your very first adventure, taking heed of these top 5 from our demo wizards will help make you more comfortable presenting live.

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