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What makes a great demo?

Quick Answers

A great demo showcases the key features and benefits of a product or service in a compelling way. It should quickly grab the audience’s attention, clearly communicate the value proposition, and inspire them to take action. An effective demo is concise, interactive, visually engaging, and customized to the audience. It focuses on their pains and needs, not just product capabilities. Great demos require thoughtful planning, tight messaging, smooth delivery, and the ability to adapt to the audience’s reaction. They balance education with inspiration and emotion. The demo presenter must connect with viewers as a trusted advisor, not just a salesperson.

What is the Purpose of a Demo?

A demo serves several important purposes:

  • Introduce a new product or key features
  • Showcase how a product works
  • Highlight the concrete benefits and value proposition
  • Allow prospects to experience the product for themselves
  • Help prospects visualize how the product would work in their environment
  • Inspire prospects to learn more or take the next step

In short, an effective demo moves prospects further down the sales funnel by showing them how your solution can help them achieve their goals and improve results. It brings the benefits described in sales materials to life through an interactive, narrative-driven presentation.

What Makes a Great Demo?

There are several key ingredients that combine to create an impactful, persuasive demo:

Concise Overview

The demo should start by succinctly articulating the core value proposition and key benefits of the product or service. There should be just enough context to orient the audience without getting bogged down. The opening should capture attention and spark interest in learning more.

Relevance to Audience

Customize the demo to resonate with the specific audience segment based on their role, industry, company, goals, and pain points. Adapt the content flow, key points, use cases, visuals, and examples to be highly relevant to them. Speak their language using terminology they relate to.


Instead of a static, one-way presentation, make the demo interactive and hands-on. Give prospects opportunities to click around, input information, customize settings, run reports, and otherwise experience the software more directly. Interactivity results in higher engagement and information retention.

Visual Showmanship

Leverage intriguing visuals, data visualizations, and multimedia content to bring the presentation to life. Animation, custom graphics, video clips, and other visual elements can capture attention while communicating key information clearly. Keep visuals simple enough to enhance the content without becoming distracting.

Storytelling Flow

Shape the demo as a compelling story arc rather than disjointed features. Build drama and interest by taking prospects on a journey from their current struggles to a better future enabled by your solution. Use vivid narratives to connect on an emotional level.

Conversational Tone

Strike a conversational, friendly tone instead of formal lecturing. Smile, make eye contact, use humor when appropriate, and engage viewers in a genuine dialogue. Read the room and dynamically adjust based on their reactions.

Clear Messaging

Ensure the demo directly supports and sharpens the core messaging strategy. Reinforce key differentiators, value drivers, and qualities you want associated with your brand. Stay on message without diluting focus.

Smooth Delivery

Practice the demo extensively to perfect the timing, flow, and transitions. Deliver the narrative conversationally with enthusiasm and confidence. Technical glitches or fumbling through content destroys credibility. Prepare contingency plans for issues.

Call to Action

Close the demo with a clear call to action, such as a free trial signup page, pricing page, or next consultation. Provide an easy bridge to move prospects along the conversion funnel. Customize calls to action based on prospect segments and readiness levels.


Observe prospect reactions carefully and dynamically adapt the demo on the fly as needed. Slow down or dive deeper on high interest areas. Speed up or trim sections that engage less. Adjust to better resonate based on their specific needs.

How Long Should a Demo Be?

Ideally, demos should be as concise as possible while still effectively showcasing key benefits and capabilities. Typical demo length ranges from 10-45 minutes. Consider these factors when determining duration:

  • Complexity of the product – More complex products require longer demos
  • Size of audience – 1:1 demos can be shorter than group presentations
  • Prospect segment and interest level – Highly engaged prospects warrant deeper dives
  • Time constraints of audience – Shorter demos for busy executives
  • Demo goals and metrics – Time required to deliver desired outcomes
  • Interactive elements – Hands-on activities add time
  • Presenter skills – Stronger presenters communicate faster

The key is keeping prospects highly engaged without overwhelming them. It is better to deliver an impactful 20 minute demo than lose the audience during an hour-long technical deep dive.

How to Create an Effective Demo Narrative

Crafting a compelling, cohesive narrative is essential to demonstrating effectively. Follow these tips:

Identify the Hero

Position the audience as the hero of the story you will guide them through. Emphasize how they are struggling today and need to achieve critical goals.

Introduce the Guide

Present yourself/company as the guide who will lead them on a journey to overcome obstacles and accomplish their mission. Build rapport and credibility.

Set the Stage

Provide just enough background context about the market landscape, their challenges, and your solution category. Create common ground.

Sequence Key Scenes

Map out the key scenes of the narrative in logical flow. Each scene highlights capabilities, transitions smoothly, and builds to the climax.

Bring in Supporting Characters

The hero can’t go it alone. Introduce supporting characters like use cases, customers, or specific features to assist the journey.

Hit Obstacles

Obstacles and conflict make the story more dramatic. Share common pain points and problems your solution is designed to overcome.

Achieve Success

The climax is when the hero achieves their goal thanks to your solution. Vividly illustrate the benefits and ideal future state.

Close with Next Steps

Once success is achieved, prompt the prospect to continue the journey with clear next steps after the demo.

Demo Best Practices

Here are some key best practices to employ when delivering demos:

  • Know your audience – Research prospects and tailor content accordingly
  • Limit slides – Slides complement but don’t replace the narrative
  • Start strong – Grab attention in the first 60 seconds
  • Balance benefits and features – Benefits resonate more than features
  • Bring key differentiators to life – Illustrate what sets you apart
  • Quantify outcomes – Use data to illustrate impact
  • Leverage visuals – Charts, images, video clips, etc.
  • Monitor engagement – Observe prospect reactions in real-time
  • Manage pace and flow – Balance breadth and depth appropriately
  • Interactconversationally – Make it a dialogue, not a script
  • Practice extensively – Refine timing, transitions, and delivery
  • Have contingencies – Be ready to handle technical glitches
  • Leave time for Q&A – Allow prospects to clarify and engage further
  • Provide takeaways – Useful materials to reference after the demo
  • Follow up promptly – Continue the conversation

Demo Formats

Demos can take various forms and formats beyond a standard slide presentation. Consider options like:

  • Live – Presenter controls demo in real-time tailored to audience reactions
  • Virtual – Remote demos via screen sharing, video conferencing, etc.
  • Self-guided – Prospects independently click through demo at own pace
  • Narrative video – Short video clip highlighting typical usage and benefits
  • Webinars – Online demo presented to a group audience
  • Prototype trials – Limited but functional access to actually try the product
  • Immersive – VR/AR environments to showcase solutions in simulated real-world contexts
  • Ambient – Demos embedded seamlessly into rep/prospect conversations

Match the format to the product strengths, prospect needs, and resources available. Provide a combination of formats where possible.

Demo Team Roles

For group demos, each presenter should play a specific role:

  • Facilitator – Leads presentation, narrative, Q&A
  • Driver – Controls the actual demo environment on screen
  • Drawer – Illustrates concepts on virtual whiteboard
  • Spike – Provides technical details on how features work

Assign roles based on team members’ strengths. Maintain consistency across demos. Drive coordination through extensive dry run rehearsals.

Building an Effective Demo Environment

The demo environment itself requires thoughtful design:

  • Focus on key modules/functionality for concise demos
  • Curate realistic data sets, scenarios, and use cases
  • Set up clear navigation and logical flow between sections
  • Ensure polished visual design and experience
  • Confirm technical stability and performance
  • Enable prospect interaction where possible
  • Support dynamic customization based on prospect profiles
  • Provide takeaway user credentials so prospects can explore further on their own

Invest time upfront in building a robust demo environment to enable smooth, compelling demos consistently. Maintain and continuously improve the environment over time as the product evolves.

Managing Nerves and Technical Glitches

Demos often provoke nerves and technical problems can disrupt the flow. Prepare to handle these situations gracefully:

  • Practice extensively to build confidence and internalize content
  • Focus on conversing with the prospect, not just presenting
  • Pause and take a breath if needed to refocus
  • Have backup of all critical files and assets
  • Confirm software is updated and stable prior to each demo
  • Check connectivity and resolve issues early
  • Reset environment between demos if needed
  • Acknowledge glitches transparently and keep things moving
  • Improvise and abbreviate sections if needed; rescue the core narrative
  • Capture issues to diagnose root causes and improve afterwards

With the right preparation, mindset and contingency handling, you can deliver an effective demo experience even when things do not go as planned.

Customizing Your Demo

While you need a solid base structure, customize aspects of the demo on the fly based on prospect specific needs:

  • Highlight certain features, integrations or capabilities that resonate
  • Emphasize different benefits and outcomes
  • Use their industry terminology and examples
  • Show workflows specific to their role
  • Focus more on relevant objection handling
  • Adjust pacing or content depth up or down

Adapt your narrative, visuals, talking points, and flow while maintaining the core structure. Read prospect body language for engagement. Match the energy in the room. Make each demo feel tailored just for them.

Demo Metrics

Track key metrics to optimize your demo impact over time:

  • Audience satisfaction score
  • Average demo length
  • Prospect questions and feedback
  • Number of prospects converted to next funnel stage
  • Sales cycle acceleration
  • Win rate for demoed opportunities
  • Cost per demo
  • Full demo/partial demo ratio
  • Post-demo prospect survey feedback
  • Section engagement levels
  • Technical glitches and recovery rate

Continuously refine your demos to boost these metrics based on field testing, feedback, and quantifiable results. Share best practices across the demo team.


A compelling product demo serves as a pivotal moment to engage prospects on an emotional level and bring your solution to life for them. Great demos require careful crafting of narrative, visuals, and interactive elements combined with polished delivery and adaptability. Invest time upfront in building a stellar demo experience, and continuously refine it based on feedback and metrics. With a thoughtful approach, your demos can become a key competitive differentiator and driver of sales success.