How to deliver high-impact demos – Part 2


Here is the second article in the series.

Read the
first article
before reading this one.

Estimated reading time 7 min


We saw the importance of depth of knowledge, understanding the audience, using a separate user profile and opening files quickly. Let us continue from there…

Use the right language

What you speak is very important. The language can be simple, complex, sophisticated, provocative, quizzing, confusing, boring, depressing, stimulating, motivating, friendly, high-handed, respectful, derogatory or offensive.

You have to build your vocabulary very well so that you can choose the right type of language and tone depending upon the task at hand and the audience.

For senior management – use respectful tone and refined vocabulary.
For colleagues, use friendly language, some slang is also effective.
For students, use motivational, thought provoking and inspirational language.

Do NOT worry too much about this initially. But have the ability to say the same thing in different ways. That will improve your communication effectiveness BEYOND the demos.

DO NOT use jargon

A technical term which is not understood by the audience is called Jargon. If a programmer is talking to a programmer and they use the term “garbage collection” it is NOT called jargon.

But if you tell a CFO that SharePoint is “basically, an ASP.NET based platform for enhancing document lifecycle, collaboration and workflow automation”, you have failed miserably.

The right ways to describe SharePoint is NOT to utter that word at all! Read on to understand what I mean by this.

Utilize relevant technical / business terminology
(Reverse Jargon)

This is reverse of jargon. If you are a trainer and your audience is from a bank, you must know their language, their terminology, if possible the company specific acronyms and so on. On day one, it is jargon for you. But you are the one addressing them. So you have to put in extra effort to  imbibe their terminology.

I am not asking you to be an expert in banking and manufacturing and media and telecom and thousand other fields of business. All I am asking you to do is to learn the commonly used terms. This is best done by reading a good book. Often there are glossary sites available. Glossaries are usually in alphabetical order – so reading them is not logical.

But you can do one exercise where you learn the subject and arrange the glossary in a logical order. This is the best way to learn a new field quickly!

When you learn a new concept, try to map it to some thing you already know. Associating unknown with known will make it much easier to remember and utilize that knowledge.

Do NOT show of What’s New only

As technologists we are easily enamored by latest and greatest advances and fads in our field. But remember that your audience may not be equally mesmerized by these things.

In fact, most often they cannot even relate to what you are saying. This happens because your knowledge level about the subject is far better than the knowledge level of the audience in the context of the topic being discussed. That is why you are demonstrating the product to them.

The solution is to quickly find out what is their level of understanding / expertise. Start from there and then quickly move them to the latest concepts in a smooth manner.

If you leave that gap unaddressed, you will lost their attention and you will not achieve the desired impact / outcome.

Show problem and solution

Start with what people are aware of. Illustrate or at least explain the need, the purpose, the problem you are trying to solve. Confirm from the audience that they indeed are facing the problem. If not, move on to another topic. Providing solution to a problem they don’t have is futile.

After demonstrating the solution, recap the benefits. You may be delivering that demo frequently, but the audience has seen it for the first time. So they need extra time and explanation to appreciate the benefits.

Don’t just stop there. Go beyond the obvious benefits and explain additional ideas of utilizing the features in various contexts. Often the same technology can be utilized in many different situations. Take time to explore and highlight these situations.

You need not DEMONSTRATE each situation. One situation should be used as a demo and others should just be mentioned – to channelize the thoughts of the audience. People are smart enough to put two and two together quickly.

Read these articles to understand how it is done…
Custom sorting in Pivot Table using Custom Lists
Never miss important points during a meeting. Use OneNote audio recording.

After you show the solution, use Jargon

For example, you have shown what happens if users send files to each other by mail. Too many copies, too many versions and total confusion. Now, you have also shown how efficient it is to store it centrally on a secure web site, share the link and demonstrated the brilliant and intuitive “simultaneous editing” feature.

Highlight the benefits and confirm from the audience that it is indeed a very useful and valuable facility to have – now that they know about it.

Finally say that “incidentally, this is called SharePoint”.

Jargon should be introduced to give a short name for the 12 impressive and relevant benefits you just showed!

Create slides to illustrate – not describe

Just a demo becomes boring and confusing. Create slides which will control the flow and clarify thoughts.

DO NOT create :

  • too many slides
  • crowded slides
  • complex slides
  • scary diagrams

The idea of creating the diagram is to ILLUSTRATE and SIMPLIFY.

DO NOT use the slides to describe things. That is YOUR job.

Write a script

Even if you are the expert, it is always a good idea to write a script. In fact, the more expertise you have, the more important it is to have a tight script. Why? Because otherwise you will get lost in your own knowledge trail and confuse the audience.

If you don’t have time to write a verbose script, at least create a list of topics / issues to be discussed. Write it in whatever order it comes to your mind. Reorder the list. Trim it by eliminating unwanted stuff.

Write it on paper first. Then type it in Word. Word helps you reorder things quickly (Shift Alt Up / Down). Once your thoughts are frozen, convert the Word document to a presentation.  Read this article for details: Create a presentation in One Click

Rehearse and take feedback if possible

Even if you know the subject well, speaking the right language, choosing the right files, working on the laptop and speaking simultaneously DOES require practice.

There is no substitute to rehearsal. You may not have the skill on day one, but you must strive to develop the ability to work and talk simultaneously while demonstrating stuff.

So often we see that people stop talking when they start demonstrating. This introduces long pauses with incoherent speech in-between. Extremely irritating for the audience.

With practice everyone can acquire this skill.

Learn to use Zoom effectively

If you are only going to show a presentation, you do not usually need to zoom in. If there are intricate diagrams / photos / maps / engineering drawings, you may need zoom even while presenting from PowerPoint.

If you are showing the user interface, code, configuration, etc., the font size is usually so small that even the person sitting in the front rows cannot notice and appreciate your demo. Therefore, Zoom becomes a necessity.

Zoom is not just about knowing Windows + and – keys. It is an art.  Because when you zoom in, you essentially see 25% (or less) of the screen. You should know where you currently are and where do you want to navigate to next. The movements are amplified. So even the slightest confusion or groping is shown vividly to the audience. They get the feeling that you don’t know the topic well enough.
That is why using ZOOM also requires practice.

Read these articles about how to use Zoom to enhance your demos and presentations:
Knowledge Pack: High Impact Demos and Presentations using ZOOM (6 articles)

Learn to manage two displays

If you are showing a collaborative activity requiring more than one (usually two) users, you need to have a special setup. Here are demos which cannot be delivered with only one user involved: Lync, Simultaneous Editing, Yammer, Comments with reply in Word, Office Presentation Service for delivering presentations with just a browser, and so on.

You have two choices. If the collaboration can be done just using a browser, use two different browsers – one for each user.

In case of simultaneous editing in Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, you can use one full product on the demo laptop and the other user can login using a browser to edit the same document.

In case of Lync or anything else which requires two rich client tools with separate user logins, a combination of virtual machine and host or two physical machines is required.

Even if you use another machine, you can show the other machine on remote control (MSTSC or any other tool) and switch between user contexts.

For best results have a switcher which accepts two VGA inputs from both laptops and provides single output to the projector. If you do this often, invest in a cheap switcher. I use this one (around INR 300 or USD 6 USD). Remember that you have to carry TWO VGA cables with you because at the venue there will be only ONE VGA cable which will go between the IN/OUT port of this box to the projector. One VGA cable costs approximately INR 100 or USD 2.


Insufficient Cable Length

This is an extremely common problem which has a very simple solution. In reality all of us suffer. The problem is that the projector cable is short and you have to struggle to sit near the projector table. This way you may even block the view of the screen for the audience.

The simple solution for this is to buy couple of VGA adapter (INR 150 or USD 3) plugs and a VBA cable. This adapter is called a “Gender Changer” Smile. It allows you to fit two regular VBA cables on either side – thus doubling the range between projector and laptop.


Related Articles in the series

How to deliver high-impact demos – Part 1
How to deliver high-impact demos – Part 3


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