This post is an excerpt from my book “Giving Memorable Product Demos”.
Even though your demo is well rehearsed and you are conﬁdent your message is well crafted and in logical order, many things can still go wrong during a demo.
Experienced demonstrators will have run
into some challenges before,
and therefore know how to work around them,
so they won’t become a show-stopper.
Be Prepared – Expect the Unexpected
The secret is to always expect the unexpected and to be prepared with a backup plan, just in case. You never know when you might need it.
Have you ever noticed that things that can go wrong will go wrong just at the wrong time? Like having the projector bulb explode in front of 200 people as soon as you are ready to begin. And, it’s your projector. Or, having your laptop go into sleep mode while you are explaining a feature of your product. And, when you bring it back, everything is frozen! Or, having your laptop fall onto the ﬂoor while you are waiting in the lobby. Of course, it was a total accident. But now the screen is cracked in three places and it won’t even start. What do you do now? What is your backup plan?
If your demo doesn’t have a solid backup plan,
it’s like driving a car without an emergency brake.
Although we rarely use the emergency brake for an emergency, we always know that there is a backup plan within reach. The same should be true for your product demos.
When You Only Get One Chance to Give Your Demo
There are times when you only get one chance to give your demo. In fact, it’s most times. If you have a backup plan, you may be able to survive what could be a disaster for you, your team, and the audience should something go awry.
Everyone understands that sometimes things go wrong. Those same people will truly appreciate seeing how you recover when something unplanned happens or a failure occurs.
However, having a backup plan is only one side of the coin.
The other side is you must practice your backup plan.
Don’t just have one.
As an example, unplug your laptop right in the middle of a practice demo and see what happens. Even if you have a battery in the machine, you may ﬁnd that your demo gets all messed up when the machine changes from A/C power to battery power. Unless you experiment with some possibilities beforehand, you may be caught off guard. If you cannot recover gracefully, you run the risk of losing the opportunity to give your demo and making the sale.
What Can Go Wrong in My Demo? What Else?
If you need some help creating a backup plan, start by asking yourself this question: “What are the worst things that can go wrong in my demo?” You should be able to easily come up with a list of answers.
Once you have this list, then answer this question, “What else can go wrong that will ruin my demo?” Make another list.
Using these two lists, map out several backup plans that address the most common or insurmountable possibilities. Most demos will need to have multiple backup plans because of the sheer number of things that can go wrong. Practice those backup plans as often as possible. The more you are prepared, the easier it will be for you to handle any situation that may present itself.
It’s true that no one can prepare for every situation that may arise. However, it is good to make sure that you prepare and practice a plan for the most likely and most devastating emergencies. You may ﬁnd yourself in a situation where you can save the day by being able to recover and continue your demo to its successful conclusion. Being a hero is not such a bad thing for you once in a while, but even heroes have to practice…especially to expect the unexpected.