To Demo or Not to Demo in a Pitch Meeting?

By Jan Schultink

If you are in the high tech sector you face the challenge of demonstrating your product in an investor or sales pitch meeting. If that meeting is short (an hour or less), my advice is not to show your product in a live demo, but use a series of carefully planned screen shots.

Murphy’s law says that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. And it seems to apply especially to high tech demos. There are just so many variables that can go wrong: Internet connection, screens, the application itself.

If you are in the middle of a short pitch any interruption will pop the momentum of your story. Ideally you want your pitch to be one focused burst of energy that gets the audience craving for more at the end. A hiccup because of WiFi password will definitely not get you there.

There is another problem with demos:  not all application functionality is interesting. Logging in, creating profiles, entering some data — all things you have to do– are not the elements of technology that will wow your investors or customers. And finally, a live computer screen is usually not readable when put on an overhead projector, because most fonts are probably smaller than 12 points.

So, what to do instead? Prepare an interesting story, set it up beforehand in your application, take lots of screenshots and paste them in the right order in your presentation. Zoom in to those aspects of the screen that are interesting, crop out those window bars, ads or anything that you do not need. Circle what people should be looking at. Put big bold explanation text boxes on the slides.

Now you have a demo that will not go wrong, is high–paced, readable, and shows exactly the things you want the audience to see. Still it might be useful to bring your application along. However, the purpose is not to showcase it in a demo, but rather to point at it and say: “Look here it is, we have product that you can touch.”

If people in the meeting want to find out more, set up second, longer meeting just to play around with the demo — after your 20 minute pitch has been delivered flawlessly. Not everyone in the audience will have an engineering degree, or will be able to understand the ins and outs of your product.

Still you should be able to explain the basic idea behind even the most complicated technology to a reasonably intelligent audience. Telling them “you won’t probably understand” is a huge offense to the audience. And remember, Einstein said that if you cannot explain something to a 6-year-old, you probably do not understand it yourself.

About The Author:

Jan Schultink is a presentation designer with a decade of experience as a strategy consultant with McKinsey & Company. His company, Idea Transplant, is a presentation design firm that creates conference, sales, and investor presentations.

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