Psst Customers – Some Software Demo Tips For You

Posted by: on Apr 7, 2010 | 11 Comments

In a previous post I gave out some software demo tips for vendors. Since then I have participated in another round of software demos and this time I have some tips for all you customers out there.  Yes, you read that correctly. Customers also needs some tips to get the most out of software demos.

  • Create “killer” scenarios ahead of time and send them to the vendor (ahead of time, like way ahead of time so the poor vendor can be prepared). Don’t know what a killer scenario is? Head over to Naomi Bloom’s blog here, here and here to educate yourself.
  • Assign an owner for each scenario. When questions arise during the demo about the scenario, the owner should be prepared to answer that question.
  • Bring all participants for the demo to the same city, same building and same conference room.
  • If you ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY can’t have everyone in the same room (are you sure you really can’t get everyone in the same room?) then make sure you get a conference room with a conference phone with enough microphones so the remote participants can hear the presenter and any questions from the audience.
  • Speaking of conference rooms, make sure you get a large enough conference room that everyone has a seat near a microphone.
  • If the demo starts at 9am, make sure the vendor shows up at least 15 minutes early and that you, the customer, have the room ready for the demo.  By ready I mean, network connectivity for the vendor’s computers are ready, projector is powered on and warmed up. Otherwise the demo is likely start very late.
  • If you have remote participants, DON’T PUT THE CONFERENCE PHONE NEXT TO THE FAN ON THE PROJECTOR. I’m sure you can figure out the issue with this one without me having to spell it out for you.
  • Make sure you only have 1 version (1 truth) of your scenarios and fit/gap documents. Use version control and backup copies of your documents to ensure you know who updated the documents. Do not let the vendor take ownership of your documents and massage them to meet their needs for the demo or suddenly you will find yourself not on the same page (literally) with the Vendor during the demo.
  • Match the content of the demo with the participants.  If the demo is to show you the GL interface for Payroll you don’t need the head of HR but you do need your Payroll accounting folks.
  • Put away the Blackberry and pay attention to the demo. I know this one is really hard for some of you but you will surprised how much more you get out of the demo when you give it your FULL attention.

Okay, that’s my list off the top of my head.  What did I forget?


  1. Deirdre
    April 8, 2010

    Don’t interrupt the presenters
    Take notes
    Don’t leave to “take an important call” unless it is truly life or death.


    • Michael Krupa
      April 8, 2010

      Thanks. Good tips. I’m okay with interrupting the presenters if the question is very relevant to the demo at that moment. Idle comments that interrupt the flow are a no-no.

  2. Bryon Abramowitz
    April 8, 2010

    Mike – great list! A few other key suggestions for a highly successful demo:

    1. Schedule time for everyone to debrief immediately following the demo – while the demonstration is still fresh in everyone’s memory. Discuss, debate, fight over what everyone liked/disliked and concerns

    2. Appoint a single individual to serve as the official note-taker. Have this person track all unanswered questions, follow-up/action items, etc. At the end of each scenario – review the outstanding items and assign ownership and due dates right there. Submit the list to all participants at the end of the demonstration

    3. Scorecards! In order to allow people to more easily follow along with the demonstration and provide structured feedback I’ve found scorecards to be critical. This helps to provide a formal quantitative analysis of the feedback to support any discussions or decisions regarding product

    4. Schedule breaks into the agenda. Seems silly to have to mention this, but I’ve seen this overlooked more than I would care to admit. In addition to the biological needs, responding to voicemail (you did ask them to turn phones off, right?) demos rarely go according to schedule and failure to schedule breaks doesn’t allow for any opportunities to make up lost ground.

    5. Always have a whiteboard or flip chart handy. Some demonstrations are best augmented by some “chalk talk”, and not having this available for the demonstrations may result in key concepts being overlooked, misunderstood, etc.

    • Michael Krupa
      April 11, 2010

      Love these. Thanks. In all of my vendor demos the last couple of months we actually did do all 5 of these so I guess we are following more best practices than I thought.

  3. Beth N. Carvin, Nobscot Corporation
    April 9, 2010

    Great lists by both Mike and Bryon.

    Here are some more items to consider:

    – Make sure you schedule enough time. If your Sr. Exec tells you to give each vendor 10 minutes, you need to question authority.

    – Prep your team to keep questions relevant to the primary objectives and topics at hand. Often there is one person who either gets excited about a side functionality and uses up a lot of time asking peripherally related questions or someone who wants to show how smart they are by throwing out “hardball” (but irrelevant) questions that would be better saved for post-demo discussion.

    – Be flexible on how the killer scenario will play out. Allow the vendor to approach it from whatever angle they think is most relevant and helpful. Sometimes with new technology you don’t know what you don’t know. By defining narrow parameters for the demo you may miss out on seeing better ways of approaching things. You will also learn more about how the vendor thinks and what kind of overall, business strategy expertise they have. Anyone can follow a script, knowledgeable vendors can start with an objective and work backwards.

    – Last, my colleagues would say that I was remiss if I didn’t add – Offer your guests the use of the restroom when they first arrive and a glass of water (in that order!)

    • Michael Krupa
      April 11, 2010

      Beth – Thanks. These are great. To your second point, I’ll add don’t let your teammate run off with the vendor during the break to have a side conversation/demo. All questions and functionality demos should be done with the entire group. Good point about being flexible on the killer scenarios. We had the team create the killer scenarios and then the leads reviewed and re-worded any scenarios that were too narrow or only applied to the system that was being replaced. Thanks for mentioning the last point about restroom and water. I’m sure in the excitement of getting ready for the demo many customers forget this one.

      • Beth N. Carvin, Nobscot Corporation
        April 11, 2010

        That’s great that you had a review of your killer scenarios prior to meeting with the vendor. I bet that made a big difference. Narrow scenarios can really lead you to miss out things you you hadn’t thought of previously.

        I think the best demos are the ones that are flexible enough to allow for some good brainstorming between the company and the vendor.

        Which reminds me about one more thing — It’s great if you can find out from the vendor not only WHAT the technology does but also WHY the vendor uses a particular approach. You can learn a lot about new best practices and also discover the vendor’s level of knowledge of the Industry.

  4. matt chapman
    April 12, 2010

    Confirm whether a function/workflow is standard out of box functionality, configured (by vendor) as part of implementation fee, can be configured by client (no additional cost) or requires a customization (code change by vendor).

  5. Here’s the Not So Corporate #HRCarnival |
    April 13, 2010

    […] Some software Demo tips for CUSTOMERS from the InfoBox blog of Mike Krupa […]

  6. Aimee
    July 9, 2013

    Thanks for this interesting article. I’d love to read the referenced one about tips for vendors giving demos but the hyperlink is not good. I also couldn’t find it via search or looking at articles by the same author. Is it still kicking around someplace?


    • Michael Krupa
      July 14, 2013

      Link fixed. Thanks for letting me know.