Five Rules for a Seamless (and Effective) Demo

As a product manager, your goal with a weekly or biweekly product demo is three-fold:

  1. to make sure your stakeholders are kept up to date with the progress of the development team
  2. to identify new backlog items that add value
  3. to call out anything that would keep the demoed software from being released.

The performance is up to you, but here are five rules to help you lead a seamless, more effective demo.

Before the Demo

Rule 1: Invite the right people. Before the demo, you should be focused on who needs to see what. Make sure you invite and confirm the required attendees, and put together a short script for the demo. These two often go together, because what you’re going to show determines who needs to be there to see it.

Rule 2: Make sure the team is prepared. Establish who is facilitating the demo (you, the Product Manager), who is running the demo (typically a developer), and who is scribing the feedback during the demo. Confirm that each team member has done the preparation they need to do in advance.

During the Demo

Rule 3: Provide context and focus on outcomes. At the beginning of the demo, explain how the demo works and how feedback is collected. Then set the business context for what is going to be demoed. Show why a change has been made and who benefits from the new behavior.

After the Demo

Rule 4: Be reliable and follow up. After the demo, follow up with individuals who had feedback that needed to be parked. Arrange more time if necessary, or a one-on-one session to capture that feedback. Make sure any action items related to the software (such as text changes) are recorded as tickets for subsequent triage and implementation.

In Closing

Rule 5: Don’t forget why you’re demoing. Remember: the most important thing about the demo is not defending the work of the team. The most important thing is that the attendees get the best possible understanding of the software that is being released, and the impact and outcomes of the changes.

If you follow these five guidelines you’ll build trust with your stakeholders, and your demos will be seamless, focused and more effective.

Are you a developer running a demo for the first time? Here's a perfect demo checklist to get you started.

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Lab Zero is a San Francisco-based product team helping startups and Fortune 100 companies build flexible, modern, and secure solutions.