Demo Lessons from Star Wars

May the Force be with your Demo (opener)

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…you got context for this movie

May the Force be with your Demo (opener) Star Wars Opening Crawl

Even if you’ve never any of the Star Wars movies (if you haven’t, go watch the original trilogy then come back. I’ll wait.), you’re probably familiar with the opening crawl. It’s been parodied and copied so many times, that I can guarantee you’ve seen it somewhere, even if not in a Star Wars movie.

It starts with the now famous line, A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away…then, you’re hit immediately with the big opening notes John Williams’ score as you learn some background about the movie. It grabs your attention. It gives you background. And it’s expected of every Star Wars movie.

Even the best stories need context

Imagine it’s 1977, and there’s this new movie out called “Star Wars.” You don’t know anything about it – no one’s ever heard of Wookies, X-Wings or the Force. But before the movie starts, you get context.

It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet. 

Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy….

Think about how much you learned from that. You know who the good guys and bad guys are. You know what the Death Star is. You know who Princess Leia is, and what she’s doing.

Then we’re dropped in the middle of a battle. There’s no more preamble, no narration, no backstory – just fighting. This worked so well because the movie told you what you needed to know. You had context.

Does your demo have context?

Too often, presenters just jump in without giving any context. They don’t tell you why they’re going to show you something, they just show it to you. And when that happens, theres’s usually a telltale phrase.

“Oh, by the way”

This phrase pops out when we realize that we didn’t tell the audience something they need to know. That, without this information, our demo doesn’t make sense. The audience doesn’t know the answer to the question “so what.”

ABC: Always Be Contexting

There are two places in your demo where context is most important and appropriate – at the intro, and before each section.

At the beginning, tell your audience why you’re there. But not all of the “about us” slides, because they don’t care. They don’t need to know why your company was founded, who else works with you, or anything else. (We cover more on this subject, click here) At this point, it’s your job to tell the audience why they should care about what you’re going to show them. How your solution is going to make their life better.

Then, before showing any feature, give some context. What is it that you’re going to show? Why did you choose to show them this feature (you did prioritize the most important features, right?)? And, most importantly, why should they care? Even if you think they know, tell them again.

Once the audience has context, it’ll be much easier for them to follow you. They know what you’re going to do, what they should watch for, and why this thing matters. It’s not only a cue to them that you understand their needs, but also that you respect the their time. Oh, and by the way, when you don’t have to stop your demo to give context, it moves a whole lot faster. And delivers way more value.

Not all Sales Engineers are George Lucas of course, and our marketing and product developers only have so much bandwidth, that is where Demo Solutions comes in with Demo Decks, Demo Videos, and of course Demo Coaching, to get your deal from indie budget to a blockbuster.

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