Learn to Deliver Blockbuster Openers for
Demos and Presentations
Ed’s Blockbuster Openers for Demos
In 1996, the first Men in Black movie came out, and one of the things I still remember from that film is the opening credit sequence. Let’s be honest – most opening credits are painfully boring to watch, but Men in Black did something really interesting.
Anyone seeing the MIB knows its about aliens, so the opening credits featured a flying creature (and a score by Danny Elfman that would have been at home in a Tim Burton Movie. At first, it seemed as though the creature was an alien, but the “twist” (not a huge twist, but it counts) was that it was just a bug. A bug that got flattened by a windshield at the end of the credits.
That intro brought the audience in, and had a fun surprise at the end to keep our attention. When you’re demoing or presenting, here are some effective ways to open and grab the audience’s attention:Ed’s Blockbuster Openers for Demos
- Use an anecdote, but make sure it’s authentic
- Media fun
- Defy expectations
- Borrow someone else’s credibility
- Talk about them
1. Use an anecdote, but make sure it’s authentic
As humans, we’re built for storytelling. We consume stories, and remember them (the high notes, if not the details). So why not tell a story to engage your audience? And it doesn’t have to be about your product (it’s better if it’s not) – as long as it’s authentic, the audience will latch on. For example, when I was selling marketing technology, I would open by talking about Norm Peterson from Cheers.
I’m an 80s/90s kid from Boston, so I’ve seen every episode of Cheers. There’s a running gag on the show where Norm, a constantly down-on-his-luck accountant (and, eventually, housepainter) walks into the bar, and everyone yells “Norm!” He walks in, makes a quip about his life, and then sits at his customary stool. But he doesn’t order a beer. Sam, Woody, Coach, or whoever is behind the bar just gives it to him. So they don’t just know his name, but they know what he wants, and they give it to him.
That’s the “ideal customer experience” – now let’s talk about how to scale it with technology.That story worked quite well for me, but it wouldn’t work for someone younger who isn’t from Boston. Just telling a story isn’t enough – it has to be a story that’s authentic to you. By opening with that story, I created trust and communicated authentically. You can do this similarly.
Use the below criteria for judging whether an anecdote is going to be authentic to you. In my story, I
- shared a bit about myself
- brought a cultural touchpoint into the conversation
- offered a reference point that I used throughout the demo to bring the audience back
2. Media fun
Music or movies are certain to grab the audience’s attention – if done right. When I’m facilitating a Demo2Win! course, I start with the opening bass line of Sabotage by the Beastie Boys. That riff is sure to get anyone going first thing in the morning, and it definitely gets the audiences attention. The risk of this approach is that it can get too long too quickly.
There’s something about video that just feels like it takes longer than anything else. I’m sure there’s some scientific reason for it, but I don’t know what it is. Either way, if you’re using media, be very cautious of time.
Ed’s Media Checklist
- Inclusive- Is it inclusive or will it make your audience uncomfortable
- Timing- Never over a minute of media
- Relevance- audience needs to be able to immediately understand within a couple sentences the relevance of your media
3. Defy expectations
I recently did a webinar with our friends at Sales Assembly called “Deliver Demos that Close Deals, not Doors.” The talk was about how the audience’s mood/emotional state impacts how they receive demos, and, frankly, I was having a bit of a hard time coming up with a compelling opening. But as Martha and I talked about it, I started thinking about a book about emotions. It is an excellent book that I read almost daily, that explains emotions in an easy way for the reader to understand.
I, of course, am talking about one of my (1 year old) son’s favorite books – Happy Hippo, Angry Duck – a book of moods by Sandra Boynton. I read the first few pages to the audience, holding the book up to my webcam. The audience wasn’t quite sure what I was doing as I was doing it, but they followed me as I read from a kids book. In front of 150 people. People who weren’t children.
By surprising the audience and getting them curious, the audience was brought into the presentation much faster than if I spent a bunch of time talking about myself.
4. Borrow someone else’s credibility
Not long ago I was working with a company where my day-to-day interactions were with the CRO. He and I worked closely together as I created a new demo for them, and once the demo was done, I had to present it (in role) to the SDRs, AEs and sales engineers. Some of the team knew me, but, for many of them, I was just some dude who was there to talk about demos. So rather than introduce myself, I had the CRO introduce me. He told them why he brought me in, what our goals were, etc. I still had to deliver, of course, but having the boss kick things off ensured that the audience would listen (at least at first).
- Context- why they brought you in
- Position- what role will you be playing
- Qualifications- why you are playing this role in the demo
- Under a minute- be mindful of how much you are asking
5. Talk about them
You can never go wrong by talking about the people in the room. Start by using their names – that’s sure to grab someone’s attention (ever been called out by name in a meeting where you’re not paying complete attention? You’ll focus real quick). Then, tell them about themselves. Maybe recap some discovery findings, talk about some relevant things in the industry (not some big pie-in-the-sky stat, but make it real), or tell them about a customer who was similar to them that you helped. They care about themselves a whole lot more than they care about you, so use that to your advantage (aka demo jiu-jitsu)
Things not to Talk About Them About
- Not too personal, recall details but not about personal lives
Those are obvious, but not that obvious.
These are my best Openers for Demos and Presentations for opening a meeting, and all of them have worked for me. The key is to open in a way that the audience is going to respond, in a way that’s authentic, and in a way that’s relevant to the rest of your presentation. An opening that’s fun but not tied to the audience will leave them scratching their heads. And a confusing demo is certainly not going to help you advance your deal. There is no need to force intimacy but getting to a place where the audience is trusting you to entertain them and add value requires a blockbuster opener. If you are interested in learning more about demo coaching and way to open meetings more authentically, check out more of our products and tools.