Replace your demo scripts with demo set lists
I’m a huge fan of stand-up comedy, and one of my favorite comics is Patton Oswalt. The other day, I was watching his new Netflix special, I Love Everything, and I absolutely loved the stories he told (if you haven’t seen it, he spends the last 10 minutes making fun of Denny’s. What more do you need to know?). And something that has always amazed me about comics is that, they can get up for an hour and tell jokes that they’ve pre-written, and they don’t seem to forget their material. But stand-up comics have a secret weapon – the set list. Set lists are typically associated with musicians. They help the band know the order of songs, so they don’t have to yell “what’s next” across the stage. But comics also use them to remember their jokes.
Comics generally memorize a 5 or 10 minute set, known as a tight 5 or a tight 10. These are routines that they know cold, and that they may use for auditions or quick sets. But for longer sets, their set list keeps them on track. They’re a reminder of what’s coming up next. But they’re not scripts – because a comic wouldn’t be very funny or engaging if they were reading from a script. And they certainly wouldn’t be able to respond to the audience – to shut down a heckler, or to change course if the material wasn’t landing.
Take the late great Mitch Hedberg, for example. He typically didn’t tell long stories, rather, he strung together short jokes. When he performed, he looked like he was just saying whatever musings came into his head – but even he had a set list.
Updating your Presentation with a Dynamic Demo Set List
Demo Scripts can be useful if you’re creating content for a broader organization, or if you’re trying to learn all of the talking points. But no one sounds good reading from a script – at best, you sound robotic. At worst, you sound bored. Either way, no one wants to listen to that.
Instead of writing out every single word, create a demo set. That way, you can have a reminder of what you are going to talk about without needing to write out the entire talk track. You can know your main points, without needing to go into script mode. And you can make sure you’re delivering your demo as the best version of yourself – which allows your demo identity to come through.
This approach also works well if you’re creating demos for others, or if you’re enabling a sales or presales team. Instead of spending time writing out the entire demo, you can focus on the highlights. Shifting from a script to a set list will not only save you time creating the enablement content, but it will also increase adoption. People ultimately don’t like being “boxed in,” so giving them a set list is sort of like letting them bowl with bumpers; they can have some freedom to move around without going into the gutter.