Top Cold Reading Tips for Demos

Following the release of our Course Catalog for Fall and with Sales Kickoff around the corner, we thought it was a great time to give our clients some fun content and tips from magicians, mentalists, and psychics with our Top Cold Reading Tips for Demos. Earlier this week we shared some tips from mentalists, click here if you missed them, and today we are going to go over some cold reading tips, with caution. Our goal is to encourage you to research and rely audience on probabilities over bias in your presentations. Learn to read an audience rather than manipulate one. 

What is a Cold Reading? 

Cold reading is a technique that has been used for centuries by those looking to amuse, profit off, or simply trick an audience into believing they have special powers. Whether communing with the dead, or foretelling the future, cold reading persists because of people looking for answers and reassurance outside of their present reality. This is where SaaS presentations come in. Your SaaS audiences are looking for solutions, and your demo or presentation, in a perfect world, should provide just that, a solution to common problems. 


Prior to the Demo or Cold Reading, Readers or Presenters may be able to choose points of contact in the audience to relate to or read. Cold readers listen to conversations between audience members or could look up anything they could find on their audience or member. If you can fill your audience with points of contact that will be in support of your presentation, even better. Know who is in the room and take inventory of everything you know about them and everything you might not know that could hurt you. You will also need to conduct considerable research on your audience, their industry, and the organization. 

Organizing Probabilities 

Most of the cold reading techniques that you can borrow for your SaaS presentations or demos are not in the delivery of the information or picking the brain of your audience, but in the probability that they will relate to what you are presenting. The best way to prepare for a SaaS presentation inspired by cold reading, is to organize statements with a high probability of landing with your audience. We will offer up some of the ways you frame the information and probabilities, but really the probabilities you gather will be the cornerstone of the presentation. 

Top Cold Reading Tips for Demos 


Shotgunning refers to a statement that would apply to one or more members of the audience. It is a large statement that sounds specific, but applies to almost all audience members. This could easily be a generalized statement regarding the state of the industry, information you gather about their organization, or even the weather. You can read a company blog or repurpose their messaging on a topic and redeliver it in your opening with a different perspective. These types of statements create a base level of trust to begin a presentation. Then you can proceed to a more specific technique based on your discovery. 

PT Barnum 

“You experienced change between 13-15 years old” This is a PT Barnum (yes, the circus founder), coined word play. A PT Barnum trick is really just a probability. Everyone goes through puberty and experiences changes at this age. But really, this is a probability. Consider your audience and the problems they all likely face that your solution addresses. Lead with these, then read the audience when choosing your other features to show, if you have not planned more specific features to show from discovery. 

With these two cold reading probability-based techniques, you can build trust and authority, if you did not begin the presentation with the implicit trust of the audience. Moving on, you will need to really pay attention to your audience and gather information from their reactions. 

Real-Time Information Gathering 

The last technique is how to read your audience through micro-expressions. Reading microexpressions can offer guideposts when to offer more value or move onto a different stage of the presentation. Here is a short guide to microexpressions. 

Micro expressions 

  • Surprise: brows arch, forehead wrinkles, eyelids open, jaw drops 
  • Fear: forehead wrinkles in center, mouth tenses, upper eyelid raises
  • Anger: brows lower, nostrils dilate, lips together
  • Happiness: cheeks raise, crow’s feet near eyes, lips drawn up and back

Depending on audience size, you are not likely to catch all the microexpressions your audience is displaying, but we have a number of other nonverbal cues and frameworks to supplement what you are reading here in our blog. Being aware of your audience and being able to adapt your presentation accordingly takes a lot of work and practice, but just start observing little by little. 

Cold Reading without Bias 

One of the most important things to note in preparing scripts and presentations using these cold reading tips is that you recognize when you are using probabilities based on bias or incorrect demographics. We offer a full bias glossary and we also have expert partners, who are DEI experts, that can consult on your demo pitch deck and demo script to check for bias. 

When you are preparing your presentation and researching probabilities, be vigilant that your statistics are accurate and that they pertain to your audience. The quickest way to lose an audience is to operate on bias or offend them. See more Demo Fails here. 

What can SaaS Presenters Learn from Cold Readers? 

SaaS Presenters and Demoers can learn to read an audience and make small talk that lands from cold readers. One of the beauties that is not really talked about with cold readers is that they are frequently empathic and even if they are not accurate, they can generate repeat customers through reading expressions and making the audience trust the presenter. 

Want to learn more? Follow our blog here.  We are always researching tips for Demos and welcome your feedback!

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