The month of March witnessed the beginning of number of massive changes globally, thanks to pandemic COVID-19. One of the most important ways that our day-to-day changed is the office exodus and transition to remote work. Corporations, mid sized companies, start ups, and small businesses have all been forced, for the moment, to work from home. We don’t see that changing anytime soon. This means that, for many salespeople who are used to in-person demos, the “new normal” is bringing new challenges.

At Demo Solutions we offer Demo Audits of online demo presentations, monthly demos, and demo coaching to increase sales and teach your teams how to close deals with killer demos. But if you need to make your next demo better, here are some simple tips for you to take your Facetime (or Zoom) to Primetime.

1. The deck you use for your demo is not the deck you leave behind. Just like in-person.

Let’s start by talking about your deck. In-person rules apply, but matter even more.

Holding your audience’s attention is hard – and it’s even harder on Zoom. The audience has one-click access to their email, blogs, TV, or just about anything else that can hold their attention. So if you can’t do it, something else will. And that deck that’s chock full of words, which no one wants to read? That’s guaranteed to lose your audience awfully quick. And, because you’re online, they’ll tune out and you likely won’t even know.

2. Use your webcam, even if your audience doesn’t.

Faces are one of the best ways to get someone’s atention, and movement while you are presenting is also a dynamic way to keep the audience engaged. And nothing is less dynamic than the title slide sitting on the screen for ten minutes.

We’ve seen deals close simply because the audience could see one presenter, and not the other. Even in cases where the vendor that one wasn’t the best choice – the salesperson did a better job communicating value simply by being on webcam.

Bonus tip: Warn anyone else living in your house that there is a webcam and that it might be on. At least one relationship has been ruined because one person didn’t know the other was presenting on webcam. Don’t let yours be next.

3. Place your webcam at eye level.

Part of the reason to be on webcam is that you want your audience to feel like you’re talking to them, not at them. To best achieve this, you want to have your webcam as close to eye level as possible, because then it feels like you’re looking at your audience in the eye. Too high, and your audience feels like they’re (literally) looking down at you. Too low (looking at you, Dell XPS laptops with the webcam in the keyboard) and your audience is looking up your nose. And nobody needs that.

4. People will be judging your background. Act accordingly.

There are many opportunities to lose your audience during your demo, don’t make your set up one of them. Have a good webcam (one that plugs into your computer, built-in cameras need not apply), and take the time to create a comfortable designated place in your home office for demos. Have lighting that doesn’t wash you out (Ed is bald – overhead lighting just shines off his head) Do what you can to limit distractions – so if you can avoid having kids/dogs/cats/birds/snakes/tarantulas (I don’t know your life) then you should do so. But with that said, if distractions do happen, own it. Don’t shy away from them, because that makes them even more obvious. We’re human, and audiences will understand – especially post COVID.

Backgrounds are also incredibly important. If you are able to use a real background, do so. Zoom backgrounds are fun, but they can be quite distracting – and not just because of the images. If you don’t have a professional green screen (or at least a contrasting background) then video conference software can’t figure out you vs the background, and the pixelated movement can distract the audience. Plus, the Zoom background fad has worn off.

Here’s another great reason to have a real background – it can be a conversation starter. For example, here’s Ed’s background:

Home office of Ed Jaffe, founder of Demo Solutions

With this background, you can learn a whole lot about Ed. You can tell he’s a music fan, you can see some of his favorite records (Whatever and Ever Amen by Ben folds Five, Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York, Purple Rain by Prince, among others). If you’re particularly observant, you may notice the guitar strap that has the Chicago flag on it. By having this background, virtual calls are a lot more interesting, particularly at the beginning. Instead of “how’s the weather there? Fine, how’s the weather there?,” there are conversations about the albums, about playing guitar, etc.

You can put anything in your background that’s personal to you – sports memorabilia, family pictures, fun signs, the sky’s the limit. Just make sure to keep it clean (literally and figuratively) – that neon beer sign from college? Maybe keep it in the basement.

5.You’re not in a Peanuts cartoon, so make sure your audio is clear.

Not everyone is an audio nerd like Ed is – that’s OK – but you still need to have clear audio on your call and, odds are, your computer microphone isn’t going to cut it. There are a few options – you can have a headset like the one Ed is wearing (he’s currently using a Jabra Evolve2 65), which may look a bit goofy, but has excellent audio. You can also use an external microphone like the Blue Yeti – just make sure not to have it on your desk if you’re planning on typing, because every vibration is going to get picked up by the microphone.

Wired headsets used to be significantly better than bluetooth, but bluetooth has come a long way. But, if you’re going to use a bluetooth headset, get an external dongle (Jabra headsets typically come with one). Most headsets don’t support your computer’s native bluetooth connection, and the dedicated external radio that’s only talking to the headset is going to deliver much stronger audio than an internal bluetooth radio that’s also potentially going to be used for a mouse/keyboard/etc.

If you can, use VOIP (voice over IP – connecting your video call with the computer) as the audio is typically better, and there’s less lag between the audio and video. But if your internet connection isn’t strong, you may want to use a phone instead.

Bonus tip: If you have background noise that is hard to block out, a white noise machine is your friend.

6. Backchannel communication FTW!

You probably have more than one presenter on your side of the call, so use backchannels to your advantage. So if you’re not presenting, but you have something to say, send a message! You have so many choices to do it – Zoom, Slack, iMessage, SMS for the non iPhone crowd, etc. This can either be a reminder for the presenter to do something or it can be a request to talk. This way, the presenter can call on you when they’re ready as to not interrupt their flow. But, be cognizant of item 7…

7. Do not disturb mode. Do not disturb mode. Do not disturb mode. This can not be stressed enough.

Imagine this – you’re crushing your demo, when disaster strikes. A Slack message pops up in the corner of your screen:

Now you’ve got some splanin’ to do. And that’s probably the end of your deal.

Even if it’s not something this egregious, there are all kids of ways popups are going to hurt your presentation. They are distracting – if there’s a pop up message, the audience is going to read it. Guaranteed. And there are all kinds of ways that you can be embarrassed by a pop up message that isn’t about the client: Tinder messages. Texts from your mom. Certain emojis from that special someone (this happened to one of Ed’s friends in front of 200 people. He still makes fun of her for it).

8. Dress for success, but don’t forget that you are in your house.

There are exceptions to this, but for most presenters, the audience isn’t expecting you to be overly dressed up for the meeting. You probably don’t normally wear a suit and tie around the house, so you won’t be expected to dress that way on webcam. But, you don’t want to look like a slob either. If you’re going to wear a T-Shirt, maybe don’t wear “fraternity bar crawl 2002.” And if you need to be a bit fancier, a collared shirt will do. Whether or not you wear pants is up to you, but just make sure the audience can’t tell. And if you’re not wearing pants and close your laptop lid at the end of the call, make sure you’re actually off the call (this also happened to one of Ed’s friends on a conference call. His brightly colored running shorts were pretty great).

Alfred looks great, as always, but is overdressed for a video call