It’s Never Just a Demo

Lessons from WebInno22

A few weeks back I attended WebInno22 in Cambridge MA, founded by David Beisel of Venrock.  The gathering of 500+ technorati – entrepreneurs, investors, potential customers, analysts, press and others, is designed to showcase the work of innovative Boston area Internet and software firms through 5-minute demos.  And those 5-minute demos provided some great lessons.  

Schmoozing and Demos

WebInno is a major schmoozing event and as it turns out, you can gauge a demo’s success by the schmooze volume during each “main dish” demo presentation:

  • Loud schmoozing. People would rather schmooze about their stuff than hear about your demo (sorry).  Not good.
  • Quieter schmoozing. People are more interested in your demo than their schmoozing (holy smokes!)  Very good.

Think I’m kidding?  Boston Globe columnist Scott Kirsner tweeted, “Hey presenters – stop talking while we’re trying to schmooze!” Check out Scott’s blog on too.

It all seems so simple. Show a demo of your innovative product or service and investors, analysts, press and customers will flock to you.  Too bad it’s not that simple.  But as it turns out, it doesn’t need to be that complicated either.

To be fair, some companies were very young and may not have much experience with demos.  Nonetheless, the event provided some great lessons that will help anyone involved with demos.

Demo #1, Planet Cazmo: Too much demo, not enough WIFM*.
The first presenter tried to give a full tour of their online virtual world for kids.  In 5 minutes.  Oy!  It looked interesting but I couldn’t figure out why my own kids would want to use it.  What was the value?  Why was it unique?  He never told us in layman’s terms (or I couldn’t remember him telling us).  The schmooze level (of people that were interested in something other than the demo) was deafening and when it came time to vote on the best product, this company came in last.
Lesson: Tell people what’s special about the service or product and use the demo to show that.
* WIIFM means ‘What’s in it for me” a.k.a., why should I care about this?

Demo #2, Thunder Thimble: Wobbly positioning.
The second presenter had a good product – potentially the best of the bunch – but he got lost in the weeds.  And so did we.  I sort of got his product but his positioning was muddled.  Although Thunder Thimble was product was focused on Twitter, he still had a lot of conventional competitors and he didn’t explain at all why his product was better than theirs.  The product is less than two years old so no one can expect it to be as comprehensive as the others.  But it definitely had potential.  Moderate murmur turned into deafening noise later in the demo. His product came in second.
Lesson: Clear positioning makes for a clear reason to buy.

Demo #3, BuySellAds: Clear value, simple demo.
The third presenter had a solution to a slightly obscure — but real — problem.  Obscure as it was, he did a great job explaining it.  He showed an excellent product but I still liked #2 better.  But demo #3 was far superior to the others and guess what: he won the contest.  The 500 schmoozers yapped least during this demo because it captured their interest.
Lesson: Deliver a simple demo focused on clear business value and you’ll win (literally).

No, it’s never just a demo that people want to see. They want to know why they should care – which you can show in your demo.  Check my next post (coming in a few days) for details on how to build a great product or solution demo.

Check out Web Innovators Group to see more write-ups from press and bloggers.



Filed under Demos, Messaging, Product Marketing, Solution Marketing

9 responses to “It’s Never Just a Demo

  1. Hi, I’m Chad Pytel, the person who presented Thunder Thimble. Thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it.

    At what point in the demo do you think I got lost in the weeds? I’d obviously like to avoid that, so it’d be nice to know exactly when.

    Also, what would you say the conventional competitors to Thunder Thimble are? I know there are competitors but I wouldn’t call them conventional so I wasn’t trying to address them. If the perception was that there are, I’d like to know that so I can address that in the future.

    Thanks again fro your feedback, look forward to hearing more detail about how I can do better in the future.

    • Chad,

      Oftentimes, we software folks give demos that show the cool features in our products without providing much context – such as the big problem being solved, what’s unique, why the viewer should care. In many ways, that was the main point of my post – that when we demo, it’s important to go beyond the demo itself by adding context (without marketing hype).

      Your product looked great in the demo and you did identify a unique differentiator that allows your system to treat tweets more like cases (as in traditional CRM) which is great. But overall, you went through a lot of detail in a very short time and it was a bit challenging to put it in context. I was actually one of the first web CRM tech research analysts back in 1999 so I understood how your product could be used for service and support.

      If I were doing a demo, I’d probably start by framing the problem in order to get the viewer to think, “I have this problem and I need to see this product,” and then I’d discuss just three key elements of the problem, using the demo to show how the product can solve those elements of the bigger problem. I’d quickly conclude with a summary statement of the value of the product, please stop by our demo table, etc.

      Regarding competitors, there are dozens of social media monitoring products including some that are more focused on the CRM aspect, like your company. So it would be helpful to describe where your product fits and how it’s unique. Otherwise, you’ll have people comparing you to a social media monitoring suite.

      CRM social media monitoring products include CoTweet (check out their roster of blue chip clients), (demo) and Lithium. Other social media monitoring products/companies include Radian6 (seems to be the biggest; check out their social CRM press release), TNS Cymfony, Scout Labs, Hubspot, and others.

      Your product looked great and I wish you success!



  2. Steve,

    Great reviews and I love the schmooze volume metric to gauge the demo’s success. Perhaps that can be another metric for us to track.

    Thanks for the shout-out to Radian6!

    Warren Sukernek
    Director of Content Marketing

    • Steve Robins

      Hey Warren,

      Thanks for your comment. I assume you came across this post using your product?

      — Steve

  3. Steve,

    Bingo! But I’m glad the product found the post as I’ve started to subscribe.



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