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How to Do a Great Demo #3 — Let Your Product Have the Stage

This is a guest post from John Fishback of 154 Consulting, the firm that helps us coach the innovative fintech companies selected for Finovate on their demos.

Titling this post was difficult. 
“Actually demonstrate your product,” “Remember why your company
exists,” and, most simply, “Don’t read a script” were all in contention.

titling difficulties were because this post focuses on how to avoid
some of the problems that plague less successful Finovate demos —
those that lose the audience early or leave them wondering why the
presenting company came to the conference. 

classic examples are those demos that feature a presenter using their
seven minutes to give a short speech about the industry or about the
history of their company, only occasionally rambling near to what’s
being shown on the screen, and stopping only when they reach their time
limit and their microphone is mercifully cut off.

the other extreme, and almost as difficult for the audience, are the
presenters that are so worried about their time and message that they
read closely from an over-worked script, leaving the Finovate
auditorium feeling stuffy and dull.

These two problems feel very different. But they come from the same root cause, and can be addressed by the same three tactics.

root cause of both problems is that the presenter failed to let the
product tell its story. If your product is compelling enough to have
been selected for Finovate, there is something about it that will move
the audience. Putting that powerful thing, rather than your view of
the industry or even the details of your company, center stage is the
first step towards a solid demo.

keep your demo compelling, use these three tactics: get right to the
product, explain the customer’s problem, and use good scripting. 
Get right to the product: 
Continuity Control LogoContinuity
Control got this right
at Finovate this spring in San Francisco. CEO Andy
Greenawalt did a great job of putting his product in context, and then
got right to the demo. Compliance is a complex and inflammatory issue;
he could have spent three or four minutes framing out the challenge. 
But he didn’t. He started showing off the product, and wove detail
about his customers’ challenges throughout the demo. 
a rule of thumb, if you are spending more than a minute
talking before you direct the audience’s focus to the screen, you
should do some hard thinking about whether any portions of your
introduction could be built into other parts of your demo.
Explain the customer’s problem
worst demos show amazing technology that’s hunting for a problem to
solve. The best demos help the audience understand a customer problem
and demonstrate how the product solves that problem.

FinovateSpring 2010 demo
centers around the manager that
approves expenses. CEO David Barrett explains the frustrations of the
approving manager, and then shows how Expensify’s whiz-bang technology
makes those frustrations disappear.

Use good scripting

like to be very clear on this. Carrying a word-for-word speech text
onto the stage at Finovate is a bad idea. Nothing will kill audience
interest more than your reading from the page in front of you.

At the same time, thinking through what you are going to say is crucially important.

break the compromise, start by thinking about the customer’s problem –
solving that situation is why your company exists. Then choose the key screens you
need to show from your product to explain how you solve that problem.

each screen, you need to do three things: navigate the audience to the
screen, describe what they see on the screen, and then explain the
importance or meaning of what they’ve seen.  For example, you might say
“Let’s look at our login screen” (navigate), “Here customers enter
their username and password” (describe), “We do this because everyone
else in the entire world does login this way, so it is familiar to the
customer” (importance/meaning). 

BilleoLogo.gifA better example of this kind of scripting is the Billeo demo from FinovateFall 2009. CEO Murali Subbarao
consistently directs our attention to the screen, describes what’s
happening, and then tells us why the functionality Billeo provides
makes customers’ lives easier.

in this way ensures that the product remains the audience’s main focus
and prevents you from wandering off topic, while avoiding over-scripted

are exceptions to the rule. iPay technologies did a great job of
showing how their product works through a tightly scripted demo, but
they put in a great deal of rehearsal time to make that work, and the
script remained focused on the customer problem.)

Finovate demos, it is the product that matters most. Failing to put
the product first creates a variety of problems, and is the shared
characteristic of the least effective demos. Successful demos follow
many different approaches, but all focus clearly on the presenter’s


This is a guest post from John Fishback. John is the principal of 154 Consulting and directs 154’s Financial Services Product Group, which combines message development and presentation advice services with financial services industry experience to help financial services companies, startups, and vendors develop and market products that speak clearly to customers’ needs. He can be reached at