The best practice article landscape can be fraught with landmines. Here are my field-tested best practices that won't let you down. 

As a solopreneur, I've been on all sides when it comes to product demos. I've been a Sales Engineer and then a Solutions Consultant and Solutions Architect for years, and worked really hard to perfect my own skills. I've then been a leader and had the pleasure of watching my SEs and sales reps do amazing demos, and now, as a solopreneur, I'm on the receiving end of some great, and not-so-great demos. 

As a believer in deliberate practice, my eye goes to the things that don't go well, and I'm constantly on the lookout for ways in which to do things better, faster, smarter, more effectively, and more impactfully. I'm also a little bit of a magpie - I end up with collections of notes on my phone, voice notes, best practices noted in comments of articles, and articles themselves, and I carry in my head several things that people have said, that made an impression on me. 

This article is a collection of some small (and some not-so-small!) product demo best practices that SEs and reps can use to really level up their demo game. I'll start before the start. 

Priming: Things you can do in advance of the demo 

Send a short video preview a couple days before the demo. The aim of this video is to pique their interest and summarize what you do. Most product demos fail because we expect the prospect to digest too much, too fast. Start the digestion process early.

Set clear expectations about which pain points (from the discovery) you are going to address. Preferably, do this via email when requesting the demo meeting instead of just adding it to the meeting agenda. While people usually just glance at the meeting agendas, they still tend to read emails! 

Be thoughtful about setting the meeting time. Always check for the locations (and hence, time zones) of the people in the room. Particularly since we're all doing a lot of virtual product demos now. More on this here

Starting Strong: The first six minutes 

Start with the most impactful portion of the demo. Talk about a specific pain point or challenge stated by the prospect in discovery, and then demonstrate how your solution addresses it. Tell them the whole story, don't leave it to them to correlate.

Check to understand. Ask, "Based on what I just showed you, do you feel this would solve Xo?"
Allow questions to emerge. 

Continuing Strong: After the first six minutes 

Lead with the most impactful pain points. Even if your demo is set for 30 minutes, don't assume you've earned 30 minutes of attention. Do what you did in the first six minutes, on repeat, as you work your way through each of the prospect's pain points, one by one. 

Remember, less is more. Your job is to impress the value of your solution and reinforce your business case. Show them what they came for. No more, no less. This isn't product training, this is a product demo that is meant to convert the prospect! The lesser the number of screens and clicks they see, the lower the overwhelm, and the boredom.

Keeping Them Focused: Minimize distractions

Keep your canvas clean. Hide browser bookmarks (command + shift + B) and minimize unnecessary tabs. Nothing distracts more than a weirdly incomplete browser tab label (Think how maddening a browser tab called 'Solving for Furt' can be). Use presentation mode during slides (if paired with your demo) to reduce visual noise like sidebar, rulers, etc.

No bells and whistles. Turn off Slack, Teams, WhatsApp, and anything else that pops up and/or makes a noise. 

Pro Tips: Low-hanging juicy fruit you can pick today 

Change your mouse color (think purple, hot pink, neon green) to make it extremely obvious where you are clicking (On a Mac > Apple menu > System Preferences > Accessibility > Display > click Pointer)

Slow it down. You've seen your product demo a thousand times. This is the first time for your audience. Sips of water, and awkward pauses where you mentally count to 5 before speaking are great ways to allow audiences to soak in what you’re showing them.

Use the "presenter tools" in Zoom. There are all sorts of stickers and ways to highlight, and other doodads that you might use. Learning is easy: this is one of the best resources out there. 

Conclusion

While these tips all work, they don't do much if you haven't put in the work to customize your demo basis discovery, if you haven't put in the practice you need, or if you still don't know your product as well as you should. 

Sales, like everything else, is about practice. Not rote practice, mind you, but a deliberate practice that involves an investment of time, attention and intention. Everyone gets better with time, but top performers are always looking for an edge to sharpen their learning curve. Don't let this be the last article you read (this week!) on how to make your demos spectacular.