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Doug Arcuri
Doug Arcuri

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How to Crush Your Next Team Demo

After years of sitting through, and participating in, many sprint demos, here is advice I've accumulated and would like to share with you.

You must appease the demo gods. They will either smile down on you or wreak havoc. It all boils down to preparation. Prepare your demo by walking through it beforehand. Keep it stable, don't change it or rush it last minute. Don't overdo the prep, though.

Spend a moment to introduce yourself. Yes, many times, I had no clue who the person was even in the same organization. Introduce yourself — what you do and the team you're on. I want to know more about you and may seek you (and others) after for a chat on the impressive demo.

Spend 90% on the context, 10% on the walk-through. I have sat through demos with meaning not shared. The why not discussed. Setup the demo as if the audience has no clue of the value. Discuss the goal first. Then, talk through what you are to demo. Finally, in a few short-strokes, click the buttons that make things "happen" for the customer's delight.

Face the audience, speak louder than usual. Some demos encourage those to face the same way as the audience. Attempt to break that cycle by going up to the podium. Having that courage is lovely.

Focus on one central point, and stick to it. Try not to demo many things, stick to one primary value. I have seen demos where there were so many concepts and ideas presented. I appreciated their hard work. But what was important?

Slides aren't necessary, but they can support you. Slides can tell the story. Outline what you are to demo. Highlight the challenges you faced and speak about upcoming future work.

Make sure the audience can see what you see. Lean on the presentation modes in your software so that those can see the work presented. Many times I could not see what was going on. Increase font size for distant readability. I want to see the details.

Always do it live! Walk-through the demo on the device, with a live connection, the way customers see it. Have that covered? Challenge yourself by going as far as live coding.

But plan a quick backup when the gods strike down. Demos are rife with failure. Here is a secret. Create a video or screenshots of the walk-through of what would happen if the demo begins to fail. Talk through it. The audience will be glad, and the gods appeased.

Prepare a shortlist of proposed questions. Give the audience a chance to ask questions. A recent tip I heard and experimented with, expect your audience not to have any questions. If so, throw up a proposed list of items to the audience. There is a good chance it will start a fantastic conversation.

Don't worry, and you're doing great. Every demo is a chance to learn about yourself and the audience. The team is there to support you. Even with failure, there is the opportunity to improve the experience for your customers. It is also a chance to increase shared context. Do this at every opportunity! 🎉

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