This post will be the first in a series on effective enterprise technology demos. I will share tips, tricks, and lessons I have learned over 5 years giving demos to everyone from analysts to C-Levels execs. Each post will contain a specific and actionable way to improve your demos immediately. Today, we will talk about how to use the first 2 sentences to capture the audience’s attention.

The Problem: Like it or not, these days every person walking into a meeting can easily zone you out (with computer/tablet/phone) to do work they deem more important than listen to you. This is especially tempting when dealing with a vendor. This means you need to prove to them that listening to you is worth their time.

The Solution: In my experience, I’ve found that you only have two sentences to earn the audience’s attention. If that introduction does not make it clear to them they should listen to you, you’ve lost. In order to pull this off you must:

  1. Articulate the customer’s goal: To grab your audiences attention, you must explain, in the customer’s terms, what their long-term vision/strategy is and that you will be showing how your product can help them get there
  • Intro Demo Example: “I will demonstrate how customers and partners use 1010data to share and monetize their data by rapidly prototyping and ultimately deploying analytic applications for their partners, customers, and suppliers.”
  • Intro Demo Mistake: “Today I’ll be demoing three parts of 1010data: our ad-hoc analytic environment, our application building capability - a WYSIWYG analytic application builder - and our Excel Add-In.”
  • Final Presentation Example: “I will then show how Systems Corp will enable you to reduce the number of stops each driver will need to make. This will, in turn, save you 2.5%/year on fuel costs, 1.5%/year on labor, and result in a net savings of $40mm/year direct to your bottom line”
  • Final Presentation Mistake: “I will show how we used Self Organizing Maps, a type of neural network, to find ways to optimize your supply chain.
  • Lesson: The focus is on their goals, not your product! Remember, the first 2 sentences are about proving to your audience that they care to listen to the rest of the demo. If you are talking about something that matters to them then they’ll stick around and listen to how/why it works.
  1. Avoid your jargon… but use theirs: Every industry has it’s own jargon. Very importantly, you must remember to use the jargon of your prospect’s industry and company, not yours! If you use some terms they don’t know you are implicitly sending them a message: “If you didn’t understand those terms you aren’t going to follow this demo, so you might as well tune out now!”
  • Example mistake: In Big Data, we find ourselves using terms like BI, SQL, Columnar, MPP, Hadoop, K-Means, and R flippantly without considering our audiences comfort with those terms.
  • Conversely, you should absolutely use their business jargon! Do they call their sales people Customer Associates (CAs)? If yes, use that term “We’ll show you how our technology enables a CA to better understand…” This sends a message that you understand their business and have taken the time to prepare a presentation that will be relevant to the audience.
  1. How are you different? You can imagine how hard it is to be an exec at a big company. They sit through vendors presentations all the time. In order to stand out and earn their attention, you need to very quickly explain how your demo (and product) is different before they think to themselves “another one of these…” and return to e-mail

  2. Practice and Preparation: Based on the above, this should be clear, but you must practice delivering this intro crisply. I’ve seen many demos get derailed because the Sales Engineer knows what they want to demo, but stumbles through beginning. This telegraphs that you don’t respect their time enough to prepare professionally. It’s harsh, but the audience (especially execs), expects professionalism to earn attention.

Now that we have these guidelines, let’s bring it all together and see a few examples of introductory first 2 sentences that capture an audiences attention.


Introductory Demo for an IT team at a company that builds Big Data applications to monetize data.

“I will begin this demo by showing how 1010data enables our customers and partners to acquire, store, prepare, and analyze both internal and external data using our Big Data Discovery Platform. I will then show how our customers and partners share and monetize this data by rapidly prototyping and ultimately deploying analytic applications to their partners, customers, and suppliers.”

Final Presentation for a company that had been burned by other vendors in the past (uniqueness: already functioning system), and had a stated long-term goal of creating an “enterprise view of the customer” - a term everyone in the audience new.

“Hi everyone, today we will be showing a real, functioning system working live on actual data from your Alpha, Gamma, Delta, and Omega systems. During our 4 week pilot, we loaded data from each of these disparate systems and worked with Mr. Engineer to harmonize the data into a true enterprise view of the customer.”


Hopefully this posts makes clear how important it is to get the first 2 sentences of a demo right. This is when you will earn the audience’s attention. In order to grab this attention you must clearly articulate the audience’s goal, use their jargon (and avoid yours), and explain how you are different. Stay tuned for future posts on other specific ways to improve your demos.

Read part 2