This is a commonly requested topic.
Here is a set of guidelines based upon my experience.
Estimated reading time 5 min
Why this topic?
As you know, I am on stage quite frequently. I demonstrate how to use Office platform more effectively to increase efficiency. There are many products involved and thousands of features available.
Over time, I have developed my own method of delivering demos. Recently I conducted a session at MVP Open Day conference at Bangalore. All attendees were Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals – recognized experts in various products of MS Platform.
They wanted to know the best practices I follow. There have been many requests in the past as well. Here are the guidelines…
All my demos are about effective usage of Office 365. If you are demonstrating some other product or you are showing configuration, setup or programming, you will need to tweak these guidelines accordingly.
It is important to develop your own style. It is impossible to just follow what is written below and be successful.
The list below is presented in logical order.
You must like to deliver demos and teach
If you do not like delivering demos, nothing will help. Remember that just having expertise is not enough. You must be able to communicate your expertise to the target audience in a palatable manner so that it delivers some benefits to them.
Practice as much as needed. Take help from friends. But you must genuinely develop the liking for communication.
Even if your job profile does not include delivering demos, training or teaching, it is the best way to increase your expertise. Teaching = Learning.
Learn the product
This one is obvious. But sometimes even when we know the product (or feature), when faced with an audience, you may realize that your knowledge is not very deep. Therefore, prepare for common questions, related topics, rare but relevant scenarios. Look at all available options and internalize them.
Understand the audience
Usually we are told about the type of audience to be expected. Do NOT trust that description. Very rarely will you get exactly the audience that you expect. Assume that there will be different levels of audience in terms of seniority, knowledge level, interest in the topic and grasping power.
You will know the real mix only when you start the session. Too late to prepare and tweak things. Therefore, you must be ready to adjust the content and delivery method on-the-fly.
Size of the audience matters
Small audience leads to more interaction.
In a large audience, people are scared to ask questions for the fear of exposing their potential ignorance. They need encouragement from you to open up. If they realize that you are informal, approachable, knowledgeable and really concerned about the audience, they will soon start interacting with you.
In fact, audience interaction is a simple benchmark of how well you performed.
Deliver demo from a separate user profile
Never use your default login on your laptop / tablet. That always creates problems. You may not want to show all files in your profile to the audience. The File menu shows recently opened file list which may be confidential. You may have some personal information or photos which you don’t want to show the audience.
Create a new user (say, DemoUser) . Make sure that the presentations, data, collateral files and other resources are accessible from the DemoUser user profile. I find it easier to keep demo stuff in Public user profile so that it is accessible from any other user profile.
If you have data stored in other user profiles, you will need to get permission to those files. Do that BEFORE the demo. Click on the desired folders in the C:\users\<other user>\documents folder and say Yes to the security dialog. This process can take a long time, depending upon how many files are involved.
Test it after the security configuration is done.
Create sample data which will appeal to the audience
Do NOT use the same sample files for all situations. Create sample data which is relevant and appropriate for the audience. Think of the industry and role. Check on the customer web site or industry portals. Also check with public repositories of data.
It is best if you can get sample data from the customer. Usually customers are reluctant to part with their data / documents because they contain sensitive information. Read this article and share it with them: How to desensitize data in Excel. This will eliminate all issues related to confidentiality.
If data is not available from any of the above sources, create random data. Read these articles to understand how to create random data which looks realistic.
Random numbers can be created using RANDBETWEEN() function.
Random dates can be created using Today() – or + Randbetween() functions.
Random text values can be created using the CHOOSE() function or VLOOKUP()
I will write a separate set of articles on this topic soon.
Sometimes, customization of data just requires just a simple caption change in available columns.
Know how to open files quickly
Usually you will need to open many sample files and presentations during the demo. The time spent on opening files must be minimized. Otherwise the audience gets confused.
This is easily done using one or more of the following methods.
- Create a folder with all sample data and create a Windows Explorer Favorite shortcut for it.
- Link relevant files to some item or text in the relevant slides.
- For URLs, pin them to Favorites bars
- For applications, Pin the applications to taskbar
- Pin common files and folders to File Open lists
- Also pin commonly used files to the Taskbar pinned menu
This helps you select the desired file first which opens the relevant application automatically.
- Remember that if you use Windows Live Id for login, the recent file lists can roam across devices
I thought I will finish this article quickly. But there is so much more to write, I decided to break it into multiple articles. As of now it is going to take at least two more articles.