Checklists and Demos


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Airplane pilots use checklists to make sure they do the right things as much of the time as possible (like always).  Checklists dramatically reduce the risk of bad things happening.  Should we apply the same principle to the wonderful world of demos?  (Everyone, say “yes!”…)
Perhaps a failed demo is not quite as bad as crashing an airplane, but consider:  Are there any demos that you don’t care about them being successful, similarly?  Assuming not, you may want to follow the same idea and use a checklist before the demo to make sure you are prepared – and post-demo to see if your preparation was really complete.
I’ve been delivering demo skills training as a business for 12 years and I still use checklists for many of my activities.  Doing Discovery (especially) warrants a checklist; preparing for trips; preparing for Workshops (several lists – my prep, room  infrastructure, etc. etc.).  I also follow a checklist process to debrief from Workshops, with an emphasis on constantly trying to improve the content, my delivery and (especially) seeing the participants implement the key ideas. 
There are (at least) four take-aways here: 
First, when learning a new process, a checklist helps you do the right things and avoid unnecessary errors or omissions. 
Second, “building great habits” implies many repetitions that will (hopefully) result in consistency.  Checklists enable consistency to take place – we are able to refer to checklists to make sure we’ve done the right things in the right order. 
Third, to get better.  In many disciplines where practitioners want to continue to improve, checklists are used both before and after sessions.  Before, to make sure they are properly prepared; after, to evaluate their performance (“what did I do well; what could I have done better?”).  An honest assessment of performance right after a demo can be surprisingly effective in driving improvement.
Finally, should a checklist (for demos) remain a constant?  (Say, “No”).  Checklists should evolve as practices change and improve.  New items should appear, older items may change of disappear, and more subtle items may surface as new areas of focus. 
We built DemoCoach to help Great Demo! practitioners achieve these objectives.  Great Demo! Workshop and Seminar alumni, and readers of the Great Demo! book will find  DemoCoach a gentle, personal coach – available on our smart phones (or via the web) to remind us of key preparation elements for a demo and to help us review how we did, post demo.  [DemoCoach is available at] 

For non-Great Demo! alumni and readers, I encourage you to create your own checklist(s) and use them similarly to establish and improve your own practices.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Peter Cohan
Have you ever seen a bad software demonstration? Peter Cohan is the founder and principal of Great Demo!, focused on helping software organizations improve the success rates of their demos. He authored Great Demo! - how to prepare and deliver surprisingly compelling software demonstrations. Peter has experience as an individual contributor, manager and senior management in marketing, sales, and business development. He has also been, and continues to be, a customer.


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