How Is a Demo Like a Newspaper Article?


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Pick up this morning’s newspaper and consider two things:

1. How you read the paper.
2. How the articles are written.

Consider organizing your demonstrations like a newspaper article. Here’s why:

If you are like most people, you scan the newspaper for articles that catch your interest. For many articles, you may only read the headline and move on rapidly – you’re not interested in the topic. Other articles engage your attention sufficiently to review the first few paragraphs, after which you stop and move on. Some articles you read all the way through, because they address a topic of real interest to you.

Journalists fill their newspapers every day with a broad range of articles and features – and yet, only a fraction of the printed words are actually read by any one subscriber. Does that cause readers to drop their subscriptions? Typically not – most readers don’t expect (or want!) to read their entire daily newspaper top-to-bottom. Instead, they want a fast, easy method to access the specific information they want, be it sports, weather, international news or style.

Newspapers organize the information they present in accord with their customers’ interest at two levels. The top level is organized by section – Front Page, Business, Sports, etc., setting the context for all articles in these sections.

Within these sections, each individual article is cleverly and clearly organized to enable readers to make rapid decisions about their depth of interest. The headline presents the topic – providing a binary opportunity for readers to pursue it further or move on. The first one or two paragraphs of the article summarize the story, concisely. Many readers are completely satisfied with this level of information and read no further, and return to scanning headlines.

The subsequent paragraphs often drill deeper and explore the story in more detail, generally from a range of perspectives. Readers who are truly interested in the topic are the typical consumers of this level of information.

Newspapers have evolved this “triage”-oriented organization over literally hundreds of years. Why not take advantage of this learning?

Consider organizing your demonstrations like a newspaper article. Present a “headline” succinctly and rapidly. Assuming your audience is interested, you should next present the key capabilities using a minimum of mouse clicks – like reading the first couple of paragraphs in a newspaper article. The audience just wants a summary at this point – not all of the details! Finally, for audiences that are really interested, you can then dig deeper and explore the breadth and depth of the relevant capabilities.

Follow this advice and you’ll enjoy an increase in your software subscribers!

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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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