Do’s and Don’ts for product demo environments

Published on: March 3rd, 2022

When demos are considered as one of the best ways to sell your product, they can also be a source of stress. There are certain things to make sure the demo goes off without a hitch.

A demo that looks and feels professional shows your audience that you take them seriously, and will therefore be more likely to trust you and buy your product. A demo that refuses to load or crashes at the slightest provocation leaves a very different, and much less positive, impression. Understand your target audience and create a compelling story that resonates well with the users.

You will face a number of challenges when trying to conduct a product demo or technical training, specifically with enterprise users. Here are a few of the do’s and don’ts to excel in a demo:

Tip: Create a demo plan for every new client and keep it in the same place for easy reference. This includes both pre- and post-demo tasks.

Do Not: Install Software on Laptops

If you want to ensure that your training sessions go off without a hitch, it’s best to host the sessions on your own infrastructure and control the hardware and software setup instead of installing the software on users laptops. It may create hurdles like restrictive corporate policies, VPNs, insufficient hardware specs, etc. We need to get full control over the workstation.

Do Not: Avoid using shared cloud accounts

When you allow outside users into your cloud environments, you put your organization at risk. Many students do not have the malicious intent to harm your organization, but they may be careless and accidentally expose their credentials on a public repository. The workstations can be compromised and cause a mess in your account. A dedicated training account, or a sandbox account per user should be used to avoid such scenarios.

Do Not: Create a Shared Demo Environment

Here’s a common problem: the “shared” demo environment. This can lead to a host of problems, like multiple sales engineers trying to do separate demos and stepping on each other’s toes or someone breaking something in the demo environment that becomes a hassle for all users.

A better solution for this would be to create a fresh demo environment, on-demand, every time one needs it. This ensures a clean, tested version of your sandbox that is distinguished from other instances of your application.

Do: Regularly Test Demo/Workshop Content

A demo content is not complete until it has it’s regular functional testing. This doesn’t mean spinning up the demo once a month to see if it still boots. A step-by-step walkthrough of what will be done during a live demo is needed.

When users create a demo, they must feel confident that the content was tested less than 12 hours before and that everything was working. Automating your testing is a highly effective way of preventing bugs and edge-cases from entering into your application. The only way to guarantee that your product is bug-free is to test every possible scenario and input. While this may seem like an impossible task, it can be accomplished by a clever combination of unit, integration and system tests.

Do: Use Browser-Based Sandbox Environments

Any time you require a user to install something, you create friction. They have to download your installer, but their corporate policy doesn’t allow them to do that on their work laptop. That means the more ways you can let users use your app without installing anything, the better off you are.

There is one thing that every user and prospect has in common: a standards-compliant web browser. Regardless of what operating system they use, I can guarantee you they have a web browser available to them. If all your users need to access your content is a web browser, then you’ve removed significant friction from the process.

Sandboxes may be accessible from any location on the internet, even limited corporate networks where traditional training laboratories are difficult to set up due to firewalls and traffic limitations. A sandbox is a safe and isolated place that an application can run in so it’s not able to access other resources or the operating system of a computer.

Sandboxes can be secured with TLS so it’s safe and isolated from the public internet. It can also be embedded into Learning Management Systems (LMS) so that the technical content can be incorporated directly into the LMS.

Do: Make it Fun

Technical training and demos can be really boring due to the standard command typing and sharing a terminal. You need to make a demo that tells a story about how your product will make your user successful. Help them escape the daily grind with a little imagination and whimsy. Tell a story and intrigue the users with images or a web application. This makes your users see themselves as the pilot and understand what problems your product can solve.

Your product is probably not unique. Most of the software out there works just fine, and it’s hard to get people to switch. Even if you have an amazing product, your users are bombarded with requests for their attention all day long. A product demo that shows how to do something without telling the user what to do next won’t cut it. Always start with a user journey map, build a basic flow diagram that maps out what your users need to do in order to accomplish their goals.

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

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