By now, you’ve hopefully bought in on the advantages of using a demo agenda slide. If you haven’t read the other blogs in this series covering why demo agenda slides are important, and the top 10 reasons to use them, you can start here. Or if video is more your style, check out my DEMOFEST 2022 session on the topic.
If you’re not sure how to create and/or leverage demo agenda slides, here are 13 Demo Agenda Best Practices, and some additional considerations specific to Proof of Concepts to help get you started.
1. Get Buy-in Before the Meeting
Ensure your agenda is as close to what the prospect wants before you even get to the demo. Email your agenda to them a few days before the meeting and ask for feedback. Specifically that everything included is relevant and that all their important topics are captured, indicating what else they’d like to see if anything is missing. You may only get feedback from the project manager, but some feedback is better than none.
2. Don’t Delegate
While your AE has probably put together a large portion of the rest of the presentation, they shouldn’t be creating, and delivering, the demo agenda slide unless they’re the one delivering the demo. Whoever is delivering the demo will have the best context to effectively communicate what’s going to be included, so build and present your demo agenda slides.
3. Use Plain Language
Avoid jargon including product names and other terms specific to your company that outsiders may not be familiar with. The agenda needs to be inherently understandable by someone who has had zero exposure to your solution. The deck may also be distributed after the meeting to people who may not have been present for the demo, so it needs to stand on its own.
4. Customize It
The same reasons to avoid generic demos apply to your demo agenda slide. The more relevant and representative your content is, the easier it is for the prospect to understand how your solution will solve their specific challenges. Include your prospect’s logo, use terms and verbiage specific to their industry, and add any additional personal touches to make it clear you understand their business right from the start.
5. Include Pain Points and Business Benefits
Your demo agenda shouldn’t just be a bulleted list of the functional capabilities you plan to cover. Lead with value messaging to highlight that your solution addresses the prospect’s key issues, and then slot in the top capabilities that support those themes as sub-bullets.
6. Include a Demo Summary at the End
To complete the Tell-Show-Tell cycle, include a demo summary on your agenda slide. The summary is often the first section cut when time is running short, but repetition helps your messaging stick with the customer. Communicating the summary’s inclusion at the start ensures the customer expects it and you budget time to include it. Additional tip: make sure your Account Executive knows you plan to provide a summary at the end before passing control of the meeting back to them, so they don’t preemptively jump in.
7. Use Multiple Slides if Needed
Your slides shouldn’t be essays. If you have too much content to fit onto a single slide, break the agenda up by demo section, persona, or however you logically organize your demo to make it easier to consume. Bringing your agenda slide(s) back up before each relevant section can help reinforce to the audience what they just saw, and drive anticipation about what’s coming next.
8. Find Out Why Everyone is in the Room
Each person in the room may have their own unique priorities and objectives. Use your demo agenda as an opportunity to uncover each stakeholders’ motivations. As you’re asking for clarification and validation on the agenda, pay attention to what topics are critical and which are low priority. This is especially helpful if you weren’t able to uncover this information during the initial introductions portion of the meeting.
9. Don’t Be Afraid to Pivot
Be flexible, even the best demo agendas often need to be modified mid-flight. Ask the audience to prioritize and validate your demo agenda before you begin presenting, and if it’s clear that what you’ve proposed isn’t ideal for them, rearrange to suit. Your demos are about the audience and what they want/need to see, not about you and what you want to show.
10. If Going Last or Late, Uncover New Topics
When you validate your agenda with the prospect, explicitly ask if there are any additional topics covered with other vendors that aren’t listed but would be helpful to discuss. This is especially important if you’re in a competitive sales cycle and you’re going late or last in comparison to the other vendors. While some prospects will proactively call these things out, others might not. Asking gives you a chance to address the things your competitors have discussed that you might not have covered yet.
11. Use Presentation Mode
This holds true for every slide you’re presenting – make sure they’re shown in Presentation mode. Presentation mode looks cleaner and more professional, makes text and images easier to see, causes fewer distractions, and prevents any notes or information not meant for audience consumption from appearing on screen.
12. Do NOT Read Your Agenda
This also applies to any presentation – please don’t read your slides verbatim. Reading slides word for word makes the presentation come across as stiff and boring. Instead, paraphrase and elaborate on what’s written on the slide. Try not to be long-winded. Ideally, use the fewest number of words possible to get the point across.
13. Use Agenda Templates to Save Time
Many sales teams overextend their Presales counterparts or don’t respect their calendars. Create a set of agenda templates by product, by topic, by persona, by industry, or any other common segmentation scheme that applies to your particular business or solution. Then modify the template for each demo rather than starting each one from scratch.
Considerations for POC Agendas
Proof of Concepts (POCs) or Proof of Value (POVs) typically have some unique situations to consider related to demo agendas. Here are some suggestions to help ensure success:
Don’t Settle for Prospect-Provided Agendas: Rationalize Scope & Flow
Prospects will frequently provide their own demo agendas for POCs, and in many cases, they can be overly extensive or misaligned to what would make an ideal demo. Prospects often craft agendas by grouping topics or themes they feel are reasonable based on their needs, but that would result in illogical or convoluted demo flows in your solution.
Don’t be afraid to modify the agenda to consolidate duplicate items and reorganize the flow to best suit your product. A prospect may ask to see seven different workflows in your solution, but if each workflow is configured and handled the same way, it may make sense for you to only show one or two during the demo. Ask your internal champion if demonstrating the one or two most complex workflows would convince them that your solution can also handle the easier ones – most prospects will agree with that logic.
Get Permission to Modify
If you do decide to modify the agenda, make sure you get buy-in from the internal champion/project manager ahead of time. Be transparent about the changes you’ve made and why and get confirmation that they understand your reasons for doing so. Then, during the demo, let the audience know that this agenda was approved by the internal champion ahead of time. That way everyone will be on the same page and the audience won’t think that you unilaterally decided to make changes to the agenda they originally provided.
Make it Easy for the Audience to Follow Along for Evaluation Purposes
As you go through the modified agenda, call out which original agenda items you’re covering. This will make it easier for the audience to fill out any vendor scorecards they might have. Even though cross referencing the original agenda against the new one might seem like a lot of unnecessary work, it’s better to have that information on hand if questions come up about the changes.
If you’ve gotten this far and are still looking for more guidance, reach out to me for a sample demo agenda slide to give you an idea of where to start. Feel free to send me a message on LinkedIn or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Detailed demo agenda slides can improve your demos in a slew of ways, from ensuring your audiences know what to expect (to help keep them focused and engaged), clarify the issues and validate that you’re only covering relevant information (to help manage time, and keep audiences engaged), and aren’t missing anything critical to the prospect (so you don’t lose for something you didn’t show), and help your audience remember you key messages.
If that doesn’t convince you to consider using them in your demos, maybe this reminder will: demos that use a detailed demo agenda slide perform 24% better than ones that don’t.