Nathan Gold

Presentation Coach, Trainer, and Speaker

The 3 most effective words you can use during a demo are...

Do you walk into a demo with the fear that someone will ask you a question that you don't have the answer for? Not to worry because...

The 3 most effective words you can use during a demo are..."I don't know."

Why? For several reasons. Some people say that the sale really starts when the first question comes at you. I tend to agree with this statement.

So, when someone asks you a question during or after your demo, you will find that NOT knowing the answer can be a very good thing. By not knowing the answer, you instantly become more human and credible in the eyes of the audience and most importantly, it gives you a reason to follow-up with the propsect/client. Actually, it's the perfect reason to schedule the next compelling event in the demo and sales process.

Even if you know the answer to every question, it is a good idea to play dumb once in a blue moon (or once in each demo/presentation). No one likes a know-it-all anyway. Do you?

But remember this: You never want to respond to a question with statements like, "That's a great question." or "That's a really good question." because it sounds obnoxious and tells the audience that they better ask great and good questions of you. This response will sometimes shut down people from asking questions because they become fearful (subconsciously) of not asking a "good" or "great" question.

I always recommend you respond to a question that begin with words like, "Thank you for asking that question." or "I appreciate you asking me that question." or "Thank you for reminding me about that!".

And, when you don't know the answer or you want a reason to get back to them, start with something like this: "Hmmmm...I am not sure of the answer to that question, so let me make a note and find out for you after we are finished here. OK?"

Then, be sure you get back to them in a timely manner. People will judge you on how you follow-up.

A quick story from my past:

Most companies, at one time or another, will hire a presentation skills trainer to teach people how to give better presentations and product demonstrations. All of these trainers have their own ideas of what works and what doesn’t work. I the early part of my career, I fell victim to the guidance of one presentation skills workshop that suggested you work towards a perfect demo with absolutely no mistakes. They said that people would believe more in your product if the demo runs perfectly. And, I believed them.

So, for years, I worked at becoming the best, most perfect demo guy in my company. With a great deal of practice and dozens of face-to-face demos, I felt as though I nearly reached the point of perfection. Nothing went wrong in my demos anymore. I had it down to a science.

Then, it happened. I gave the most perfect demo in my career. There were 14 executives in the boardroom waiting to hear about our products. We arrived early and setup all of the equipment. Everything was ready and working perfectly. We even had enough time to rehearse the demo one more time before the start of the meeting.

Once the demo began, I knew something was going my way. Every single click and every screen was perfectly timed. Even the humor was appropriate and timed perfectly. The laughter and excitement in the room gave me an overwhelming feeling of success because I believed that I had finally given an over-the-top perfect demo.

When the meeting was over, a 6’8” CEO type approached me and asked to speak to me outside the room. He shook my hand and congratulated me on one of the best product demos he had ever seen in all of his 35 years in business. He asked how long I have been giving demos and presentations to which I answered, “Since 15 years old sir, which started in an adult education class in my High School and in every position in my career.” I was sure proud of myself and beaming from ear to ear because someone not only recognized my skill, they were actually congratulating me on them.

With my chest all pumped out and standing as tall as possible, he looked me square in the eyes, leaned over to me and said, “I have to tell you that your demo was so perfect that I am not really sure I believed everything you did and said.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was in shock.

When I asked why not, he said that there is no such thing as a perfect piece of software and that I was probably hiding something, even though I really wasn’t.

No one and no thing is perfect, right? Right. So, I quickly learned that a demo should not be perfect either. His comments taught me that a perfect demo might get you in trouble with some people and quite possibly infringe on the honesty and trust that you build during the demo. From that day forward, I always make at least one mistake in every demo, some planned, some not.

Actually, your "mistakes" or "wrong clicks" should always be scripted and planned so that you can recover without much effort. And, the fact that can recover while giving the demo shows the audience that you are a normal person with many resources at your disposal.

The moral of this story: it is better to strive for excellence rather than perfection in giving product demos and even in your presentations. Everyone appreciates an excellent demo and presentation. However, some people will wonder about a perfect demo and presentation.