Nathan Gold

Presentation Coach, Trainer, and Speaker

Why don't product demos start on time?

Play ASOT.

This is one of my pet peeves and has been for many years. It started back in elementary school. If the teacher did not start on time, I started to get ants in my pants. This translated into a life long quest to always be on time in everything I do. I know. Some of my friends tell me I am over the top on this subject.

Well then, let me focus then on one area of starting on time. Giving a product demo...

Are you one of those people that start to get a little upset when the demo meeting doesn't start on time? Or, do you know someone who typically starts their demo meetings late when you are on time?

Most people attending demo meetings do their best to get there on time. I know. So, if we assume that the larger percentage of the people are on time, why do you give them reason to get upset with you BEFORE the demo even starts? This is a bad way to start any demo. Think about it...You penalize the people who are on time to make way for those people who show up late. What's wrong with this picture?

Also, if the demo is scheduled to start at 10 and the meeting in that room doesn't end until 10, how can your demo start at 10? It's impossible. Remember, you probably need a few minutes to set-up and check to be sure everything is working properly. Do you want people to watch you set-up? I don't think so. More on this topic in another post.

Back to the topic at hand...Start late? Not in my demos or meetings. Not ever! I always start on time, no matter what the circumstances. I want the people in the room to be on my side from the beginning, so I do everything possible to recognize their effort of being on time. If there is one person in the room, I start at the exact moment the meeting was called for.

Here's one of my secrets.

To respect those people who showed up on time, I get up in front of the room at the precise moment the demo is SUPPOSED to start and ask for everyone's attention. Then, I deliver the same speech every time and it goes something like this:

"Folks, my watch says 8:30 and that's the time we are supposed to start the demo. My mother taught me to always try to be on time or call if I was going to be late. So, I will leave it up to you. Should we start now or give those people who are not here yet a few more minutes?"

In 25 years of asking this question, I have met only 3 audiences that said they did not want to wait. Out of respect to them, what do you think I did? I started, of course.

And, when they agree that it is okay to take a few more minutes, you must tell the audience how much longer you will be. Then, you must start after that time elapses or ask for more time. I do not recommend asking for more time unless they are unusual circumstances and the audience is in general agreement. Just be sure and let them make the choice.

Taking this approach with your audience shows that you respect their time. It's a great way to gain a special rapport with the people who show up on time too. You may even find that there's a good joke that you can make some time during the meeting about being on time. Who knows. I usually use the time to verify all of the demo equipment and software or strike up a conversation with the audience.

Finally, if you want to keep the audience engaged after they say they'll wait, you can try my favorite question to ask people before a demo. It is, "What do you hope to get out of this demo today?" Or, put another way, "I'm curious. Would you tell me why you are here today?"

Remember, Always Start On Time. End Play ASOT.

Until next time, demo with passion...NRG