Lessons Learned: Deepfield Demos
Over the past few years I have been asked to give demonstrations (demos) at Internet2 meetings. Being a technical person, it wasn’t something I had regularly done. (And what’s worse, I approached it from a technical angle.) During my first demo I created some slides with a mainly technical focus, stood up and spoke to them and was done. I wasn’t sure how the demo went, but given the many blank stares I was getting at the end, I could take a guess.
While that demo wasn’t the best, I did end up with some new account requests, so I counted it as a win. When you present in the manner I did, the people you're presenting to rarely give you the feedback you need to get better. Most of them simply thank you for your time or politely walk away. Very rarely do you hear about improvements you could make to the product, much less how you explained it to them. And just because you can provide a product demonstration doesn’t mean you’re good at it. The community had taught me my first lesson!
The lesson learned from demo number two was probably the most obvious. I wasn’t crafting my demos to fit my specific audience. Good demos don't have to be perfect for the product. They must be perfect for the audience. My first demo was at Global Summit and I went technical. Not the right approach for that audience. My second demo was at the 2016 Technology Exchange and I "dumbed down" the tech and went high level. Big mistake. That audience wanted to know the inner workings. Lesson learned: Know Your Audience.
My most recent demo was at the 2017 Global Summit. This time I spent more time prepping for the audience and tying the demo into other demos around me. Karl Newell was giving a DDoS demo and I thought of ways I could relate some of my Deepfield demo to his while keeping the audience involved and around for both. I knew I was dealing with community members in a professional setting but I didn’t want to ignore the human aspect of involvement. Lesson learned: Take the time to talk to the people you are demonstrating to before starting. Not only do you get to know them better, but you might even get useful information that you can use during your demonstration. This was key to the lesson I learned this time around.
By speaking to the audience beforehand I quickly learned that this audience was different from the others I had stood in front of. There were both C-level and technical people in the audience. I knew I had to keep my demo somewhere in the middle. I also realized that each segment would have different needs and requirements of the product I was demoing, so I took the "community" approach of involvement. I began by asking what their before state was. What were they doing today that they weren't happy about? Where were their existing pain points? What slowed them down? Then I tried to focus on their desired after state. What were the goals that Deepfield could help them achieve, or the problems it could solve? Take just five minutes to ask your audience a few questions so that you can understand which features will be most important for them. Focusing your demo on those areas will pay big dividends.
The 2017 Global Summit demo was my best to date. I received a lot of feedback during the demo but more importantly afterward. During sit-downs with community members we dove deeper into their issues and out of that came some very positive feedback and some product enhancement requests. The feedback I received overall was invaluable. I just got back from another meeting where a member who was at present at the last Global Summit spoke about the product I demonstrated, how they were using it and how it proved a valuable tool to them. This was very encouraging, considering they just started using it because of my last demo.
I like to think my presentation abilities have gotten better with time, but the truth is I’ve gotten better because of you, the community, and the lessons you’ve taught me along the way. I know in the end we all get better when we can learn from each other. That is truly the last lesson learned and the most valuable. Involvement is key and the community makes that easy and enjoyable for all of us. After all, isn’t that what the community is all about?