Tip #1139: Giving Good Demonstration

Agile projects have ‘ceremonies’ which is code for compulsory meetings with various purposes. One of these ceremonies is the ‘showcase’ where the developers get to show what they have built during the sprint. When you have a new sprint every three weeks, you get used to presenting bits of functionality. Whether it is a fifteen minute showcase presentation or a two hour pre-sales demonstration, there are some things I always do without fail. Here are my tips for Dynamics demos.

Write a Script

If you are behind a keyboard walking through functionality, no one cares if you have a sheet of paper next to the keyboard guiding you. Generally my script has two sections: The Setup and the Running Sheet.

Document the Setup

The setup lists which browsers you are using, what URL you are going to in each tab, the default screen you are starting on and the login (and password hint if required) you are using. While the security purists will frown at the idea of a password hint, the last thing you want to be doing is guessing a password in front of a crowd.

Document the Running Sheet

This is what you will be showing. I generally set it up as a table of two columns: ‘Action’ and ‘Points To Make’. It is very easy to forget the “so what?” factor when showing a software feature so the ‘Points to Make’ column is a great way to have a checklist of points you wish to cover for those audience “aha! moments”.

Run Through the Script

Do this at least once before the real thing. I usually need at least a couple of run throughs,with adjustments, before the demonstration runs smoothly. It might take you 30 minutes to run through and perfect that 15 minute presentation but it is worth it.

Put in Data

Running through the script will quickly show where you need data in the system to support your presentation. Do not compromise an otherwise great show with dodgy data. Get rid of those records named ‘Test’ and use something meaningful to the audience. Again, it may take you three times as long to set up the data as it takes to present but it is worth it.

Do Not Forget to Reset

If you run through your script you will likely be altering the system as you go. Always remember to remove the data from the fields you populated and delete those records you created. Otherwise the audience may see the punchline before you have given them the setup.

Know Your Audience

Know your audience and play to them. I once presented a security background check system in Dynamics to a government department. Thinking it might get a few smiles, my sample contact was the current Prime Minister. It did not go down well. If unsure, use characters from pop culture such as The Simpsons, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones. Seeing a background check done on Jon Snow or Severus Snape will get a wry smile from the fans while the rest will be none the wiser.

Set up Early

Always set up early. This gives you a chance to check internet speeds, connectivity to projectors, required resolution so the audience can see clearly and all the other things you need to do for a smooth presentation. Arriving just on time guarantees the audience will see you fiddling with cables and browsers. Everything should be in place before the first person arrives.

There are many other things you can do to nail your presentation but these are my minimums that I do every time. If you have other must-dos, feel free to leave them in the comments.

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