• Stephanie Day

How to nail the first 5 minutes of your product demo... and why it matters!

Updated: Aug 16

In PreSales, we invest a lot of time in perfecting our demos. We think about things like how many clicks it takes to show a particular feature, what font-size to use on a PowerPoint slide, or what to say to connect with each stakeholder in the meeting. However, I'd argue that the majority of demo preparations don't devote nearly enough attention to the most important part of the demo: The first five minutes.


Engage your audience.


The first five minutes of any demo (and perhaps most meetings) is critical for a few reasons: First, this is the window of time when your audience is paying the most attention. Whatever you tell them during this period they are likely to remember most clearly in the days, weeks or months after the demo. It is also the period of time when your audience will decide, consciously or unconsciously, how much time and energy to invest in the rest of the meeting.


If your meeting starts like every other software demo they've ever seen, they will assume it is and treat it accordingly. If they are disengaged or distracted in the first five minutes, they are likely to remain disengaged and distracted for the rest. Conversely, if you can get your prospect to speak, laugh, or ask a question in that first five minutes, they will likely continue doing so. Because what happens in those first minutes will undoubtedly set the tone for the rest of the demo (for better or for worse). Here are some tips you can use to make sure you spend that time wisely!


Keep it to FIVE minutes. Seriously.


We've all sat through the introduction that Just. Keeps. Going. And most of us have also been guilty of it. It starts innocently enough, some introductions, an agenda, maybe a couple of comments about the weather. But then you're rolling into a lengthy narrative of the history of your company, how many logos you have, and all the reasons you are a great company to do business with.

Soon, you're 15 slides deep into reviewing industry trends, diagramming your architecture, and recapping everything your prospect has ever told you. All the while your prospect looks at the clock and wonders when the show is going to start. The truth is, regardless of how long your introduction actually is, your prospect will only pay attention to the first five minutes of it. So time yourself!


Skip the fluff.


Once you're committed to getting through your introduction in five minutes or less, it's time to start cutting out the stuff that doesn't belong. While I've already mentioned some ideas above, an easy way to test if your content belongs in your intro is to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will my prospect find this engaging?

  • Is this absolutely critical to my main message?

  • Is this the only place in the presentation to deliver this information?

Spoiler alert: I've never seen an agenda, logo slide, or resume recap that met this criteria. That doesn't mean cutting that stuff won't be hard. It goes against many of our assumptions about how a meeting "should" start. But remind yourself that setting your product apart from every other product demo your prospect will see this week IS THE GOAL. If there is content that doesn't meet this criteria that you absolutely have to share, consider incorporating it into other parts of your presentation.


For instance, you might decide to introduce each speaker the first time they speak rather than all at once. Or it might make more sense to brag about how many customers you have at the close of your meeting once your prospect is interested enough in your solution to care about your ability to deliver it. If you can't skip it altogether, at least wait to deliver it until AFTER you've captivated your audience.


Frame your intro around a single idea.


Speaking of captivating your audience, every demo should have a win-theme that represents the primary reason your prospect will choose your solution over their other options. This should be at the center of what you share in your first five minutes.

For example, I once worked with a prospect that had purchased lower-priced software multiple times in an effort to solve the same problem we were solving for. Our win theme for that prospect was "Your Forever Home" because we wanted them to see our solution as an investment in a permanent partnership that would not only prevent them from having to make this decision again later on but also allow them to grow and thrive in whatever direction they should choose. The account executive used his first five minutes to talk about the factors that went into his own family's decision to buy their forever home and how happy they have been in it since. This captured the imagination of the prospect and perfectly framed the demo around a single, winning idea.


Make it memorable.


Laying out a compelling and relevant win-theme in the first five minutes will certainly capture your prospect's attention, but if you also want your idea to stick in their memory you will need to go one step further. The best introductions include some kind of mnemonic device. Perhaps a funny story, a surprising statistic, a short game, or an unexpected visual.


For example, I used to kick off many of my demos by putting an image of a duck on the screen. No words. Just a duck. I can guarantee it was not what my prospects expected to see at the beginning of a software demo. And while I did manage to tie that duck back to a pretty compelling win-theme, my prospects always remembered the duck first, and what it stood for second. The lesson here: Don't be afraid to be a little different. Your prospect won't pick you as the best software to meet their needs if they can't remember you.

You've heard my ideas... So what are your favorite tips and tricks for nailing the first five minutes of your demo?




Stephanie is passionate about people, technology and how people interact with the technology around them. She is currently leading a team of all-star professionals who help SMBs identify the right tech solutions for their needs and prepare for long-term growth and efficiency. Connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn.


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