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Top Tips For Great Demonstrations at Trade Shows

Posted by [email protected] on May 16, 2012 at 4:10 AM

Most people think I’m a bit mad when I say this, but….I really LOVE doing trade shows and consumer shows. Yes, they’re exhausting and you end up with a croaky voice and feet that burn like they’ve been bathed in hot lava, but I also love the adrenalin rush of doing dozens of product demonstrations and presentations in one day.


You meet such a variety of people on a trade show stand and they’ll often ask really interesting questions about the product or service you are presenting that had never occurred to you before, even if you’ve been working with the product for years. There’s no better way to get real-time feedback about whether your product roadmap and marketing messages are hitting the spot with your target customers. And if you’ve been asked for the same feature 10 times in one day, you know it’s something your market cares about!


But not everyone is like me (this is not necessarily a bad thing for the world!). A lot of people dread the trade show experience and fear nothing more than doing a product demo. Here are my top tips on how to do a better trade show demonstration:


1.    Rehearse – it’s always a last-minute dash to get a trade show stand set up, but try to allow yourself 20 minutes to do a run-through of a demo with a friendly “guinea pig”. Ask them to play the role of the customer and to ask you difficult questions. If you get through this rehearsal without any problems, it’ll boost your confidence and make you more relaxed when the first “real” customer comes along. If the rehearsal shows up gaps in your knowledge you can quickly find someone to help you fill in the blanks before the real customers start calling.


2.    Smile and maintain eye contact – it doesn’t matter whether you’re demonstrating to one person or a group of 20, it’s really important to engage with them directly. If you seem relaxed, they’ll feel relaxed. You don’t want them to feel that you’re just reciting a script. Even if you’ve done the same demo 20 times since breakfast you want them to believe it’s still fresh. Smile and try to seem genuinely pleased to be talking to them (even if you’d really rather be lying down in a darkened room with a foot spa and some ibuprofen). Maintaining occasional moments of eye contact throughout the demo will make them feel you’re addressing them directly.


3.    Know your audience – before you start the demo, it’s always worth checking the person’s role in their company and how much they already know about YOUR company and its products/services. There’s nothing worse than wasting someone’s time telling them stuff they already know.


4.    Listen before you talk – it may sound crazy, but listening to the customer is just as important as telling them about the product. If you’re demonstrating a product or service, ask the audience if they’re currently using a similar solution. Do they like it? What are its shortcomings? What’s their biggest business challenge? Make them feel like you are interested in them.


5.    Tailor the demo – I cannot stress this one highly enough: people are more interested in a demo if you can make it relevant to the problems they face every day. If you’ve followed steps 3 and 4 above, you’ll already know a bit about the customer. Use this information to your advantage. You may want to provide less technical detail to a CEO than to a CTO, for example. It'll also help you avoid wasting time on an in-depth demo for someone who's just bought a rival solution at great expense and isn't likely to buy from you any time soon. When it comes to the content of your demo, even the smallest references can make the demo seem tailored. For example, if you are demonstrating a sports app, you’ll want to refer to the Bundesliga when meeting a German customer but switch to the NFL or NHL when talking to an American company. It seems pretty obvious, but it will help the customer feel you’re talking to THEM and not just to another face in a suit. If you can refer back to something they said earlier in the conversation about the business challenges they face, this will make the demo even more personalised - the trade show jackpot!


6.    Don’t skip the small talk – everyone has the same experience of trade shows: they’re exhausting, overwhelming and the food is usually lousy (and expensive)! A quick ice-breaker question: “how long have you been at the show so far?”, “how are your feet holding up?” or “What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen at the show so far?” will make you appear warm and friendly. It can also help you identify the key trends that are creating buzz at the show even if you haven't got time to leave your own stand.


7.    Don’t talk too fast – this is a big challenge for me as I naturally talk quite quickly! After your 30th demo of the day, it’s easy to forget that the person listening to you is hearing this demo for the first time. It’s important to enunciate so they get the full message. And when you pause for breath it gives them permission to jump in and ask the question that’s they’re dying to ask.


8. Breathmints! All that talking dries out your mouth and leads to smelly breath. No-one will be listening to your demo if they're desperate to get away from your odour!


I’d love to know what other hints you have for creating sparkling demonstrations and presentations at trade shows and consumer shows alike. 


And if you’d like to find out more about how RHJ Media can provide high-quality demonstrations and presentations of your products at your next trade show or consumer show, please get in touch. We can also provide training to your team to help them improve their demo skills.

 

 

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