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A Short Guide to Online Demos: The Easy Things You Should Get Right Every Time

A good demo might not close a deal, but it can certainly lose you one. Here's a quick and easy guide to holding effective sales presentations.
DocSend Guide to Online Demos

Don’t Make These Rookie Mistakes

This is a short set of tips to follow when hosting an online meeting. You might think some of these principles are very basic, and you’d be right. Which makes it all the more important to make sure you nail all of these every time. And never, never make these mistakes.

A lot of people – especially those that don’t present often – will underestimate the annoyance of a demo gone awry. Because when things go wrong, you can lose a deal over it.

I have been an attendee and host to hundreds (if not thousands) of online meetings and demos. And over time, I’ve collected a set of principles for holding effective presentations. This is not intended as a comprehensive playbook, but should be a good reminder.


Prepare Yourself

Know your audience. Understand what they care about, what motivates them, and what problems they have. It’s important to have a clear sense of what job they would be hiring your product to do. Articulate the benefits you’re offering, not the features. After all:

People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!

Include, directly in the calendar invite, a presentation link and a conference line for everyone to dial into if necessary. If the meeting was scheduled more than 1 week in advance, it’s always helpful to send an email confirming your meeting with the details in the message itself. Don’t make people dig around for the info. Make it as easy as possible for them.

Have and share an agenda. Always. It shows that you’ve been thoughtful and helps set expectations upfront.

Getting Started

Make sure you are using good technology. Technical difficulties are super annoying and waste a lot of everyone’s time. Have at the ready: a strong internet connection, a reliable screen share provider (my favorite is join.me), and crystal clear audio.

Be on time. Actually, plan on being 2 minutes early. If there are multiple people joining, give them all a few minutes to connect. Use your judgment on how long to wait. Personally, I usually get started no longer than 10 minutes after the scheduled meeting time.

Once you get going, it’s always a good practice to get everyone’s name and role if there are multiple attendees and you hadn’t gathered that info in advance (doing it beforehand is even better). During the first few minutes and introductions, make sure you weave in the context for why you’re all meeting. One of the best ways is to actually tee-up your internal sponsor/champion to do this on your behalf at the start of the meeting. They have much more credibility in the eyes of their colleagues than you.

The Demo

This is where the fun begins – and where the most distraction related mistakes are made. If you’re demoing a browser-based software, hide your bookmarks bar. This is easy to do in all browsers. In Chrome the shortcut is cmd⌘ + Shift + B. Turn off desktop notifications. Emails, calendar reminders, collaboration tools, file sharing updates, text messages, and more. There are tons of desktop alerts that can rear their nasty little heads at unpredictable times. Make sure they’re not going to pop up in your demo, just turn them off. They’ll distract both you and your audience. Close other windows, files, and software. If you’re on a Mac, set your dock to auto-hide. This will give you more screen real-estate to show off your application.

  • Hide your bookmarks bar
  • Turn off desktop notifications
  • Close other windows
  • Auto-hide your dock (on a mac)

If your screen sharing software allows it, share only 1 active window at a time. That way you could take notes in another application during the meeting. And please, please make your demo full-screen. Your audience might be on a tiny laptop or mobile device and they might not have perfect vision. Make it easy to see.

Wrap Up

Our memories are terrible. Give a recap at the end and summarize your main points and value proposition. Outline any action items that may have come up during the meeting and make sure everyone is in agreement. And then afterwards, send a follow-up email thanking everyone for their time and articulating the same summary and action items.

And then follow-up again.


If you find yourself pitching from PDFs or PowerPoint, you should try our Live Present feature. We’ve built a super easy way to present your documents, presentations, and proposals right from your browser.