Mastering the Art of the Customer Demo

July 19, 2023

Does your team struggle with planning and preparing a customer demo? Do you question the value of regularly demoing to your customers? Is it hard to find the balance of the right amount of time to invest in demos? These are all questions we have grappled with at SpinDance. We run our projects using the agile methodology which means we (usually our developers) are typically demoing to our clients every two weeks. It’s important that these demos are well prepared and reflect the work completed in a manner our audience can react to, but they should also be relatively quick to pull together. Let’s reset how we think about demos and some of the tips and tricks we use to make our demos great.

As the developer preparing a demo it’s easy to view it as a burden. Oftentimes, people think their time could be better spent coding rather than pulling together a demo. It may also seem like the work completed in the last sprint cycle will be hard to explain or won’t be interesting to the customer. At SpinDance, we like to see demos as an opportunity. This is our chance to show value to the customer, excite them with our progress, confirm that expectations are met, and align that what we built is what the clients want. By demoing regularly we can quickly pivot if we determine features need to change or priorities shift. 

Preparing the Customer Demo

A product owner on our team, Brendan Rabb, recently made an analogy, thinking of the elements of a customer demo similar to that of a plot of a story. It has really helped how our team architects their demos.

Introduction (The Exposition of a story)
  • Explain the value and use case before showing it off. Utilize the user stories written to support this explanation.
  • Use diagrams when appropriate
  • Reiterate how this work fits into the goals of the project. Does it reduce risk, support future maintenance?
Building (The rising action of a story)
  • What steps did we take to execute this work? Did any complications arise?
  • What choices did we have to make?
Success (The climax of a story)
  • Draw attention to the solution developed to solve the problem or complete the feature.
  • Explain how edge cases were addressed
Resolution (The falling action of a story)
  • How can the customer test this solution?
  • Are there any edge cases not currently handled?
  • Are there next steps we will be building onto this work in the coming weeks?
  • Does the customer have any questions or feedback?
Value (The resolution of a story)
  • Reiterate the value of this work to the overall solution and why it was important

Once you have the general flow of a demo mastered you can spend time adding your personal touch to it. This will make presenting more comfortable for you and more fun for the audience. Some of our engineers like to get creative with adding their own custom animations explaining the feature. Others include anecdotes or humor. We love it when the team gains confidence in their presentation skills.  The more comfortable they are, the more of their personality comes out in the demo reviews.  

Avoid the Pitfalls

We work with our teams to prepare them for the demos.  Our product owners, project managers and other peers are readily available if team members need a quick practice run. We also work as a team to be sure that we won’t fall victim to some common demo mistakes such as:

  • Too small font size
  • Failing to review a recorded demo video ahead of time
  • Live demoing with newly merged code (Don’t do it!)
  • Screen sharing and audio issues
  • Updating your computer or browser right before a demo
  • Talking too fast 

Regular demos or sprint reviews are key to a successful project. They are a chance for the development team and the stakeholders to inspect the work completed and determine if it’s what everyone expected. If it wasn’t right, we realign and fix  it. Then we are grateful we caught it early! It’s an opportunity to be proud of the work the team accomplished in the sprint cycle and collaborate with our customers on where we are heading or how we need to adapt to changes in budget, timeline, and priorities.

Regular customer demo reviews are not fancy, time intensive presentations. While they do require preparation and offer a chance to show off your work, they are truly working sessions with all parties involved ensuring that we are building the right solution. We expect our customer stakeholders to actively engage in these reviews, asking questions, giving feedback or raising a hand if something doesn’t make sense. In order to elevate this engagement, we follow these guidelines as a way to tell the story of the work with the audience in mind, allow our teams to illustrate the value of the completed work, and draw out feedback and focused conversations with our clients. 


About the Author, Colleen Laskowski

Colleen Laskowski is a wife, mom of two kids, an active community member in Holland and the Director of Delivery at SpinDance. Colleen has a tenacious and level headed spirit, a drive for organization, and thrives on creating community in her personal and professional life. She is passionate about adopting sustainable practices and creating meaningful relationships through supporting her team, family and local community. In her five year tenure at SpinDance, she has led over fifty projects and crafted processes that have been instrumental in transforming the business. Colleen intentionally focuses on the satisfaction and well-being of the SpinDance team through fostering a culture of community, teamwork, and giving back. When not setting her teams up for success at work, you can often find her baking in the kitchen, planning her next trip to a National Park, or volunteering at her children’s school.