How can I nail a mock product demo on short notice?
August 17, 2016 12:04 PM   Subscribe

I have an opportunity to get a super great job, but I have to give them a product demo on their own product TOMORROW. How can I not fuck it up?

Ok y'all, this is the big one. I could potentially get a really great, amazing, rewarding, well-paid, drool-worthy remote job. I have done 3 rounds of interviews and have made it to round 4, the dreaded demo round. I have never given demos in any of my jobs before, and just thinking about it has me in tears. YEAH, THAT BAD. I am not worried about demo-ing the product professionally because ideally by then I'd have used the program for a while and would actually be comfortable showcasing its features and benefits, and fielding questions.

I have been given a list of points to cover, and told it should be 15-20 minutes. Should I pretend like they are a specific imaginary customer and tailor my demo to that, or should I begin by asking, like, "Can you tell me more about your business, and what you're hoping [product] will do for you?" I really don't know if should be demoing it like I'm being interviewed, or like I'm doing a salesy presentation to potential clients. The job itself is customer support so I want to be helpful, but I also want to be confident and nimble.

Have you done this before and aced it? Will you share your secrets? Have you done this before and tanked? What should I avoid? How good does this thing have to be?! I have used the free trial version of the program, but it's based around being a business owner so I'm not clear on how well I can actually demo it without a fake database or something! Is there goal to see how well I do rambling about an unfamiliar thing for 20 minutes, or is it to see that I literally learned their entire program overnight? Do I have a chance in hell of even getting this? If you're an interviewer, what are you looking for?

Thanks y'all!
posted by masquesoporfavor to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I hate to say it, but "it depends". I will say, having been on the both the being hired and the hiring end of something like this (not demos exactly, but presentations as part of interviews). When i do this, it's because interviews are a really hard way to see if someone is going to be good at a job, so I want to give them something that will, at least in some capacity, mimic actual work. Therefore since it's a customer service role I might go for something like... pretend they're a new client and you want to show them how to use the tool, or whatever makes sense for the role.

Some thoughts:
  1. Don't make them do work (e.g. by asking them to tell you more about what their trying to do). Depending on who's in the room, they may or not be prepped and they may or may not know what they're supposed to say or what you've been asked to do. Don't make them answer questions before you can start. Leave room for questions and be open, but don't put them on the spot.
  2. Cover the damn points they told you to cover. Seriously.
  3. Watch your talking speed - often when I have asked people to give a presentation they have clearly rehearsed it ahead of time and then nervousness makes them BLAST through it and finish way early.
  4. Try to pull out at least 1 or 2 interesting things that they didn't bring up or ask you to cover. I'm not sure what that means exactly for you here, but like... "I personally noticed that when you do Y, X happens. This is great because...." or "Thing Z is a possible pain point, but that can be solved by A B C"
  5. When I assign this sort of thing to an interviewee, I love to hear stuff like "if I had more time, I would next go down this avenue of exploration", because it's really important to me that their thought process is good even if they didn't have enough time to do everything.
  6. Speaking of which, I always ask how much time they spent preparing. I think people think I want to hear that they spent a really really long time and worked really hard, but if it took someone 15 hours to prepare and write a 15 minute presentation, that's... not impressive for me.
  7. Assuming they ask questions, there may be a question you don't know the answer to. That's probably fine, but don't just say "I don't know" and stop -- explain how you would find the answer if you had time.
That said, it's not possible to know what they're looking for, exactly. Spend a reasonable amount of time preparing, follow their instructions, and be ready to think on your feet. Talk at a reasonable pace.

Good luck! You can do it!
posted by brainmouse at 12:23 PM on August 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

Brainmouse's advice is excellent. Definitely follow all of it. If I were an interviewer I would want to see that you were:

A. A strong, confident presenter. Not rushed, good eye contact, able to roll with questions from the audience (even if your answer is, as described above, "I don't know the answer to that but here is how I would find out")
B. As much familiarity with the product as you can get between now and then. Imagine a few test cases of someone who might be using it, and work through how they would do it.
C. They're not looking for you to give a salesy "this is why this product is great" presentation, but a solid "here is how the product works" one

Basically you want to show them you've put some reasonable amount of thought into learning about the product (but they won't expect you to be an expert!) and that you're a confident presenter. If you're flustered and nervous presenting to them they're going to assume you'd be that way with a customer too.
posted by MsMolly at 12:52 PM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh P.S. this is remote, so I will be screensharing which is a thing I never ever do.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 12:56 PM on August 17, 2016

Absolutely get a friend to practice with you before the interview, then.
posted by MsMolly at 1:28 PM on August 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

This sounds almost exactly like what I do in my current job!

Okay, first some thoughts on the technical aspect. Do you have dual monitors? If not, can you get one before then? How about a headset? I always give my presentation on my big monitor and keep my talking points, documentation, and a Notepad for jotting call notes on my laptop screen. Do you know what screensharing software you'll be using (WebEx, GoToMeeting, etc.?) Watch a few tutorials on dialing in, testing your audio connection, muting yourself or others, sharing your screen, passing presenter privileges to someone, etc. These programs are not hard to use, but if you're not at all familiar with them, it's really easy to waste a ton of time flailing around getting it to work, and it's super nerve-wracking doing it while a bunch of people are waiting on you. Make sure you're connected and dialed in five or ten minutes in advance of the session (if you get there first, you'll just be made to hang out listening to hold music until the host arrives). When it's your turn, don't be afraid to ask people to mute if there's a ton of feedback in the background, it can be insanely distracting. Keep your email, chat programs, etc. closed or at least drag them to the non-visible monitor beforehand.

What they are probably looking for is not necessarily product expertise (because they know you won't have that yet) but that you present calmly, confidently, and enthusiastically. Product demos are mostly, as my boss puts it, "people skills and poise." They'll want to see that you move through the product in a clear, logical way, that you can clearly explain what it does and its features, benefits, tips and tricks for a few different use cases (e.g. "this tool supports both internal and external comments; a few instances of when you might want to use internal comments are..."), and how you respond to questions you can't answer. If you forget to mention something you should have, smoothly segue back to it at a later point rather than jumping around erratically; make sure to finish everything you want to show in a particular screen or area of the product before moving on. I often recap in one to two sentences what we've just looked at before moving on to another section of the tool because it helps tie everything together.

I wouldn't pretend they are a specific customer and ask them questions based on that as part of your demo; assume there's a level of customization available in the purchased product (if there is) but demos are all about the out-of-the-box version, so I'd focus on that and you can chat about customers' specific needs later if it comes up naturally. When they hand the reins over to you, give a quick introduction, state why we're there, then go right into the demo. At the end, I usually say something like, "And that brings me to the end of my prepared remarks. We still have a few minutes left, what questions can I answer for you, any part of the tool you'd like to see a second time, do you have my contact information for if you have questions later, etc.?"

Talk slowly. SLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWLY. Even slower than that. Even when I think I'm dragging my words out to the point that it is painful, I can listen to a recording of myself and find that it's still too damn fast. Same with your mouse, if you're using it to point to and circle stuff on the screen, move it extra deliberately so that everyone can follow it, don't whiz around like crazy and don't idly touch it if you're not actually highlighting something that that moment.

Good luck! Update tomorrow and let us know how it went!
posted by anderjen at 2:24 PM on August 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Don't drink caffeine before the interview. You'll talk too quickly.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:57 PM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Reprieve: I have until Monday. Thanks for your pointers!!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 8:37 AM on August 18, 2016

Response by poster: Okay hi! It was today and I feel like I crushed it! Which I am hopefully correct about, but time will tell!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 10:16 AM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Made it to the next round!!!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 3:29 PM on August 26, 2016

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