Every startup should have weekly demos. “Demo” is just a cool way of saying product or technique demonstration. Demos are central to creating a healthy start-up culture because they promote the three things that all good starts-up teams are great at which are transparency, collaboration & communication.
Demos might seem time consuming but at Republic, we literally spend 15 minutes a week organizing it.
What is a demo?
- A demonstration of a product or technique. We’ve had demos ranging from smarter ways to route a help request to a more intuitive app design. Every team in your company should be working on ways to improve their current processes.
- A place where people can see what is being done and ask implementation details.
- A time to ask why we are building this feature or product in the first place. This keeps everyone on the same page, reminding the team of overarching goals and how projects tie into those goals.
What a demo is not:
- It is not an opportunity to show powerpoint slides.
- It is not an opportunity to talk about things you are going to do. Ideas are cheap.
Why do it at all?
We run demos for 3 main reasons:
1. Communication Tool
To communicate to other teams progress on projects. In a startup environment, projects can change quickly and frequently. To keep your finger on the pulse of the direction of the company and needs of the customers, communication is a critical element.
2. Team building
It is an excuse to get all the teams together in the same room, often after a demo people realise we are all working towards the same goal. It also gives people the opportunity to learn and contribute to projects outside of their day to day roles. Once, we watched a statistician give a demo on an app he created in three days.
3. Morale Booster
Give credit where credit is due to those who make things. But there is nothing better than watching people get excited about what another team is working on.
What projects should be demoed?
Anything that is actually being worked on. Early feedback from other departments is vital when working on a project. Teams can share how this new concept affects their workflows and factors to consider while building a project rather than once the work is done.
How long should a demo last?
One hour with two to four short demos. Anything over an hour has the potential to lose audience interest and participation.
Who should attend?
This is simple…everyone! But more specifically:
Any demo that has the CEO or any leadership attending is already 30% better. Having leadership there means the payoff of demoing is higher, and to see leadership mixing it up with engineers over a technical details builds good bridges for both sides. If necessary write them an email asking them to join and why letting them know why you think it is important for them to be there. So far at Republic in over 100 demos I can count on my hand the amount of times no Leadership has attended. Shout out to them btw!
The most regular attenders are the operations teams. Often this is where they see a tool that they requested months before that will make their lives much easier. They also will often need to support this product when it launches and this might be the first time that it come across their radar.
When there are new products or features that will be rolled out to customers, having the Marketing team present from the start of the project is a huge help. They are able to grab a greater understanding of the project which helps them communicate the benefits to customers. They also have the opportunity to communicate our brand goals and drive home the importance of considering brand while completing a project.
Who should demo?
1. Every team should demo.
2. Invite people and teams to talk about something they are working on even if they don’t have a physical thing to demo. Putting people in the forefront increases your team’s loyalty to your brand and product. It gives them a voice and elevates them from “completing a task” to “contributing to mission”. It also builds up their presentation skills, turning every team member into a leader.
What technology do you need?
At Republic we use 3 things:
- A projector plus a flat wall.
- Google hangouts so that remote folks can watch the demo. and for screen sharing purposes.
- Screen sharing on a device to show progress, on mobile we use Vysor (until recently this has been a real challenge).
Questions to ask to help the audience understand the demo
- Who are we building this for?
- What problem is it solving?
- What was the biggest challenge in building this product?
- Whats next?
One last tip, watch out for demos that start losing their way or go on too long. If you feel yourself getting bored then the audience is probably bored too. If this happens don’t be afraid to step in and ask a question that helps wrap up the demo. Something like: “Jon this is really great work, what are your next steps?” Or “good work, if you want to know more about this project talk with Jon afterwards he will be happy to explain in more detail.”
I could go on, but I would merely be preventing you from starting your own demo. Make 2016 the year your org gets into this habit.
Learn how demoing can help with your creative process and how the Republic demo began, in Young Lions: Episode 3- Matthew Barton Sr. User Experience Design.
We’ve included a cheat sheet of how we organize a demo, no need to sign up, check it out “Bonus Tips: What Does it Take to Organize a Demo?”
Check back in a few weeks, we’ll share how to give a memorable and effective presentation.