I recently facilitated an enterprise software selection process. This required gathering information on software and vendor capabilities, interviewing reference customers and participating in multiple software demos, among other activities.\nWhile each software vendor on the \u201cshort list\u201d can address a vast majority of the client\u2019s business needs, each vendor has a range of capabilities. So, how do you set the stage to allow comparison and to make the demos informative and enjoyable, instead of exhausting?\n12 Tips for Killer Software Demos\nAvoid "demo killers" like poor preparation, dismissing key stakeholder needs, going off script, talking too much, failing to engage the audience, poor demo skills, bashing the competition and apologizing for the demos or software.\nThe most successful and enjoyable software demos were those where I worked with my client and the vendor in advance of the demo. Here is insight into my approach for \u201ckiller demos."\n1. Prepare\nAsk important questions before the demo, for instance, the business drivers for the enterprise software; what systems the company uses today; the company\u2019s primary concerns; the expected benefits of the new software; user community and job roles; stakeholders who will attend the demo; decision-makers and key influencers.\n2. Focus on needs\nShape the demo around users\u2019 needs \u2014 not wants \u2014 and priorities. This requires documented software business requirements, with user consensus on needs and priorities.\n3. Avoid the standard demo\nStandard demos show that the vendor did not consider the customer\u2019s needs. Instead, take a standard approach as described in these tips.\n4. Don\u2019t change a thing\u2026 except\nDemonstrate the software in its standard, \u201cout of the box\u201d form \u2014 without integration,customization, or significant configuration \u2014 unless otherwise requested by the customer. An exception is minor personalization using the customer\u2019s branding.\u00a0\n5. Show a day in the life\nSimulate the user\u2019s day-to-day experience. For example, show how a \u201cpower user\u201d creates monthly reports, and enters detailed data. Show how a casual user completes an assigned task. Show how a site manager or a corporate manager views key performance indicators (KPIs) on a dashboard.\n6. Stick to the script\nCreate a "storyboard" for the demo based upon business needs and priorities. If the customer provides software scripts and\/or demo data, then make sure that the scripts align with the stated needs and priorities. Demo the software to best showcase its capabilities while addressing each script.\u00a0\n7. Start at the end\u2026 then go backwards\nFirst demo reports, dashboards and workflow that show how a user interacts with the software. Then demo key data entry forms. Demo a workflow or two. Run a few key data queries. But demo software configuration, workflow configuration, report and dashboard creation only if the users would do this day-to-day.\u00a0\n8. Speak to selection criteria\nUnderstand the customer\u2019s software selection criteria, and address them throughout the demo and dialogue.\n9. Address resource needs\nAddress how many subject matter experts (SMEs), project managers and IT resources the customer will need for implementation, roll-out and ongoing maintenance. Provide customer references that can back up these resource estimates.\n10. Have IT experts available\nSummarize the software\u2019s architecture, hardware and software needs; installation options (on premises, Cloud, Software as a Service) and implementation \u2014 but don't bore a room full of subject matter experts with IT details. Have IT experts present or on call during the demo to answer IT questions.\n11. Distinguish yourself\nAddress how your software will improve the customer\u2019s business. Be positive about capabilities and transparent about third parties you use to deliver software and services. Boast about your successes, and back up statements with evidence. Do not make negative or false statements about the competition.\n12. Deliver strong\n\nKnow your audience \u2013 anticipate and\u00a0address their needs.\nEngage the audience \u2013\u00a0control the content and flow, and encourage dialogue.\nHave a strong opening \u2013 capture the audience in the first two minutes.\nMake your case \u2013\u00a0benefits the customers will gain, and what sets you apart.\nRespect the clock \u2013\u00a0arrive in plenty of time to set up, and plan to finish early.\nGet trained \u2013\u00a0learn how to speak to a group and how to demo software.\u00a0\n\nConclusion\nA well-delivered demo can make up for software shortcomings, while a poorly-delivered demo can destroy the chance of customers embracing even the best software. Demos can be compelling and enjoyable when the software vendor and prospective customer organize a \u201ckiller demo\u201d through preparation, focus, speaking to business and IT issues, and strong delivery.