5 Mistakes CEOs Make In Demos

I am always surprised by how many basic mistakes CEOs make when giving demos. Learn to avoid them at Cohan’s Great Demo workshop.

  1. Starting the demo with your company history … who cares?
  2. Too many bullets on one slide. See Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 Rule of Powerpoint
  3. “Why I should care about your product” is left to the end of the presentation (long after the high level execs have left the room).
  4. Live demo that does not work.
  5. Detailed explanation of every product feature. Regardless if the audience want to see them or not. Gear it to your audience, ask them if you don’t know.

This is an interactive workshop with Peter Cohan geared especially for startup entrepreneur. If you bring a copy of your demo, we will review it in the workshop and provide you feedback on how to improve it.

“SKMurphy’s partnership with the Second Derivative has allowed entrepreneurs at smaller firms access to the same world class sales training normally only available to Fortune 1000 companies. In the class my team developed a presentation that allowed us to explain our offering much more clearly to our prospective customers.” said Miles Kehoe, President at New Idea Engineering. “We have also reshaped how we help our clients present results to their end users. The temptation so often is to start at the beginning of the story and tell them here’s what we did first…then we did this…and really the only thing the they care about is the results, the improvements they will see.”

Postscript Aug 18: I struck a chord with Chris Edwards, who saw parallels between poor demos and poor press briefings, causing him to ask the question “Does Anybody Enjoy Presentations?” Some excerpts follow:

Basically, all these presentations are done backwards. Point three in the SKMurphy list is the most important one for me: “‘Why I should care about your product’ is left to the end of the presentation.”

Many briefings are like some ghastly cross between company brochure and time-share sales. Most presentations make you feel like you’re being set up for a con. There is slide after slide of selective evidence, all meant to make you think that the thing to be unveiled at the end is the answer.


People really need to think about the thought processes that their intended audience are likely to use. A journalist is, in the case of a briefing, looking for a story. They may well not take away the story you presented but if you start off with what you think the story is, things might at least unfold in the right order.

So, make the claim early. And then provide the background for why this claim might be true. And then you can move onto the background. Why this way round? Because it’s a structure that fits the inverted pyramid of news; it fits the thought processes that journalists are most likely to use: what’s happened; how it happened; evidence to back it all up.

This is the reality of most demos as well, you have to convince the prospect in no more than a few minutes that you can help them in a meaningful way. And the first part runs more reliably on PowerPoint as a platform than Linux, so hold off on the interactive portion until you have established very clearly what the value for your audience is.

3 thoughts on “5 Mistakes CEOs Make In Demos”

  1. That’s interesting. Replace ‘demo’ with ‘briefing’ and you have everything that’s wrong with technology companies telling the press what they’re up to. For years, I’ve known that the briefing materials were adapted from sales presentations…but I laboured under the illusion that the companies thought the sales presentations worked, so they saw no reason to alter them for hacks.

    It seems that nobody likes them.

    It makes you wonder how people actually manage to make sales at all.

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