The Art of the Demo

The Art of the Demo

Are demos a necessary tool in L&D? Well, according to Troy Stein, TechSmith’s VP of Customer Advocacy, they’re super vital. He joins this episode of The Visual Lounge to explain why and share some tips on how to do demos the right way.

The way Troy sees it, demos are to instructional videos what trailers are to movies. They don’t just give a sneak peek into what’s coming, they also pique the viewer’s interest and make them want to know more.

But there are key elements that need to be on point before a demo is considered successful. In this episode, Troy discusses everything from demo length to the importance of context, and he even shares a few demos he’s worked on himself.

He also shares a bonus tip for video creators: Do everything at 1080p.

Before becoming the VP of Customer Advocacy at TechSmith, Troy held a range of roles with the company spanning a decade. He also played a pivotal role in making Camtasia the popular software it is today.

You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post, to listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…

What role do demos play in the world of learning and development?

As an instructional designer, it’s only natural to wonder if more people should be watching your videos.

You’ve got this great content, and it should be selling itself, right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

Do you know who’s had the right idea all along? People in the movie industry. Months before the release of any motion picture, they’ve already saturated the market with a movie trailer, and usually more than one. It’s not just to show that they’ve been hard at work throughout the duration of production. The aim is to drive attention to their movie and pique people’s interest.

The same thing can happen in the L&D community. The secret? Utilize demos.

With demos, you don’t just appeal to your audience’s mind, but you win their hearts in the process.

Things to consider when creating a demo

1. Remember, it’s not an exact replica of your instructional video

“Demos aren’t meant to be wholly instructive. They’re meant to grab your attention and make you want to know more.”

It’s worth remembering that, much like a movie trailer, your demo doesn’t need to give too much away. And sometimes, you need to move things around and switch their order — think of it as another form of storytelling.

Rather than giving a progressive narrative as you would in your instructional video, try to create a bit of cognitive dissonance. That’s a sure way to pull people in without necessarily spilling the beans.

As Troy tells us,

“Teasers and trailers aren’t necessarily meant to be wholly instructive, they’re supposed to grab your attention and make you want to learn more.”

So, apply the same principle to your demo.

2. How accurate does a demo need to be?

Going in, you should adhere to one cardinal rule. Never lie.

Sure, you’ll find yourself cutting things out and perhaps bending people’s perceptions of things. But all the information presented in your demo should be 100% factual.

You don’t need to give everything away but withholding information in your demo is different from outright lying. Remember, the aim is to draw people in, and you can’t do that if you tell them everything. Just don’t tell them anything that isn’t true or is misleading.

3. Strike a balance between simple and complex

Troy recommends that if you’re looking to make a feature demo, simply introduce the feature, set the stage for the problem the feature solves, and then show how it solves the problem.

It’s a simple approach, but it gets the message across without revealing the “how-to” of it all.

But that doesn’t mean all demos have to be simple. In fact, it’s often to your benefit to show something that’s a bit more complicated. You’re trying to sell them a skill they don’t have, so feel free to add a bit of finesse to the mix. Don’t show them something the average person can pull off.

4. How long and fast should your demo be?

Right off the bat, Troy says that you should aim for about 30 seconds or less. Then again, it depends on the type of demo you’re creating.

For instructional designers with a knack for squeezing complex information into little videos, Troy stresses that it’s important to let go of the clutter. Then, keep squeezing and zooming in until you can fit the demo into 30 seconds.

When it comes to demo speed, Troy says,

“If you have to pick between going a little too fast versus slow, go fast.”

You’re creating a teaser, not the instructional video, so the demo should whet appetites but not totally satisfy them.

 5. Why context is important in demos

As mentioned earlier, demos run pretty fast and sometimes don’t follow a linear train of thought. So, offering context is a very important aspect of demo creation.

But while creating context, remember to “get rid of the extra stuff.”

Take Camtasia, for instance. It has well over 100 features in the works. You can’t possibly fit all of that in a 30-second video. So, you need to hone into one or a couple of features and create context in a way that doesn’t lose your audience.

The same principle is applicable if you’re running a web application. Chances are that you have a few tabs open and other distractions vying for your attention. While sharing your screen for your video, none of those things need to show up. Look for ways to draw attention to just the part of the screen that’s relevant to your tutorial.

6. Apply Hitchcock’s rule to your demos

“When you get to the point of your demo where it’s time for your feature to shine, don’t forget to zoom in or make it the center of focus.”

There’s a lot to be learned from the master of suspense when it comes to content creation of any kind. But in this case, it’s all about focus.

Hitchcock’s rule states that “The size of any object in your frame should be proportional to its importance to the story at that moment.”

How does that apply to demos, you ask? Well, when you want to highlight a special feature or topic in your demo video, be sure to zoom in, or add an element that draws focus. Make it the most important thing in the frame.

For more information on how to create great demos and ultimately draw more attention to your instructional videos, check out the resources on the TechSmith website.

Matt Pierce

Matt Pierce is a Learning & Video Ambassador at TechSmith. In this role speaks and teaches about video creation and visual communication. A graduate of Indiana University he has ten years of experience working in learning and development with a focus on visual instruction. He has directly managed the training, user assistance, video, and other teams for TechSmith. Teach him something @piercemr

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