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Showing Off: How to Do a User Demo

Rather than repeating what has been said elsewhere, here is a nice short post on agile-for-all that covers the basics.

Here are a few things for my own future reference and teams that I'm working with...

Try to keep each demo to 5 minutes or less.  

If it's longer than that, it's possible that you should be demoing more than one story.  More likely, you're just being too wordy.


No, louder than that.  Louder.  Do you feel like you're yelling?  OK, that's about right.  You need to put your voice in public-address mode for 5 minutes.

Focus on why your audience should care about the story 

This is particularly important for back-end work.  For example: Your story generates a feed of XML that will be consumed by another application. Show the output, and point to a couple of salient features in it.  Then be done.

The important part of the above is "show the output."  Showing the end users how to interact with your service is a separate sit-down, not part of demo.

At base, you want to remember who your audience is, and why you're doing a demo. 

Your audience

Usually, people come to a demo because they have a stake in the success of your software project. They're executives and end-users who want a preview of what they're getting.  The questions that are foremost in their minds are:
  • Am I spending my software budget wisely?
  • Is what the team is working on what I need next, or do I need to change their priorities?
What it does and why it matters are most important.  They do not care if you came up with a way-cool whiz-bang solution to a technical problem.  They do not care if you just learned how to use the MEAN stack.  Show off your skills to the rest of your team in a lunch & learn session later.

Why do a demo?

You're doing this to ensure that you're building the right thing.  Hopefully you have other controls in place (tests, business validation reviews, etc) to ensure that you're building the thing right.  This isn't the time & place to prove it.  You're here to give the business-oriented people a chance to judge the value of your work, so they can help you adjust if you're not giving them what they really need right now.

On this last point, it's important to keep an open mind and accept the feedback you get.  If you aren't getting any feedback, you probably need to adjust how you're doing the demo.
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