5 Steps to a Successful Software Project Virtual Demo

Sprint demos present an excellent opportunity for the members of the development team to show clients the work was completed in the course of a sprint. Unfortunately, for new developers, these can also be a source of anxiety. It may be your first time in front of a client, and the last thing you want is to appear unprepared or unprofessional. For anyone who’s new to giving a virtual demo or who feels they could use a few tips, here are five easy-to-follow steps for demo preparation.

1. Choose your words.

The first step is figuring out what you want to say. This means reading through the stories you are demonstrating to make sure you understand the work you will be presenting. As a programmer, there can often be a disconnect between understanding something conceptually and verbalizing it — especially when you are speaking to a less technical audience. I like to start by making a list of bullet points summarizing the work done for each story. I then organize the stories in whatever order makes the most sense for the visual demonstration.

2. Make sure your virtual demo is flawless.

The last thing you want is to discover a bug during your virtual demo. To make sure this never occurs, you should practice every click, every movement, and every command you will use during the presentation — multiple times. Make sure you have uncovered any possibility of error and correct it before demo time. If anything is not working 100% correctly, it should not be presented to the client. Leave it out!

3. Put it together.

Once you have your script and your visual demonstration down, practice what you are planning to say as you go through the demo. Do this out loud, if possible. Speaking out loud helps you work through the unexpected kinks in your script and feel out natural transitions between stories. Also, it helps develop a sense of timing. You learn where to slow your demo to avoid rushing through presenting a user interface feature without fully explaining it. You’ll also learn where to add more detail to your explanation to avoid having heaps of awkward silence when demoing a feature with a slow API call.

4. Plan a dress rehearsal.

Once your technical and verbal presentation is ready to go, you may think preparation is over. That’s a big mistake. Although you likely feel accustomed to using virtual meeting platforms, mistakes happen when you’re under pressure. This is why I recommend practicing at least once within the meeting platform you’ll be using for the demo. Bonus points if you can have a team member watch and give you feedback! But even if you’re in a meeting of one, this is an opportunity to play around and locate the unmute and screen share buttons and ensure that you have the correct permissions set up so your computer can access your camera and mic.

Another thing to consider when screen-sharing is how to organize your desktop for the virtual demo. Keep it as sparse as possible to not distract from your presentation. However, don’t only share a single window, since that could mean participants miss important aspects of your demonstration (e.g. a file selection window). Working through this now will be 10 times easier than getting flustered in the moment when you cannot find the ‘Share’ button and have to pick up the pieces.

5. The final countdown.

Now that you have prepared and practiced thoroughly, I have just a couple more tips for the five minutes before meeting time. First, make sure to eliminate outside noises and distractions. When working from home, this usually means ensuring that any family members/roommates/pets are kept at bay for the duration of the meeting. If the nerves start to creep up, take deep breathes and resist the urge to rush. Finally, be proud of your team and the work you are presenting. And, last but not least, make absolutely sure you unmute yourself before you start to talk!