The Keys to a Great Demo

Frederick J. Ampel
Feb 14, 2017

What is an effective demonstration? How do you PROPERLY evaluate a potential customer to ensure that the demo you give is what they need to see?

A great demonstration is more than just a potential to close a sale: It must also be great entertainment. That is why it is an ART, not just an outcome.



Be sure you understand who is going to be at the demo and what the relationships between those people are. Knowing your audience is essential since it lets you tailor your message to each person’s specific needs, goals, and involvement in the buying process.


  • State the purpose of the demo: What are the main things you’ll be showcasing — and why?
  • Explain the benefits to the client: How will having this information help them?
  • Check that you’re in alignment: Ask questions such as: “How does that sound to you?” “Is that a comfortable sound level?” “Was there something specific you wanted to see or hear? Did you bring a disc or  Blu-ray? Why?”
This approach lets you quickly and easily get everyone on the same page.


To make a demo work, you have to be a teacher, showman, and master of ceremonies all rolled into one. Realistically, you probably have a maximum 15-minute attention span to work with before your audience shows signs of “brain fade.”

Based on the 15-minute rule, you need to decide how much time is audio and how much time is movies/other video clips. I recommend a 60/40 audio-to-video ratio since people will spend more time with music than movies. (And don't forget to include a gaming segment IF the client indicates in your pre-demo discussions that gaming is important to them.)

Keep it short. For music, use only about the first 90 seconds, then fade the volume smoothly at the first chorus. If your music clips are much longer than that you are wasting time.

Pre-loading and formatting your demos also allows you to sequence the clips and musical cuts in a specific order to match the client’s preferences.

Using the 90 second clip length guideline for video as well, that works out to about five or six audio clips and three to five video/gaming clips. Build your demos on a media server or hard drive with all the variations you think you will need right there at your fingertips. 

This ensures you have each clip pre-cut, pre-faded (for music) and timed for movies to wrap at the right end point. It is extremely useful to name your demo sequences by type or style of content so that you can quickly access the right content mix for the client's stated preferences without long delays hunting for the right chapter on a video disc or cut on a CD. Having everything pre-loaded and ready to go saves waiting time, where you may well lose the attention or focus you worked so hard to get in the first place.

Pre-loading and formatting your demos also allows you to sequence the clips and musical cuts in a specific order to match the client’s preferences.


Looking for the perfect segue into the actual presentation? In one to three sentences, summarize your current understanding of their situation. This focuses the conversation and it sets you up to discuss features specifically as they relate to your clients’ challenges, which will boost their engagement.



Start by teaching the listener/viewer. Point out that they will hear the slight hum of Stevie Ray Vaughan's Fender Twin Amp in the intro of his version of the Hendrix classic "Little Wing," or let them know to watch for the ants crawling on the edge of a basket of berries in "Fried Green Tomatoes.”

Pre-sell the scene by alerting people to, for example, the shotgun blast in the bank robbery opening scene of “The Dark Knight” or the click/whoosh of the golf balls being hit in "Bagger Vance.” Remember: Most clients have never heard what a really good surround sound system can do.


One of the key capabilities of today's multi-channel receivers/electronics is up-conversion of stereo music to surround. It is always effective to show the client how new and fresh their entire CD collection becomes when represented in surround. A key hook in this process is to have the client bring their favorite CD with them and show them how the music they already know and love becomes a remarkable NEW experience when expanded into surround.


Blowing stuff up at high volumes proves nothing and in many cases is detrimental to the demo. If your pre-qualification of a particular client tells you they are big action-film fans, you can always add a big dramatic explosion at the end to cap off the demo.


And finally — get them excited by your presentation. Build the energy level consistently so that they are at the “just a little bit more stage” when you’re done. You want them to want the experience at home — and want you to deliver it!

NOTE: This is a summary of much more detailed white paper that will soon be available to CEDIA members. In that white paper, Mr. Ampel details subjects such as identifying key body language clues and qualifying specific clients.



CEDIA blog posts are intended to provide general information and should not be regarded as legal opinions or advice.

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