Live Hi-tech Demos at Marketing Events: Recipe for Disaster?

Technical product demos and live launches present exciting marketing events opportunities to WOW your audience. But beware. Tips to save your hide. Fourth chapter of a 15-part White Paper series on BIG creative events production. Click “Contact” to request the FREE complete version

OK, maybe not always a disaster—but, here are some tips that could save your career.Technical product launches present exciting opportunities for companies to reveal their latest and greatest … the “next big thing.” And, nothing is more exciting than the debut of a long-awaited technical product launch at a marketing event. Steve Jobs made an art form out of this, but even he had hiccups too.

This is true for any product launch at a marketing event but especially true in the hi-tech sector where a tool or a piece of software is being rolled out for the first time. And, for all of you newbies out there, a single product may be introduced at numerous big events to spread out the impact. Events for investors, consumers, employees, the trade and the media. In the best cases, these marketing events generate awareness, buzz, and off-the-charts sales.

Over the years, articulate creative has had the privilege of producing countless product launch events for hi-tech clients. Without exception, all have featured a demo of their latest ‘whiz bang newfangled thing-a-majig.” We can boil this discussion down to its most salient point, which is this …

Never attempt a live demo—unless you have a plan B in place. 

Remember Apple’s product launch of the iPhone 4, back in 2010? Standing before an auditorium packed with journalists, then-CEO Steve Jobs made the macbre discovery that he had no Wi-Fi connection. “I’m afraid I have a problem,” he began, “and I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to show you much today.” These are apologetic words no product demonstrator should ever have to say, let alone a CEO like Jobs. Can you imagine the rage he unleashed for that oversight post event?  The iPhone demo debacle was resolved, but only after several failed attempts by Jobs amidst much nervous laughter from the audience.  

In another example, I once watched the Founder and CEO of the 2nd largest privately held technology company in America  “tap dance” for 30 minutes on a live international satellite broadcast of his product launch as the nerve-shattered in-house team was unable to resolve the bug. Horrific—career altering.

If it can happen to a technological powerhouse like Apple, it can certainly happen to you. The only way to make a technology demo iron clad is frankly … to mock it up. NOTE: We don’t mean “fake” the demo, we just mean to show the demo under controlled conditions. With that objective in mind we offer these suggestions:

1)    Video or animate the demonstration real-time demo. You’ll be in complete control. Include the delighted reaction shots of the people watching the demo. If it needs some sizzle, punctuate the demo with music or film the demo in an unexpected (but non-distracting) setting. If the product normally works 99 percent of the time—the 1% of the time it won’t work, is when you want it to in front of a live audience. Simply film it doing it’s thing and post-produce the results properly and it will look professional and your audience will appreciate this. Or, post-produce the video it to look just like it is happening at that moment and will work 100 percent of the time. Then, maybe you can go live and get fancy real-time once the big "TA-DA" into is completed. 

2)    If you are doing a web demo of some kind, (which is almost always the case these days) ... you can say you’re going out live to the internet, but don’t actually have to.  Internet connections at hotels and other venues are notoriously expensive and notoriously unreliable. Tell the audience you’re connecting to the internet, but then switch over to the pre-recorded footage. They’ll never know. And, if they figure it out they’ll understand—this isn’t to deceive anyone, it’s meant to communicate what it does the first time without hiccups. 

3)    Finally, if you want the best of both worlds and have the guts, do the live demo real time—but, have a filmed version cued up and ready to go if it fails more than once. This is probably the best route of all. 

You as the event marketing manager are accountable that the product doesn’t freeze after the fanfare. If it’s a one-horse show, the horse had better be the best, look beautiful in its brand new shoes, and gallop without a hitch.


Let’s review:

1.    Technical product launches integral to effective marketing events

2.    HI-tech demos are risky, so try:

a.    Filming the demo

b.    Mock up the function sans internet connection

c.   Go "Balls to the Wall" and do the demo—but have your plan B ready 


(c) 2014 articulate, inc