The Power of Storytelling in Product Demos
Make product demos memorable by wrapping it in a narrative
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“Story, as it turns out, was crucial to our evolution -- more so than opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs let us hang on; story told us what to hang on to.” - Lisa Cron
Storytelling is a powerful communication device. It goes back millennia to our hunter-gatherer days when we used to share over a campfire and entertain each other.
How do we draw on these insights and use them in product demos?
Products are not just a bundle of features. These features solve real problems for real people and make their lives easier.
But who are these people and what are their problems?
There is a story here.
Before you start
Before you get into the details, identify the goal of the product demo — is it to close a sale, onboard a new customer, or raise investment. The goal and the audience will help you identify what parts of the story you want to tell.
Identify the amount of time you have. Do people want you to get to the point or do they have enough time to get a thorough understanding of how the product works? This will also define what parts of the problem do you explain.
Understanding the audience’s context and biggest problems will help you define the workflow to explain the top/unique features that resolve that issue.
Let's take the example of a hypothetical B2B product for 'Employee Onboarding' targeted at remote startups.
Who are the characters
Every story has characters. And since we are building products to be used by real people, it is important to build up the characters.
Now, every character has their own set of needs and wants. Wants are what they desire and needs are what they realize later that is important.
In the example of an 'Employee Onboarding' app, let's look at the characters in this story:
Reena - an employee who has just joined a new company Hooli
David - Hiring Manager
Maria - HR Head
Nikhil - Founder of the company
What is the narrative?
A narrative or story is nothing but a sequence of events over time. Going deeper, there's usually a 3-Act structure in a good story: Beginning, Middle, and End.
Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
How do you fit this structure into a product demo? Talk through a use case with a contextual setting and not only by demoing features, UIs, and workflows.
Let's start with our example:
I'll take you through our employee onboarding platform – both mobile and web – by showcasing the journey of a new employee Reena and her interactions with other team members like David and Maria.
The beginning sets the context. It starts by narrating a normal day in the life of the user. It ends at the inciting incident or the conflict that arises.
So, it's Reena's first day at her job at Hooli. As this is only her second job since graduating college, she is a bit nervous about the new workplace. Her previous experience was at a smaller company, where she had regular interactions with the founder. Now she's part of a much bigger and fast growing company at Hooli.
Since this is a fast growing company, there isn’t much process and she is clueless on what is to be done on the first day.
In this section, you dwell more into the conflict.
Since she has joined the team remotely, she hasn’t had face-time with any of her team members. The team has dumped a bunch of documents on her to read through without any guidance. This leaves a bad impression in her mind. Research shows that employees who have a bad onboarding experience leave the company sooner than others who have a good onboarding.
Once you’ve explained the problem and its scale, move on to explaining how your product will solve the problem.
Now let's see how our employee onboarding platform would be able to solve the problem:
Few days prior to the joining date, we sent personalized emails to Reena. On the day of the joining, there is a set checklist that is followed - linking buddy assignee, learning resources, expectations doc, setting up an automated meeting with her manager David, and sharing onboarding podcast by the founder of the company, Nikhil.
If these are not configured by any chance, the leadership is informed automatically. This ensures that Reena's onboarding is seamless.
Talk about how it impacts all the characters in the story. Add data at the end of the story - complete your story by adding what are the quantitative benefits of using your product
As a result of using Hooli, Reena had a great onboarding and has quickly become one of the most productive members of the team.
How does storytelling help?
It helps bring out empathy in the customer. They can envision how the product will be used by real people in a use case.
This could also be part of a recorded video or screen recording.
Things to take care of
Now you will have to practice the demo in front of others to identify the engaging and not-so engaging parts. You can use this as feedback to improve the flow of the demo.
Stories are more memorable at painting a picture in the minds of your customers. Much better than simply listing a collection of features. Explaining your product as a combination of story + facts will make it stick out more in the face of competition.
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