At Microsoft Build, a tech demo reborn as a sitcom

Disclosure: Microsoft is a client of the author.

I used to look forward to Microsoft events because of the fun videos the company did when Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer ran the show. When Gates left, so did much of the fun and humor in events. But at this week’s Build event, Scott Hanselman, Microsoft partner program manager, brought back some of the fun with a non-keynote keynote that played like a sitcom.

It was one of the most compelling demos I’ve ever seen — and I’ve seen some great ones over the years. 

I think Hanselman’s approach, which looks easy but isn’t, is now a best practice. So let’s talk about making demos interesting and more informative. 

The problem with demos: they’re often dull

Demos are problematic at events like Build because most of the audience doesn’t care about what you are showcasing at any given time. People’s needs, skills, and job responsibilities are often very different at large events, meaning demos on the main stage don’t appeal to most of those in what is usually a diverse audience. Even so, many audience members still need to know about the nature of these tools and how they might interact with other tools, platforms, and future projects or jobs. 

Disinterested folks attending these demos may instead escape to email or social media rather than pay attention. And when you’re attending a remote event, the distractions are even worse — making it easy to tune out even when you need to understand something.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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