Never Do Live Demos

If there’s one learning you can take out of working with technology it’s – never do live demos. That means never. And the bigger and more important the audience, the more that rule holds true.

So if you’re demoing to your next door neighbour’s dog, you’re probably on pretty safe ground. But if you’re doing it to more than 3 people who you want to convince that what you do is kinda cool, you’re asking for trouble.

So it was with this week’s Mobile Monday in London. I was given a 10 minute slot to talk about Mobile Advertising, so I decided to give a live demo of Admob’s site. My thinking was that I could show something that most of the audience hadn’t seen before – a mobile advertising campaign actually happening in real time

I’ve done this lots of times. All it involves is logging to to the website and running a campaign for $10. What’s impressive is that $10 is spent in about 20 seconds and generates 200 real clicks from real people in the wild. People literally go a little shivery and go “wow” as they glimpse a view of the future happening now.

Even better is that I set the fictitious campaign up so that respondents were asked to leave their email addresses. Now, most people think that 200 responses will lead to about 5 or 10 email addresses – which is a good assumption if you base your thinking on the web. What I know is that this leads to about 70 or 80 email addresses – which leads to a double-wow from the audience.

I have to admit, I was very nervous giving this presentation. Not that giving a talk to 150 peers would particularly phase me, but I was really worried that something would go wrong with the demo. It’s a control thing :-)

So I set the scene by making a light hearted remark about the risk of doing live demos. Started the campaign running and…….nothing happened. The PC screen froze leaving me there on stage with a very sympathetic audience, but with only one thought running through my head – “Beam me up Scottie”.

Anyway, I decided to let one of the other speakers go on while I regrouped. I sat down and immediately found the problem. My browser had crashed, coz when I popped open another browser, the campaign had run already and the money was gone (about 30 seconds).

I quickly looked at my email haul and had over 100. Maybe I could save the day and go back on again and at least show the results by way of validation. So I did. I plunged back into the limelight, plugged my PC into it on screen and……nothing happened. The sodding thing had crashed.

Nothing to do but bow out gracefully.

People I spoke to afterwards were very kind and I’ve had dozens of emails saying that they really felt for me and even that I got the message across well. But I think that the people who really needed to get the idea – that for an independent apps developer, you can get your product in the hands of the consumer in a low cost, highly targeted way and on a results only basis was lost. Ho hum.

So, by all means play cards with a man named Doc (you might win), eat in a place named Moms (it might be delicious), share a stage with kids or animals (they might be well behaved) but never, never give live demos to an audience you care about.

Anyway, I’m off to give another live demo. Hey, you don’t think I take my own advice, do you?

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