4 Ways to Up Your Demo Storytelling Game

4 Ways to Up Your Demo Storytelling Game takes the new dilemma of leaving a lasting impression with your SaaS demo audience, using an age old practice. Storytelling has existed pretty much as long as humans have.

Adam and Eve. Jonah and the Whale. Moses and Pharaoh. That time that Abraham was supposed to kill his kid but instead killed a ram.

Those stories have been passed down from generation to generation, and have changed over time (which is why we have different religions, different editions of the Bible, etc), but they are universally known. You don’t have to be religious to have heard of these stories. And, many of them exist across cultures.

Take the great flood story – in Judeo-Christian religions, that’s known as Noah’s Ark, but the Aztecs had a version with Note and Nena, who hid in a cypress tree. The Mesopotamians had Gilgamesh, who met a man named Utnapishtim who brought all of his family and all of the animals on his boat to survive a great flood. In Greek mythology, Deucalion (Prometheus’ son) built an Ark because Zeus told him to. The list goes on – Hindu, Chinese, Buddhist, Norse, Aborigines – many cultures have some version of this story.

Stories are how we’ve been sharing information since pretty much the beginning of time – and we now have more stories and characters than we know what to do with. Batman. The Avengers. Walter White. Captains Kirk/Picard/Sisko/Janeway/Archer/Lorca/Burnham (have I mentioned that I like Star Trek?). Luke and Leia. Daniel Tiger (I believe the world would be a better place if we all watched more Daniel Tiger, but I have a 2 year old, so I don’t get a choice).

Humans love stories, but people are often afraid to include stories in their demos. I talk to clients all the time about how to tell better stories in their demos, and there are a lot of reasons why people don’t. Sometimes they’re nervous because they don’t want to get personal. Sometimes they feel as though it will distract from the point of the meeting. Sometimes they feel like they aren’t “natural storytellers.”

Here’s the good news. Everyone is a “natural” storyteller, because humans are natural storytellers. All you have to do to tell better stories in your demos is unlock your inner storyteller. Here are some tips for how to up your demo storytelling game. We have a series on becoming a more effective sales rep that also goes over storytelling dynamics here.

4 Ways to Up Your Demo Storytelling Game

  1. Get personal
  2. Consider the emotional impact
  3. Tell customer stories, but leave the logo slide at home
  4. Pop culture stories can make a great connection, as long as you’re inclusive

It’s ok to get personal in your stories during a demo

Getting personal in a demo does not mean you have to share intimate details of your life. In fact, you probably shouldn’t do that (your Tinder profile and your demo do not mix).

But, there are personal things that work quite well. Back when I was selling marketing technology, I used to have a few stories about the “ideal customer experience,” and one of my favorites to talk about is my local record store – Squeezebox in Evanston, IL.

I’ve been buying records from Squeezebox basically as long as I’ve been buying vinyl records. Tim, the owner, knows my name and my taste in music, so when I go in the store, he knows my name, and he makes recommendations for new stuff that I might like (or old stuff that he bought, but that’s new to me). One time at a record fair he helped me negotiate a fair price for Metallica’s Black Album (1992 pressing!). So of course I’ll spend a few dollars more per record for that kind of service than getting records online.

That’s one store in Chicago, with one owner. How do you scale that? Let me show you…”

A story like this doesn’t tell you any intimate information about me. You didn’t learn anything about my family, or any deep, dark secrets. But, it’s something from my life that connects with the point of the meeting, and when I told that story, it was typically the thing that customers remembered after the meeting was long since over.

Oh, and this story takes about a minute to tell. You don’t have to tell an Epic to tell an impactful story in your demo.

Consider the emotional impact

When we tell stories, it impacts our emotions and the audience’s emotions.

I was running a storytelling workshop at an SKO in January, and someone on the team (who was a bit uncomfortable with personal stories) talked about taking his kids to the bakery every Saturday (which, coincidentally, was in the same town as me). He didn’t share lots of details about his kids – we didn’t learn their names, for example. But, when he told that story, he absolutely lit up. The audience could literally feel the warmth all the way through their monitors.

Contrast that with another story from that workshop – someone else shared a story about a frustrating consumer experience (a return that didn’t quite work out). The longer the story went on, the more frustrated the presenter got, almost as if she was reliving that experience. And, as the audience, we could feel that frustration.

When it comes to telling a story, think about what emotion you want the audience to feel. Do you want them to feel warm, frustrated, scared (be very careful with this one), something else? A story is the best way to make that emotional connection. And, if you’ve seen any of our other content, you know that making an emotional connection with the audience is one of the most impactful things you can do as a presenter.

Customer stories are great

Everyone has a case study slide. You know the one. “The challenge, what we did, the results.” And, it’s usually a good story.

Customer stories can do a lot of things for your demo. They can add some color to why you’re there and/or what you want to accomplish. They can get you out of telling your prospect why they’re terrible (the existing customer becomes a proxy – “here’s all the challenges they had,” instead of “here’s all the challenges you have, because you’re terrible at your job.”

And they can be a great way to highlight results – “just look at what we did for ABC company.”

When including customer stories, make sure to ditch that slide. It’s a leave behind, so the prospect can reference it if they wish, but it’s not a presentation slide. You don’t want them reading the case instead of listening to you (otherwise your meeting could have been an email).

Also, ditch the slide that has 3 stories on it. It’s way too much to process. And, while you’re at it, ditch the logo slide, because no one cares.

I hate to paraphrase Stalin, but there’s a quote that’s attributed to him – “one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.” It’s not that different here – one customer story is powerful and real, a logo slide is just a bunch of logos.

Bonus tip: “Humble the number” when using the customer story to make claims.

“We were able to achieve a 50% ROI and the investment was paid back in 8 months. Even if your results are half that – a 25% ROI – you’ll still see a significant improvement in efficiency.”

This takes away the “this isn’t going to happen” objection, and lets your prospect focus on the result itself.

Pop culture stories can make a great connection, as long as they’re inclusive

As you know, we take inclusion pretty seriously around here.

Micheal Scott of The Office and Pop culture in 4 ways to up your demo storytelling game

But this is a hard one. For many of us, the stories we care about feel universal. It’s hard to fathom that someone hasn’t watched your favorite show/a show that’s important in the zeitgeist (like “The Office), but not everyone has. So your Michael Scott meme might not land, because the audience doesn’t get the reference.

Here’s a simple rule for how I manage that in my own presentations – the reference can’t be central to the point I’m trying to make.

For example, when I run a storytelling workshop, I include a story about Prince’s Purple Rain (want to know what the story is? Drop us a line and I’ll be happy to tell you!). Later in that presentation, I have a fake demo that includes a quote from “Morris Day” of “Time Systems.” Prince fans would get the reference to the band The Time/Morris Day and the Time/The Original 7ven, but people who don’t know Prince might not get the reference. That reference doesn’t matter to the story though – if the audience gets it, great, if they don’t, it doesn’t take away from the point.

Be mindful of not only the references that you’re using, but also how you’re using them. It can be an easy way to unintentionally exclude the audience.

There you have it – 4 ways to up your demo storytelling game. Want to learn how you can up your demo storytelling game? Contact us and we’d be happy to talk about it!

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