How to create an effective agenda - Setting the Stage

How to create an effective agenda - Setting the Stage
Larson Stair
How to effectively set the agenda of a demo with your prospect.

Setting the Stage: 

How to set appropriate expectations on a demo

Blog Asset: Demo Flow Link 

  • Opener Slide
  • Confirm participants
  • Post Idea: What to do if someone new shows up?
  • Confirm Time Set
  • What outstanding questions can I help to address right off the bat?
  • Agenda:
  • Build consensus from the last time you spoke
  • General Overview of Product/Company
  • Solutions Preview
  • Summary
  • Next Steps

I want you to imagine that you just got off an initial call with a VP at a company that is a perfect fit for your product or service. The call couldn’t have gone better and your prospect left eager to see your product. You set appropriate next steps which include a demo next week Thursday, 8 days away…

8 days pass. You had 10 additional discovery calls, 5 software demos, and sent out 3 proposals. Needless to say, the enthusiasm and momentum which you built with your prospect last week might have dwindled…. Assuming their schedule is even remotely similar to yours.

Now the question is: How do you effectively pick up that momentum from the previous conversation and carry it into your software demonstration. 

That’s what I’d like to discuss today.  

I’ve found that there are essentially 2 phases, which will give you the best chance of “picking up where you left off”. 

Opener: Typically when I start off my presentations, I’ll have an opener slide with either my company logo, or the prospect’s. I’ve found that more customization within a software demonstration, leads to a higher level of engagement throughout so you might opt to find something unique to present here. The purpose of this section is to do 3 things

  • Welcome and Confirm: Typically, after a bit of small talk, I’ll confirm the total number of participants that will be joining the call today. This is a great time to introduce yourself to everyone on the call and get a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of any new participants that might have unexpectedly joined.
  • Time Slot: Another fairly obvious, but often missed practice, is confirming that the dedicated time slot we initially scheduled is still going to work. If for whatever reason, the prospect has to end early, you might consider condensing your presentation and focusing on critical selling points. I’ll typically confirm with the prospect what is of crucial importance and tailor my presentation to this.  
  • Questions: Remember, your prospect sits through dozens of software presentations all the time. I typically will start off any interactions, particularly before a demo, with a question to them: “Are there any outstanding questions which I can help to address since we last spoke?”. This gives the prospect the opportunity to bring up any points of discussion, internally, and could help you pivot your presentation to address any questions or concerns. Typically a prospect will say no, and you can continue onto the agenda for the presentation. 

Agenda: Agendas are an important part of any presentation as it allows you to put structure around the impending discussion. I generally keep these pretty basic and really don’t vary my agendas much from prospect to prospect. I will customize it with company and prospect name, title (sometimes), and run through a basic layout of what we’ll cover today. It’ll usually flow something like: 

  • Summary: Quick overview of your last discussion
  • General Overview: I will typically outline the problem we’re solving and, at a high level, how our product serves as a solution for that.  
  • Solutions preview 
  • Summary of discussion
  • Next steps. 

When outlining the “solutions preview”, I think it’s best to adlib a bit and walk them through an overview of what you’ll be showing. Knowing a general outline of the product overview will help prospects present questions at the appropriate times in the presentation. Of course ending your discussion with an overview of the problem and what you presented as a solution, can be a great opportunity to really solidify the value with your best selling points. 

To make our VP’s of Sales happy (and is generally best practice), is the last portion where you review next steps. I view this as an opportunity to review any action items, questions, or follow up items which were set during the discussion. I set the expectation up front, in the agenda, that we will be setting next steps after this discussion today. 

Setting the agenda is a critical part of running an effective and engaging software demonstration. Following just a few key steps can really help you control the conversation and  differentiate yourself from the pack of competitors hungry at the opportunity to win. 


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