Breaking The Unbreakable

A couple of weeks later, you’re maybe ready to laugh about it. In the days before laptops I remember walking up shaky portacabin stairs in a gale-strewn mid-winter with a colleague and dropping a ludicrously expensive and commensurately weighted server. The damage suffered meant that the machine would turn itself off at the most inopportune moments, leading whichever one of us was closer to pretend to have accidentally kicked out the power cable and making jokes of it.

I have seen so many products demo’d over the years that I judge producing the ideal demo process as a science belonging in a class of its own.

I heard a fun story the other day about a one-time rep in his early Seventies’ days who boasted an unbreakable product. It was a polycarbonate lightbulb. He proudly told his prospect how nothing could crush it, so he dropped it onto the floor for proof.


Apparently he was let down by a key glue not being sufficiently affixed rendering the device’s strength impotent. Smashed to smithereens, you can’t help but share a laugh with the prospect.

When reflecting on this story, it made me recollect about what makes demos fall down. It’s usually in two areas. Firstly, the person conducting the demo doesn’t quite have the familiarity that they need (or think that they may have) with the product. Second, the demo consists of simply listing the features of what they see before them.

There is a third, more subtle trap that those who do manage to avoid the aforementioned pitfalls can stumble into. It can be summarised as show-tell-show. This is wrong. You should always tell-show-tell. A nuance yes, but a critical one.


  1. Tell ’em what you’re going to show them.
  2. Show ’em in the snappiest way possible.
  3. Tell ’em again what you’ve just showed them.

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