Captivate and Educate: Essential Tips for Crafting Recorded Software Demos

In the last few weeks, I’ve been at several conferences, such as the MVP Summit and SQLBits, and have watched many demos. I’ve noticed a trend in the previous couple of years where presenters use more recorded demos than in the past. This trend is mainly something I’ve noticed with members of the Microsoft Fabric team, but I’ve seen others do it as well. When you do it correctly, only the keenest eyes in the room will notice that you aren’t doing live demos. When you do it poorly, everyone’s eyes quickly divert to their phones, losing the audience.

close up photo of cassette tape
Photo by Dmitry Demidov on

Why To Record Your Demos

For pretty basic demos where you have a database running on your machine, and you are showing results in a client tool like SSMS or ADS, it’s okay to do live demos. However, when you are doing complex cloud demos, or even better AI demos, which are non-deterministic, you could get slightly different results even if you are using the same prompt. So, there are many reasons to do recorded demos, not because the product could be more trustworthy.

What Not to Do

Whatever you do, don’t do this—play a video with recorded audio (from another speaker) and stare at the video while it’s playing. However, this is not the worst I’ve seen—when the in-room speaker played the recorded video audibly while attempting to speak to the audience partially. (While writing this post, I was reminded of a demo with 70s porn elevator music in the background) The worst demo I’ve seen recently had a speaker who recorded their audio while they were doing the demo (more on this later), leading to them speaking way too fast throughout the recording.

Making Better Video Demos

First things first—you need a screen recording tool. I use Camtasia, a paid tool that MVPs used to get for free, but I like it enough to still pay for it. There’s an open-source tool called OBS that you can use for free, as well as any other tools on the market, from low to high. Whatever tool you use, you want to be able to separate your audio and video tracks and change their playback speed. Why do you ask? Good question, as I’m answering it in the next paragraph.

When you record a demo, no matter how slowly you think you are going, you are likely going entirely too fast to speak to that demo. While my suggestion is going to be that if you are talking to a live audience, you shouldn’t have any recorded audio, if you are recording for later playback, record your video track first, slow it down to where you think you can talk to it, and then record your audio track, while keeping an eye on the video. You may need to do this several times to get the timing right.

When presenting, you always need to speak more slowly than you think you need to. More so, when presenting remotely, you should separate the audio and video tracks, which allows you to get the best of both worlds.

Presenting with Recorded Demos

First thing—whatever you do, don’t play audio, especially if that audio is not from you, the speaker. However, even if it is your voice, don’t do it. I’ve seen this too often in the last couple of years, and I can’t begin to explain how disengaging this action is to your audience. I’ve started paying more attention to these moments when I’m sitting in a presentation, and it’s by far the easiest way to kill your audience’s attention. So don’t do this.

You should also ensure that your video is properly zoomed in, and if it’s not, zoom in on the video. Also, start and stop the video to explain—don’t try to match the speed of the demo as you are talking. Speaking live to your video engages the audience, and if your video is good, the audience will barely notice.

Let’s stop this trend of terribly recorded demos. You can do better; if you have the demo recorded, you’ve already done the hard part—also, control or command and the plus key zoom in any browser. You should be zoomed in when using browsing-based applications for recording.


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