The Art of the Demo

With ISE looming – kicking off with all the song and dance tomorrow, here are some of my thoughts, well, my biggest, main thought on the show as it stands and how it may impact not only the products, the manufacturers and the integrators (installers) who are attending, but also the end users. 

So, lets set the scene. The actual scene – not the one you’re going to see on repeat this week at multiple booths showcasing the latest a greatest in audio visual tech. I’m currently (sitting at cruising altitude) on route to Barcelona for the 2023 Integrated Systems Europe event, and I’m very much looking forward too it. 

Last year for the first time I ended up not involved in much education, CEDIA volunteering, nor actually having any commitments to the regular multitude of calendar invitations and meetings. This year, I’m doing all of the above, but I’m really just going with one motive, and that motive is; Figure out who, this year, will do the best demo on the show floor. 

I have my bets in already; odds (heavily) stacked up and in one favour – but I’m attending things with an open mind, and that might change. The search for the best demo on the show floor begins when I set foot inside the FIRA tomorrow. 

There are some points flagged on my list of tickboxes which I needs to try remain cognisant of and think about when I’m sitting through – invariably – lots and lots of repeats of the same old (and new) content, and that brings us nicely to the topic of this discussion; The Art of the Demo. 

Suspension of disbelief is a phrase which is bandied about very often, but, much like people who constantly talk about massively good Bass and Low frequency and how they completely understand how it works (Cue, they do not), a very large percentage of Joe Public – and I’m including the installers and integrators, their sales teams and designers and so many more in the industry – have no clue as to what, where or how to put together a good demo which actually results in creating that suspension of disbelief! (Let alone a sale…)

A couple of months back – last quarter of last year, I’m pretty sure I sat in on a CEDIA Podcast talking about demo content and the Art of the Demo. What I’m not sure about – not having listened to the podcast again recently – is if we actually covered the physical “weaving together the Art” part of it, but you can add the thoughts from this to that list. [From my hazy memory I recall we discussed quite a bit of content, more than anything else].

For me, thats content forms just one part of it. What ultimately makes a good demo is down to multiple factors, which we’ll cover at a very high level in the following paragraphs, so bear with me. 

So! Good demo you say? Well, lets start at the very beginning, and that is that we need to break it down further – because a demo isnt just playing back content; it’s everything from walking up to the booth and waiting, to sitting through whatever spiel the sales guy is giving, to the content, to how it is presented and played back, to how it ends and how you are brought back to reality (if, thats is, you managed to escape it for some momentary elation), and ends when you’re surreptitiously kicked out for the next lot of Joe to come in and, et voilà; Wash. Rinse. Repeat. 

For me, once I’ve managed to pass through the inevitable queues and long line of waiting attendees, it all starts with the look and feel of the room. The lighting, the seating, the layout, the attention to detail (or lack thereof); Setting the scene.

Now, given we’re at a trade show, I’m not weighting this point as highly as I might were I attending a dealer’s showroom – lets be realistic; some of these guys just don’t have the budget, the partnerships, nor time – or client(s) – attending, to give a hoot. I’ve got to keep an open mind here, but we have to put down some marks for effort put in. 

Then we move to the actual content; How is it introduced? What sets the level of expectation? Will there be, or has there been, any interaction with the audience to gauge a level of understanding of what lays ahead? Does it take you on a journey from start to finish? Do you know what that journey is supposed to reveal? Does it have an ultimate goal?

[Yes, I completely understand, and appreciate, that for all intents and purposes a demo at a trade show is purely there to showcase new product. It is a product show after all, but – and come have this discussion with me over a beer or three – I think you’ll be remiss in thinking that the ultimate goal can be achieved without following the steps I’m outlining here, or without also breaching a number of the topics highlighted as part of the Art of the Demo]. 

As part of the content point; the content selected is certainly a massively important thing. The journey it takes you on, how its woven together, how it draws you in – if it engulfs, entangles, embraces and entombs you in fabled worlds, fictitious drama and frenzied action. So choose wisely – caveat emptor. 

Once you’ve popped you can’t stop; for me, especially in this setting, this translates to a question of, “when they pressed play, how quickly did you forget you were at a trade show? [which, in reality, you’re going to need to substitute with ‘showroom’, ‘room’, ‘clients’ house’, etc – because thats what we’re after here isn’t it? If you take any of this on board and use it for your own demo setup, even if you’re not in the industry]”

The second, other, part of ‘content’ is the systems these experiences are created on and the rooms they are created in – everything from the display, the screen size, the projector type, location, brightness, through to the loudspeakers and subwoofers, visible or not, the processing and the tech. 

These can be judged by many criteria, subjectively on their own merits for given installations and requirements, and mostly, in this ISE week they’ll be doing the heavy lifting. I’ll be rating these for myself on a few points I’ve set aside, but for the most part all of this combined is what makes that experience and rounds out what you’re looking for in a demo – to deliver on the artistic intent and vision, to be engaged. To live – even for a moment – that other life and experience.

This week is going to be tough on the feet, and even tougher on the ears. Stick with me and see what I come up with after the show for feedback into who was successful, who was not. How they did it, what they did right – or what they did wrong, what content was demoed and who, ultimately, left the biggest impression. 

Until next time. Hasta la proxima vez.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *