Doing a OneNote demo: lessons remembered and thankfully not learned

      I was fortunate enough last week to get to demonstrate OneNote to a large group of people. The demo went well and there were no glitches at all.

      In the same spirit as my Outlook rule that delays all outgoing mail by two minutes, I have a few rules about demos.

    1. Plan ahead and practice the demo. This is critical and it always shows when I try to "wing it." I practiced many times and got my demonstration to fit within the time limits, so this went well.
    2. Ensure everything works! For our demos, we had 4 different machines set up to use. We were all given remote access via terminal server to install all the software we needed in advance, copy over files for the demo, etc… I only needed OneNote and Office, so that was easy. I also have my way of setting up my Windows desktop, though, so I made sure to log onto each machine and get everything set up exactly the same.
    3. The most important tip to remember for any prepared demo: once it is set up and working, don’t change it. I had my demo ready to go, rehearsed it to death and ensured it worked on the demo machines in the demo room. As I was waiting after my rehearsal and before the live demo, I realized I wanted to make a change to show different data on the sample page OneNote was showing. Now, I was not planning on editing that data in my demo - I just wanted it to show on the screen. I had my tablet with me and logged into the remote desktop. And I did not change my sample page. What occurred to me was this: the image I was seeing on the remote desktop had no guarantee to look the same as the local desktop. Video images get simplified via remote desktop (for instance, the system clock does not show by default) and while I was almost 100% confident that the Arial font would look the same, I did not want to find out my remote desktop session did not scale it the same as the local machine would. I resisted the temptation and the demo went well.

      One odd thing, though. The strength of OneNote in a team environment is shared notebooks in which multiple users can author changes. I really wanted to demonstrate this and since we had 4 demo machines it seemed possible. However, there was only one monitor/projector system and getting the picture in picture needed to show what was happening was too high a technical hurdle for the time we had. Plus, my potential partner for the demo wound up getting sick. And the remote locations weren't sure they could show 2 different video screens at once. So well before the "lock down" date I opted for a simpler demo and the headaches avoided showed this was a good decision. Had we counted on the multiple user demonstration, we would have hit three problems and making the decision for simplicity removed those hurdles.

      This isn't rocket science. It's just that I've seen great demos derailed by people who violate my third rule, and I'm sure we've all suffered through demos that have obviously not been rehearsed. Any chance of building enthusiasm for what you are demonstrating gets destroyed. And if there is anything I want people to be enthusiastic about, it is OneNote 🙂

      Questions, comments, concerns and criticisms always welcome,


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