Do you dread software demonstrations? Following a few simple guidelines can make the difference between demos that are a boring waste of time, and demos that help you make a thorough comparison and a well informed decision.
- Insist on a custom demo. Most vendors will offer you a generic demo, often consisting of slides. This is okay in the early stages of identifying possible software products, but is not sufficient on which to base your purchase decision. If you are considering a substantial investment, it's perfectly reasonable to request a live, private demo tailored to your needs and interests.
- Connect to goals, and tasks. Based on your needs assessment, choose some critical tasks you want every vendor to walk you through. For example, if you are looking at donor management software, ask them to demonstrate how to produce thank you notes. If you are looking at email marketing software, ask them to take you through the steps of creating and sending a bulk email message, from start to finish. This will help you determine whether the software meets your needs, and evaluate ease of use. But, don't be so rigid that you overlook opportunities that new software could provide. Leave room for a few open ended questions, such as, "What other features do you think would help us?"
- Take notes. Have at least two people see each product - preferably the same two people - and schedule time to compare notes immediately afterward. Then, follow up to fill in missing information, and clarify any areas where your notes or impressions did not agree.
Overall, the key is to be an active participant in the software demonstration, rather than a passive observer.