5 Key Mistakes to Avoid in Demo Video Production

Demo videos are one of the best investments you can make to engage, educate and motivate potential customers. In fact, about the only misstep that can undermine your ROI on such projects is a flawed demo video production process that results in videos being late, off-message, over budget, or misaligned with your overall marketing strategy.

Here at Autodemo, we’ve spent more than two decades perfecting our own software demo video production process, and we know a lot about what works and what doesn’t. We’ve identified the biggest mistakes a marketing department can make when working with a demo video production company, and developed a host of best practices and tactics to help our customers avoid these pitfalls and get the most value from their demo video investment.

Mistake #1: Making Decisions by Committee

This is the primary mistake that can derail demo video production, since it delays every subsequent step in the process. Waiting for each stakeholder in a software or product demo video production project to sign off on every detail will result in paralysis by consensus, frustration, and lost opportunity.

Someone within your marketing team needs to be in charge of ensuring that decisions are made in a timely, effective manner. Please understand that this person doesn’t need to be the one who actually makes the decision – that call may belong to a marketing or product team manager. We’ve written in the past about what it takes to be a great project lead, and I want to stress here that it’s not necessarily the person who has the most product knowledge (we call these folks subject matter experts, or SMEs). The SME often has their hands full, particularly during a project launch, so leading a video project could be challenging.

Someone just needs to make sure the decision gets made, and that when group input is desirable, it’s gathered in an efficient manner. For example, provide the group a few options on an image choice or audio highlight, instead of just asking “What do you think about this.” Everyone’s time is better spent when they can respond to something concrete, as opposed to going back to page 1 and trying to create something from scratch.

Autodemo pro tip: Project leads don’t need to be product experts, just good at multitasking and communication.

Mistake #2: Having the subject matter expert write the script for your demo video production

Product experts are often tasked with writing the script for a demo video production. These are typically highly technical professionals, and writing for the spoken word might not be their specialty. Voiceover scripts require a particular skill set – which is one good reason to work with a demo video production partner.

SMEs are often so immersed in the product that they can’t take a step back and understand your potential customers’ perspective. They may include too many fine details in a script, or focus too much on exactly how your solution works. Remember, you are producing a marketing asset, not a training video.

When I describe the value of a demo video to our own customers here at Autodemo, I like to say that we show the features while we talk about the benefits they provide. For example, in the demo video above, the voice script focuses on the benefits that educators will get by using the dashboard of our customers’ active learning platform. It does not spell out what each menu option or charting toggle does. A good script writer always asks, “Well, why does that matter? What is the business benefit?”

Autodemo pro tip: The SME is often the perfect person to outline the content/flow of a demo video.

Mistake #3: Finalizing your voiceover script first

Many companies make this mistake, waste a lot of time, and are seldom happy with the results.

Video is an inherently visual media. Demo videos are so effective as a marketing tool because humans process what they see much faster than what they hear. In fact, research shows it takes only 13 milliseconds for the human brain to process an image. So before you write the voice-over, you need to determine the screens and animations you intend to include in the video. Otherwise, you may end up sitting on a screen that the viewer has already digested just to complete the VO, running the risk of losing their attention or, even worse, boring your potential customers.

Start with the outline that your SME helps develop, determine the “wow factors” to highlight, organize the screen flow into a rough visual script, and then finalize the VO script.

Autodemo pro tip: We begin by asking our clients to circulate a questionnaire that helps answer important questions and begin to create an outline, or what we call a Content Brief.

Mistake #4: Ignoring (or not understanding) the details

For a demo video to communicate effectively, details matter – a lot.

  • A half-second pause on a static screen can cause viewers to leave
  • Off putting VO talent or a loud music track will quickly turn prospects away
  • If the cursor moves too much it’s distracting; if it doesn’t move enough, the viewer can lose focus

This is an area where working with an experienced demo video production company pays huge dividends. In addition to understanding these nuances, a production partner can view your solution or product with fresh eyes and provide objective feedback that your internal team may not be able to see. Your partner will candidly tell you if a section of the video lacks pizzazz, or if the script is veering into marketing-speak.

Autodemo pro tip: The flow of a demo video is essential. If the sync of audio and visuals isn’t well-crafted, the viewer could become disinterested.

Mistake #5: Demanding that the video be perfect

It’s true – the perfect is the enemy of the good. There’s a significant opportunity cost in delaying a demo video production project while a committee or a group of executives debate a minor tweak. Too many times, clients have asked us to wait for just a little more input, which ended up wasting weeks when the demo video could have been achieving results on their website.

I realize I just touted that the fine details do matter, but eventually you do reach a point of diminishing return. If you’re working with an efficient demo video production company, you can run the demo video for 3 months, gather actual feedback from customers, and then make a few minor tweaks, if necessary. And, again, if you’ve avoided the pitfalls I’ve already discussed, whatever issue is holding up the project should be a very fine nuance – the video will still be on brand and represent your product or service in the right light.

Autodemo pro tip: The project lead needs to be empowered to say “It’s ready” when the video meets the standards that have been established as project guidelines.

Best practices to keep your demo video production on track

In this post, I’ve focused on mistakes you want to avoid in your video projects. Of course, the best way to do that is to follow best practices and work with a demo video production company that does the same. In short, my best advice is to:

  1. Identify one responsible person as the project lead.
  2. Utilize a demo video script writer who knows how to keep it clear and concise and focus on the key benefits, what we call “Wow factors.”
  3. Get everyone to sign off on a content outline, and then the script can move forward efficiently.
  4. Production value matters, so work with someone who has experience and opinions on the finer details of the video.
  5. The best demo video is the one being used and getting results.

Adhere to these principles, and you’ll avoid the common mistakes that undermine so many demo video projects.