The Game of Show and Tell

The past couple of weeks have been a weird and wild ride for me. Not least because I’ve begun venturing into the wonderful world of knowledge base software demos.

It’s been kinda fun. Well, as fun as you might think knowledge base software demos can be 😆 The truth is they’re tiring as all hell. And I’m surprised that we’ve actually ended up here.

Historically we’ve been a little demo-shy. Meaning we were inclined to avoid them at all costs. 😬 It wasn’t that we didn’t want to do them. I mean it kinda was. But it was also a timing thing.

Demos take time. Not just to present them but to prepare as well. And then there’s the knock on effect.

They are so fucking tiring. As anyone who’s run through an hour and a half of demonstrating each and every button click will no doubt attest.

Even our 30 minute live sessions diving into getting started creating knowledge base articles were taxing. Or ruminating on the best way to use taxonomy and tags within your HelpDocs.

The group workshops where we’d dig deep into questions multiple companies had about the software or some extensions. They broke me for a good few hours afterwards!

I found the thing with live video is you’re constantly on. Constantly thinking about what you’re saying. At least for the first few sessions.

Sure, eventually it became kinda like muscle memory and I was able to rattle off a decent enough live session to satisfy the one-to-three viewers. But the reality is it was still pretty tiring even then.

Where it all Started

I don’t even remember my first HelpDocs live session.

It was probably an overview of some sort. Now and then I’d do a feature focus. But more often they were intended to sort of answer the question of can I have a demo? without having to record the same thing over and over again.

We also used them to run through feature launches. I remember learning about our Clips and Stale features a good 20 minutes before I was supposed to “go live”.

These sessions would last anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes and would be streamed across Vimeo, Facebook, and Periscope. ‘Cause live streaming! That’s the next big thing, donthca know?! 🤔

I remember my first session didn’t go so well though 🙈

Audio issues. Streaming issues. The backdrop of a rented Grade II listed cottage crumbling in the background. And likely a case of me trying to do something I didn’t really know how to do—see Clips and Stale mentions above 🤷‍♂️

We’d spent a bunch of money on a Vimeo Premium package that would let us stream to multiple platforms using their studio software. And we got a pretty fun camera as part of the deal. But we hadn’t factored in the technical demands of actually streaming to multiple sources.

Keeping on top of comments and questions—even if there aren’t any. And making sure the stream is working the whole time across all the different platforms. Did I mention live video is tiring? 😪

It was a recipe for disaster. But we stuck with it. We ran 2 live sessions a week for a little while before introducing group workshops. The uptake was never massive but some people got at least a little value from some of the sessions.

The workshops were OK too.

Sporadic. Varied in terms of what they were about.  There was the odd occasion where we’d do what we expected and dive into a specific question. But the most common request was always just a walkthrough request.

And when we realised that, ignoring our users just seemed foolish.

Exploring our Options

It’s fair to say we’ve come a long way since those first sessions and workshops. But it took a minute to really think about how we’d deliver a good demo.

What would we cover?
How would we structure them?
How would people find out about them?
What did we want to achieve?

The last question was probably the most important. Because figuring out what the point of doing the demos was would ultimately inform everything else.

It was pretty obvious from the outset that the main focus of the demos had to be a walkthrough for trial users and potential customers. It’s what people asked for.

There was, and still is an additional need to dive into specific questions. Most of the time those would arise after some longer term use.

It became apparent our focus should be on both the initial discovery and long-term success of our customers. We didn’t wanna drop the workshops. That’s how we support our existing customers.

On the flip side, demos would be the way we’d help potential customers and trial users discover whether there was a fit or if knowledge base software would be better for them.

The trouble is, the two have a different focus and structure. While demos could be delivered on a one-to-many basis—with a Q&A—the workshops were more intimate. They’d be a chance to get to know customers and walk them through their specific pain points.

A broadcasting platform wouldn’t be a great fit. But have you ever tried managing a Zoom call with more than 5 or 6 different people? It’s not fun!

Ultimately, it turned out we’d need to use different software. And we decided to stick with Zoom for Workshops, and then using a broadcasting/webinar software like Livestorm for demos.

Is Livestorming the way Forward?

To the software’s credit, setting up Livestorm was pretty simple.

I’m not gonna walk you through the process but it took a couple of hours before we were up and running. Ready and raring to run some kind of trial. 💪

It didn’t take long to find attendees. We were constantly having to turn people away 😬 In hindsight maybe we should’ve started doing this before.

What I delivered was a live walkthrough of each part of our knowledge base software and Lighthouse widget. And by each part I mean literally showing off what every button click does.

Not gonna lie, it took a super long time!

A little word of advice for anyone planning on running demo sessions. Keep in mind how much your software can actually do. Because if I’m honest, I had absolutely no concept of just how vast the features of HelpDocs are. It's just a knowledge base after all. Right?

Don’t get me wrong, I know all our features. I know what everything does and how to do it. I just hadn’t realised just how much there was in practice. And it opened my eyes to how difficult it could be for customers to get to grips with things.

At the end of the day though, I guess demos might be the answer after all! 🤦‍♂️

My initial scepticism and slightly standoffish approach to running a HelpDocs demo was proven ridiculous. More so when less than an hour after ending the first webinar session an attendee converted to a paid user. 💸

If we hadn't already have felt like the session delivered a lot of value for people we'd previously left in the dark the conversion pretty much sealed the deal.

You might recall this has been one of my biggest struggles. Trying to find a way to bring value to existing and potential customers has proven to be elusive.

Maybe I should have been doing demos all along! 😅