All That Preparation and Your Product Demonstration Flopped

Product DemonstrationYour worst fear is happening, live and on air: the product you’re demonstrating doesn’t work. When it happens on TODAY, it’s more than a bit embarrassing and certainly diminishes the company’s product and brand.

You Can’t Slap it Together

It takes intricate planning for a product demonstration, or to prepare a new recipe on TV or before a live audience. You can’t just slap it together.

The marketers of the iconic video game PAC-MAN had two games set up for a contest on TODAY, just in case the worst happened – and it did. The first game machine failed to work when the mega-star Meghan Trainor attempted to play against Willie Geist to celebrate PAC-MAN’S 35th anniversary.

Prepare for the Worst

Preparation is key as it is for any other presentation. You know that if anything goes wrong on national TV, millions of people will see it. It’s wise to rehearse demonstrating the product until you can practically do it with your eyes closed.

We once worked with a CEO from a spirits company who wanted to flambé a banana using his company’s cognac. We insisted that he rehearse the segment during his media training. So we rehearsed in a conference room at the company’s PR agency.

As the CEO was rehearsing flambéing on a hot plate, while at the same time practicing his talking points, all of sudden there was smoke everywhere. We discovered that the walls were covered in flammable felt and about to burst into flames. Black smoke was everywhere. Better that happened in the conference room than on national TV.

Call on all your resources because there are so many details involved in staging a product demo. Don’t expect any help from the show’s staff. They are too busy getting the next guest ready for his appearance or supporting the on-air talent. You’re just one more guest – don’t expect to be a star.

Create a Check List

Create a checklist of activities before, during and after your product demo. For example:

Prepare and Present

  • If you are demonstrating a recipe, hire a food stylist and a shopper to buy the ingredients. Make sure you have the right size bowls and all the proper utensils.
  • Prepare the recipe in advance so the show’s host can sample it on air. There isn’t time to wait an hour for the cake to bake.
  • Bring an apron with the product’s logo on it if the demo is going to be messy but ask first if you can wear it. Some shows won’t allow it, or require you to wear one of theirs.
  • Limit the number of products you talk about and be sure to point out the benefits of yours. You may only have three-to-four minutes for your segment. You could say, “Like many cookie recipes, this one uses buttermilk and sugar, but what’s different about our cookie is we add (name your client’s special ingredient).”
  • Remember to mention the name of your client’s company or product at the beginning and end of the segment, but don’t over do it. We watched one well-known celebrity athlete with the product name plastered all over her jacket and her hat. The host chastised her by saying, “Do you think you could have mentioned your product more than you already have?”


  • If possible, take the product with you on the plane. If’s it’s too large to carry on board, check it as baggage. We all know that baggage can get lost, so send a duplicate product well in advance to the banquet manager of the hotel where you’ll be staying. Get a tracking number and call the hotel before leaving to be sure it arrived. Better to have two there than none.
  • Hire a car service to drive you around the city to your appointments. You don’t have time to get lost and having a driver will help conserve your energy.
  • Most spokespersons on a media tour will likely have a chaperone. Many chaperones are star struck. It’s not your job to entertain your chaperone as you will be exhausted by the time you get to your next interview. Relaxing in the car between interviews is your time to decompress. Mentally go over what worked and what you might do differently. Visualize your next appearance.
  • Turn off your mobile phone and don’t start emailing and texting while being driven to your next appointment. You will lose your edge and mental toughness. Your entire focus should be on your appearances.


If possible, attempt to get feedback from the booker or host. Simply ask, “How do you think it went?”Paper envelope with Thanks message If there’s time and she seems receptive, ask if she felt the demonstration worked well and if you included all the information her audience needed.

Feedback is invaluable intelligence to incorporate into your next demonstration. Ask for immediate feedback from you client, too, if he’s traveling with you.

Bring notepaper and stamped envelopes. Hand-write thank you notes to the booker and the host. Mail them that very day so they receive them as soon after the show as possible while you’re still top of mind.

Sending thank you notes is the polite thing to do and you will stand out as one of the few guests to express her appreciation in a hand-written note. Your contacts at the show will remember your thoughtfulness.

They may even invite you to make another appearance when they need someone with your talent and experience.

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The Newman Group is a recognized leader in guiding business professionals, celebrities and authors to improve their communications skills in presentations and media interviews.

Our highly skilled and experienced professionals have the expertise in media and presentation training to meet any business situation — from helping an executive to prepare for the challenge of talking to a reporter during a business crisis to presenting a group of investors during an IPO or keeping a celebrity spokesperson on point.