Demos are a key filtering step in any technology selection. They serve as a kind of bridge between a narrative proposal and hands-on prototyping. But you need to do them right, or you're wasting your time.
First and foremost, structure your time with a vendor to emphasize doing over talking. A browser with a good Internet connection is much more useful here than PowerPoint slides. Insist on the former and closely time-box the latter.
The demo phase takes an abstract process and makes it more "real." Rather than discuss what a solution can do, the bidder has to show your team. A vendor sales team that wants to tell more than show should immediately alert your BS detector.
If planned and structured meticulously, demo sessions can be highly revealing about the technology, the bidder, and the true relevance of your scenarios. The key word there is structure. In particular, you want the vendor to demo your use-cases, not their canned routines. (More about use cases in a subsequent post.)
Demos can and should be intense sessions, but don't stress too much about them; you're not picking the final winner, yet. Always follow up with hands-on testing sessions for preferred finalists.
For selection templates and hard-hitting evaluations designed to help you select the right digital tools, be sure to check out a vendor evaluation from one of RSG's multiple coverage areas.