Achilles is visiting his friend the Tortoise for an afternoon tea and while the Tortoise is preparing tea in the kitchen Achilles sees something new in the living room.
Achilles: My dear Tortoise,that is a very interesting picture you put up above the fireplace! It is new, isn’t it?
Tortoise: Ah, yes, good of you to notice. What do you think of it?
Achilles: Well, at first it looked very familiar but now that I am looking more closely at it I notice some very intriguing details. Where did you get it?
Tortoise: I didn’t ‘get’ it, I made it. Here is your tea.
Achilles: Thank you. I would love to have a picture just like it, do you think I could make one for myself? Could you teach me how to do it?
Tortoise: It’s no easy task my friend, are you sure you want the same picture or would you like one that is different in size, color, composition or combination of these?
Achilles: Would that make it harder to create the picture?
Tortoise: It might but it could make it easier too, it all depends on your preferences.
Achilles: Hmmm, you know what, tell me how you made it and I’ll worry about the difficulty level later.
Tortoise: It would take too long to show you the entire process so here is what I’ll do: We’ll take a close look at the picture and I’ll tell you the most important things to get right.
The Tortoise takes the frame from the wall, pushes the tea out of the way, places the picture in front of them both and points towards a tall building in the picture. Achilles follows his lead and nearly presses his nose on the building.
Tortoise: This is where I started. You might start here too but it is no written rule to do so, but this worked well for me. I didn’t finish the entire building before I started on the forest.
Achilles: I like those trees, they remind me of a trip I made in spring. What kind of trees are these? They look a bit different from the trees I saw then.
Tortoise: I am not sure but I don’t think that is relevant right now. See this lake? That was pretty hard to get right, you might want to skip that until after you have practiced with the easier parts. So you think you understand now? You should try to do it yourself now.
Achilles: Uhm, yeah, I guess so… One more thing, what are all these crooked dents that run through the entire picture?
Tortoise: What? What do you mean? You don’t know what a puzzle is?
When presenting or teaching new things to others, we often use demos. And many times we mess them up. And when I say mess them up I am not referring to the demo-demons that seem to be very well acquainted with Mr. Murphy. We mess them up in different ways:
Using demos that are too complex.
Perfect demos show and explain a single thing without distracting extras.
Using ready made demos.
Although the audience might be interested in the end result, the way you created the ‘thing’ is far more important. So skipping the creation process or simply pointing out parts of the solution is not really helping.
Using demos that are too simple.
Showing how to do a task in 5 minutes that normally takes a team of 5 people 6 months to finish is either the best thing since sliced bread or a lie that will make a manager wonder why his team is so slow.
A good demo is a picture that came to live and allows for interaction. It proves and makes tangible the thing/thought that is being presented. When a demo takes too long or is too boring for the audience, you should drop it or adjust it significantly. Just as you should eliminate long lists of bullets in a presentation. Just like the slides in your presentation: think about what you want the audience to remember and focus everything on that.