A Quick Guide To Conducting Amazing Sprint Demos

Get seven essential tips on making the most of your sprint demos.

Graphic illustrating resource article

The sprint demo takes place at the end of the sprint and it’s basically a way to look back at project progress and deliverables.

Think of it like this: sprint demos resemble a show-and-tell that many people did at school. For example, we’d take a photo of our dog or a cool rock that we were extremely proud of, and show it off to classmates and telling the story around it. Well, the sprint demo is a bit like that show-and-tell: it’s an opportunity for you and your team to show off the things you’ve done.

What is a sprint demo?

A sprint demo in one of the four important sprint ceremonies. It’s an opportunity to bring together key stakeholders, your team, and anyone else who is interested to see what your team has worked on in the course of the last sprint.

The sprint demo takes place towards the end of the sprint, typically on the last day along with your sprint retrospective. It can act as a good motivator for everyone to wrap up what they’re working on and get it reviewed and deployed (if it’s code based).

It’s important to remember that sprint demos shouldn’t be used for other purposes that can be the focus of other meetings or processes. For example, don’t use sprint demos as change request meetings or a space for mystery voices to interject with scope changes.

Sprint demo vs sprint review

As a general rule, sprint demos and sprint reviews are terms used interchangeably. They’re both meant to serve as a time to review the work that has been done on the sprint.

How to conduct an effective sprint demo

The process to conduct an amazing sprint demo hinges on good preparation and facilitating your team’s involvement. Here are seven tips to help you out:

1. Plan ahead

You want to plan the demo out beforehand with your team—what’s the one killer feature they built or designed this sprint? What amazing piece of user research did your team do that you want to share? You might be the project lead, but make sure you get other people involved in this.

Book a short meeting a day or two beforehand to prep for this and plan out who’s going to lead which section of the meeting. It doesn’t have to be one person, you can split it out across your team. Ideally, the person who did the bulk of the work on a particular aspect should talk about that.

Note, there will always be folks who aren’t willing or comfortable presenting, so don’t force it—just make sure to give enough support if needed or get a good brief from them if you decide to do the talking yourself.

2. Invite people beforehand

These days, many of us are working remotely in some way or another. You might have a hybrid team or a fully remote team or just a few people working from a virtual location. You often need to consider this when holding sprint demos, as you can expect a larger group of people to join than with other meetings.

Work with your client or closer stakeholders to understand who should be invited. They might open it up to a wider group of people, and it can be quite a daunting thing to suddenly have 50 people on a call with you and your team if you’re not expecting it. Always send an invite in advance. It’d be best if this event is a recurring one when you’re working in sprints (so they may fall on the same day and time each sprint).

3. Prepare yourself for questions

Make sure to have enough time for questions at the end of the demo (try to allow 45 minutes to an hour to make sure you do). To prepare, you need to remember that there may be people who aren’t close to the day-to-day of the project, but have a vested interest in it (for example, a CEO). So, they may well have basic questions about the features or research you're sharing.

It’s useful to have some data to back up the reasons why you’ve done something. Maybe a feature or deliverable is the result of a significant call with stakeholders, or some user research synthesis. Being able to point back to the decision points around the feature is so important to the process.

This is the way to demonstrate that you’ve listened to users and put their needs at the heart of what you’re building.

4. Set expectations

Make sure you set expectations upfront and reiterate them at the start of the session.This is not an opportunity to start chipping in feedback, so make sure everyone knows what the route for feedback is—and make sure you and your client triage any feedback together.

If Andy from Accounting suddenly appears on a sprint demo halfway through a project for the first time, and sends over multiple change requests on the call, you can gently push back. Andy might have made some really good points, in which case you can make a note and perhaps fold it into your backlog of work.

5. Set an agenda

This is particularly important if you’re expecting a lot of people on the call. Set a list of the items you’ll go through and allocate the last few minutes for questions. You’re steering the ship, and you know how many points you need to go through and in what order.

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Pro tip

If your sprint demo is happening online, you can also encourage people to drop questions into the chat, so your team (the ones not presenting at each time) can answer them. This will ensure no question is ignored but without interrupting the normal flow of the demo.

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6. Rehearse and review

If possible, have a dry run of the demo. This might include having some dummy data at hand to show a particular feature being worked on, such as a form submission, or a test card to show a payment process.

If you’ve created a presentation or slide deck to give people an overview of the project as a whole, ask someone to review it. This will help ensure there are no obvious mistakes and that the flow makes sense.

It’s also a good idea to test any video software you’ll be using if it’s not something you’re familiar with. For example, if you’re used to Google Meet for your team meetings and suddenly have to use the client’s Microsoft Teams account, make sure to test it first. You don’t want to try to figure out how to share your screen in front of 50 stakeholders!

7. Try to enjoy it

This should be a really positive meeting: you and your team are showcasing what you’ve been working on! It’s a great opportunity to drum up enthusiasm from both people who aren’t close to the project and your team members. The sprint demo may be a way to gain support from influential stakeholders and excite you and your team for the iterations ahead.

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