Demo vs Proof of Concept (POC) 2022

Are you confused about the difference between a demonstration and a proof of concept? While both involve a presentation related to a product or service, they are not the same. Read on to learn the differences between these two efforts.

Read more: Proof of Concept in Project Management

What Is a Demo?

A product demonstration, or demo, is a sales pitch, aiming to provide as much information as possible to a prospective client in one meeting (usually). An example of a demo would be when a software development firm wants to present an overview of its product’s functions in a short session. In some cases, the presenting company can use the potential customers’ information to prepare for a second, high-level delivery to give the interested parties a better idea of what the product can offer their company specifically.

What Is a Proof of Concept?

A proof of concept (POC) effort would be the next step after a demo. A POC is an actual, working solution agreed to by both parties. A POC is an operating production system that is usually limited to a department or section. Like a demo, a POC shows the selling company’s skill in a functional area.

What Is the Difference Between a Demo and a POC?

The simplest way to explain the difference between a demo and a POC is that a demo shows how the product works, and a POC shows the customer how the product works for them. A demonstration shows how a potential product or service operates at a high level during a one-time event or meeting. With a demo, there is no legally binding contract between the buyer and seller.

A proof-of-concept project is initiated after an agreement is reached between the parties. Usually, the buyer provides a financial incentive and contract in a limited time frame. The POC allows the selling company to show the buyer how the product would work in a “real world” scenario. The vendor assembles a POC project team to develop the concept with feedback from stakeholders within the buying company. The buyer provides internal data or materials to show how the product would function in a specific area. A POC uses a series of questions from a checklist or questionnaire to determine if the product can do the work outlined in the POC agreement.

Note that, although a demo is usually the first step between seller and buyer, a seller may sometimes pitch a new product or service with a POC. This typically occurs when the pitching vendor has previously worked with the prospective buyer, or when the vendor is strongly familiar with the prospective buyer’s industry.

Demo vs Proof of Concept

General presentation that highlights a vendor's goods or services
Proves the seller's goods or services work in a specific area within the buyer's organization
Requires no commitments from seller or buyer, and is usually a function of sales
Requires time, money, data, and other resource commitments from the buyer and seller
Usually lasts an hour to half a day, and may lead to a contract
Lasts about 30 to 60 days, leading to a more extended contract between the parties


When it comes to demo vs proof of concept, it’s easy to get confused. However, the differences are stark: a demo shows the high-level capabilities of a seller’s product or services, and a POC is an agreement between the parties to conduct a deeper dive into how these products or services work in a specific use case.

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Kent Barnett

Kent Barnett is a technologist, entrepreneur, author, and storyteller. He founded a strategic project management company later acquired by a multinational corporation. Barnett's accomplishments have made him a sought-after partner for companies ranging from start-ups to the Fortune 50.