Demo vs Proof of Concept (POC)


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Project managers and development teams often deliver presentations to their potential clients. Two types of presentations, demos and proofs of concepts (POCs), are used to unveil new products, convince prospective customers of their worth, and highlight key features.

But which method is right for your next project?

What Is a Demo?

A product demo, or demonstration, mirrors the traditional sales pitch in many ways. With a primary goal of delivering insight regarding a new product or service, the demo serves as a fact-based and informative presentation from your project team.

Most demos are completed during the first meeting with a prospective client, but multiple presentations are sometimes required. This is especially true when pitching a suite of products, solutions, or services that can’t be covered in one sitting. It’s also true when product development has yet to be finalized.

Software development firms often use product demos to showcase the general features of their upcoming software. This could be brand new software that’s never been seen before, a new version of past software, or even an update to the software’s core functionality. In either case, the initial demonstration is used to convince a potential customer of the software’s value.

Modern product demonstrations are presented in one of two ways:

  • In-person: Some product demos are still delivered in-person. This gives the development team the chance to showcase its new product in its entirety, while also giving the potential customer the opportunity to ask questions and, in some cases, test out the software for themselves.
  • Online: Many of today’s demos are delivered online, either through a live conference call or with a prerecorded video, but the latter lacks the customer interactivity that is paramount to most demos.

What Is a Proof of Concept?

Although it’s quite similar to a product demo, and while the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, a proof of concept, or POC, typically involves a comprehensive overview and breakdown of a product’s key features. More importantly, it explains how these features apply to the prospective customer.

While a demo is meant to showcase a product’s general functionality, the proof of concept goes much further. Highlighting, for example, how your product could lead to greater revenue generation, streamlined daily operations, or an improved customer experience makes your POC easily understood by executives, tech partners, and other stakeholders.

POCs are especially useful when pitching a unique or innovative product to a group of investors and other stakeholders that don’t understand the benefits right from the start. By explaining the functionality in a way that is relevant to their bottom line and by telling them exactly how they can use your product or service, you have a much better chance of keeping them on as a customer for years to come.

Just like demos, POCs can be delivered either in-person or online. However, the amount of interaction that typically takes place between your team and the potential user lends itself more to in-person presentations and live conference calls.

Read More: What is Project Management? Definition, Types & Examples

What is the Difference Between a Demo and a POC?

In some cases, the sales engineering process involves both a demo and a proof of concept, with each presentation serving a very specific purpose.


  • Used to introduce your product to a new prospective client
  • Meant to provide a brief overview of your new product
  • Contains no specific agreements, contracts, or commitments from either party at this time

Proof of Concept

  • Completed after an agreement is reached between the project manager and the potential customer
  • Is a more in-depth and comprehensive presentation than the product demo, which is a key indicator to use when debating the concept of a demo versus POC
  • Highly rigid presentations that often follow an outline or checklist, derived from the prospective client’s needs, objectives, or questions

The length of the presentation is another consideration in the demo versus proof of concept debate. While demos are generally brief, usually lasting no more than a few hours, POCs can take days, weeks, or even months to complete.

What is the Project Manager’s Role?

Apart from their primary responsibilities, it’s the project manager’s role to maintain communications with key stakeholders and potential customers. Whereas product managers are generally more concerned with communicating between internal teams and stakeholders, project managers have a more public-facing role.

These responsibilities don’t change much regarding demo vs proof of concept. In both cases, project managers are expected to uphold the following responsibilities:

  • Action Planning: The first step involves organizing, delegating, and planning actions, including assigning tasks to individual teams and employees as well as planning demos and POCs as necessary.
  • Project Monitoring and Tracking: The project manager is responsible for overall project monitoring and tracking.
  • Stakeholder Communications: It’s the project manager’s responsibility to keep stakeholders and potential customers updated regarding overall development of the final product.

Project managers are also responsible for setting up the demo or proof of concept environment. For in-person presentations, this means choosing a room that’s ample size for everyone involved. In an online environment, project managers are responsible for verifying software and hardware functionality, including microphones, headsets, screen sharing apps, and presentation software.

Read More: Project Management Terms & Concepts to Know

Managing Demos and POCs

While it’s ultimately the project managers job to oversee both demos and POCs, the two different types of presentations actually require two vastly different approaches. Understanding these differences — and knowing when to use each method — is the key to securing new clients and driving profitability into the future.

Read next: Project Proposal Template & Examples

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