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How to Showcase Physical Products in a Digital World

December 9th, 2020 Michael Mayday

The manufacturing industry is in a unique space, especially when it comes to marketing on digital channels. Industry firms must inform, educate, update and communicate with a litany of audiences ranging from resellers and partners to distributors and end-users. Not only that, but the tactile nature of the industry — from taking a product for a “test drive” to explaining the intricacies of a component — means that a lot of the traditional education and understanding process takes place in a physical realm.

But training, educating and demoing products in the virtual world isn’t impossible for manufacturers. Using a digital channel to demo a product has its advantages. For example, a manufacturer can use a virtual demo to pitch to prospects, educate partner teams and more without the hassle of organizing teams and paying for travel and hotel rooms. Always-on demos also have the added benefit of allowing partners to access manufacturing material at their convenience. If they have a question in, say, an on-demand webinar, they can simply enter it into a Q&A and a product expert or salesperson can respond to them via email.

So, how would a manufacturer showcase a physical item over a digital experience? The answer is through careful planning and a consideration of the needs of the audience.

Demoing a Physical Product on Virtual Channels

Let’s take the product demo as an example. A demo should showcase a product’s specific features and abilities. Ideally, the demo will show how a product provides a solution or solves a particular problem for the end-user, reseller or distributor. To communicate these elements over a digital experience, manufacturers need to break their presentations down into constituent parts.

Showing how a product either solves a problem — or to illustrate how a manufacturing product needs to be handled — demands planning. Still, the basic building block of a product demo should either be built off of the big rock content created earlier or it should be the big rock content itself. Regardless, this will often mean you need to create a webinar or a series of webinars.

Here are the fundamental elements manufacturers will need to create the webinars that’ll serve as the foundation of their digital experiences.

The essential elements:

– Two to three recording tools, like webcams or camcorders

– Either a professional or makeshift studio

– A clear background

– A personable presenter

– Prepared, easy-to-read slides

– Downloadable resources or content

– Common questions

– Two to three subject matter experts

With these essential elements in place, you can easily record webinars showcasing a physical product. All you need to get started is to have a specific audience in mind. Sit down with any relevant team to define the audience that’s being targeted. Ask your team what they think the audience needs to know about the product and anticipate any questions attendees may ask.

Plot Your Presentation

Once the audience is defined, plot out the flow of the presentation and start creating slides. But be careful: the slides themselves should not be the presentation. Rather, the presentation should come from a knowledgeable host or subject matter expert who can easily and confidently illustrate the advantages of a product or approach. As a side note: When it comes to slides, it may be worthwhile (depending on your budget) to invest in a design team that can break down the constituent parts of a product and illustrates how those parts operate within a larger system or context. For example, it’s essential to show what a piston is and how it fits into an engine’s ecosystem.

Once a presentation and its slides are ready, it’s time to record or, if you’re up for it, broadcast your demo. Regardless of what you choose, you’ll want to run through a few practice rounds, especially when showcasing a complex physical product.

Lights, Background and Cameras

To broadcast or record your presentation, find a spacious room with a bland, inoffensive background or a professional studio where you can produce your events. Finding a quiet background is essential because you want your audience to focus on your product.

With a background set up, it’s time to set up your cameras. The number of cameras to use will depend on a few factors like how large your product is, how many subject matter experts will be on-site and how you’ve structured your demo overall. If you’re broadcasting your demo live, assume that your product and your presenter will need to fit within the confines of a single camera. Otherwise, two to three cameras should suffice; one camera for your host or hosts, a second camera for a close-up of the product you’re showcasing and a third camera to provide scale and a wider shot of your product and presenter.

With your background and cameras set up, it’s time to consider lighting. Getting the right light is difficult in optimal situations and can feel nearly impossible when recording from an ad-hoc studio. Fear not. There are a few fundamental tips to keep in mind. First: consider your environment. Are there windows with natural light? If so, what time of the day will you record your demo, or, can you position your cameras so the windows are out of frame? (Windows are a big consideration as natural light will almost always be the dominant light source in any recording.)

For basic lighting, you’ll have to make use of a basic three-point lighting setup. These three key points consist of a key light, which shines directly on you (e.g., the sun, a window or a specialized lamp); a fill light, which serves to add shading and lessen the effect of the key light; and a backlight, which serves to add some contrast between you and the background.

When you want to showcase your product, make sure it’s front and center in the key light. This way, your viewers can easily see the product and how it’s manipulated. If your product is particularly complex with different moving parts, then have a flashlight handy so your presenter can quickly illuminate any nooks or crannies they’ll need (though, keep flashlight use to an absolute minimum, if possible).

Practice, Practice, Practice

Okay, with your background, cameras and lighting set up, it’s time to run through the presentation. Optimally, you should run through the demo two to three times so your presenters know how to position the product, which will be active when and troubleshoot any issues with a subject matter expert or engineer on your team’s side. Make sure your presenters also take the time to answer audience questions — either prepared or submitted to your team before — so they know how to respond.

After your practice run and after recording, it’s time to edit and publish your webinar. Set a live date, promote it and make sure you have a few more elements in place that’ll make your event stand out. First, have some engineers or subject matter experts on the webinar itself — either in the recording or responding to Q&A questions — so your audience can ask questions and get knowledgeable answers. Second, have downloadable resources — like product one-pagers, case studies and more — ready for the webinar. Finally, make sure you have a plan in place for promoting your material after the webinar takes place.