Airport Demo Etiquette

The more I travel, the more I detest airports. But recently I have found a way to really make the best of it – Airport Demos.

This emerging tech space is a great way to win new customers, more temporary friends, and get your message out to a very captive audience.

I was in the Boston airport last Friday night heading home when such an opportunity presented itself. Let me frame this so that you can extract useful tips and clues to success.

The guys next to me were talking about a bug in Visual Studio. I tried to sneak a peek but couldnt see the screen, and being a former Visual Studio product manager and having spent a few years on MSDN and evangelizing .NET I was highly curious to see this bug. So I asked, and they showed me.

Tip #1 – Bugs are a great way to establish a connection and start a common dialogue.

After laughing at the bug (sorry you wont get the details on that here – sort through the error reports, MS) and talking about our destinations and what we were doing in the airport, etc…I told them that I was working for Adobe and we had just launched a new IDE. They had never heard of Flex, smirked at the mention of Flash, and that was all it took for me to start wangling towards a demo.

Tip #2 – Developers battle it out on the IDE front, even if they are hardcore notepad users they still have an opinion. Picking the IDE as a common ground is much more effective than referring to yourself as “nuts about Flash” or “hardcore ABAP dude”.

I asked them if they wanted to see what we had just released, indicating that I might have some stuff on my laptop that would be interesting. They were instantly interested and a small group started to form to “check out the stuff from Adobe”.

Tip #3 – Don’t let people know that you have a full suite of demo applications – keep it casual, let me see what I’ve got…that way there isnt a lot of pressure.

After booting up and launching WebLogic (thanks for the 2 minute start time BEA!) I launched into a few demos that I “happened” to have kicking around on my laptop – a banking app, a consumer portal, AJAX/Flex datagrid comparison, charting, real time communications/messaging demo, and an end to end Flex and LiveCycle demo.

Tip #4 – Dont stop, keep moving. They arent going anywhere until the plane boards, so why waste any time with setup, storytelling, etc…just the facts, just the tech please. If you can, keep your app server running while in sleep mode, this speeds up the “getting started” part.

The demos went pretty well – got some good feedback like “wow, this is cool” and “I had no idea Adobe was doing stuff like this” and “thats amazing” etc. I then told them they could get the Flex Data Services for free from the Adobe website, and that there was a trial version of the FlexBuilder IDE that they could download as well. They seemed interested, but they werent going to get a job building Flex apps over the weekend, so we had to set up some type of followup.

Tip #5 – Save something that you have to send your new audience. That way you get a card, email address, etc and you can follow up. Developers dont change languages or IDEs over a weekend (unless they were no good at the old one they were using) so this allows you to follow up and get a dialogue going.

That”s all there is to it. All in all, this new tactic seems to be a highly productive use of my time, and I am sure you will enjoy countless hours of fun and engaging interaction doing airport demos with unwitting captive developers on your trips around the world. Keep up the delays, United – it’s good for business!