Demonstrating a demonstration

Pausing the “parade of peeves” for a day to elaborate on something important.

In the last few emails I’ve made a distinction between things you can explain and things you have to demonstrate because an explanation alone is inadequate.

My wife just came across a great example of this I’m going to share with you today.

But first, the classic example of “show don’t tell”.

In the late 1800’s elevators existed, but they were widely viewed with suspicion. They were considered unsafe because… they were unsafe. If a cable broke–and they did break often enough–then it was a short, fast ride to the bottom with a dangerous, perhaps deadly, ending. Elisha Otis was motivated to fix this problem.

I’ll let Wikipedia tell the rest of this story:

_At the age of 40, while he was cleaning up the factory, he wondered how he could get all the old debris up to the upper levels of the factory. He had heard of hoisting platforms, but these often broke, and he was unwilling to take the risks. He and his sons, who were also tinkerers, designed their own “safety elevator” and tested it successfully. He initially thought so little of it he neither patented it nor requested a bonus from his superiors for it, nor did he try to sell it. After having made several sales, and after the bedstead factory declined, Otis took the opportunity to make an elevator company out of it, initially called Union Elevator Works and later Otis Brothers & Co..

No orders came to him over the next several months, but soon after, the 1853 New York World’s Fair offered a great chance at publicity. At the New York Crystal Palace, Otis amazed a crowd when he ordered the only rope holding the platform on which he was standing cut. The rope was severed by an axeman, and the platform fell only a few inches before coming to a halt. The safety locking mechanism had worked, and people gained greater willingness to ride in traction elevators; these elevators quickly became the type in most common usage and helped make present-day skyscrapers possible.

After the World’s Fair, Otis received continuous orders, doubling each year._

That’s the power of a demonstration.

There might be parts of your marketing message that are difficult to explain but easy to show. And there might be parts of your message that are true but remind your prospects of over-used claims that lead to disbelief rather than trust. These are two candidates for a demonstration.

If you’ve ever painted the walls of a room, you know two annoying things:

  1. The tiny color swatches you get from the pain store are not very helpful in determining if you’ve chosen a color you’ll actually like once the whole wall is painted with that color
  2. Paint darkens quite a bit when it dries. This also can make it more difficult to choose a paint color with confidence.My wife came across a company that will paint the color of your choice onto a 12×12″ or 24×24″ vinyl decal that you can then apply (and re-apply) to any wall in your home. What really brings the benefits of this product alive is the video where they demonstrate it in use.

If you go to and find the obscure “Watch Video” link on the home page you can see the video. Since it’s hosted on YouTube, I can link you directly to it:

Notice at 15 seconds in the aforelinked video there’s this demonstration of applying the color sample decal directly over a portion of a wall pained with the same color paint as used on the color sample decal. Once the decal is in place you can’t easily see where it ends and the actual paint begins. It’s simple, but it’s also a really impressive demonstration of how accurately the color sample decal matches the “real thing”.

It’s one thing to claim that these decals are great for the reasons I mentioned above, but showing them in action is a whole ‘nother level of power.

So if you have something about your business that is truly special and difficult to explain, consider showing it instead.


Real quick: there’s one day left to get the early bird discount on the July offering of the first workshop in Specialization School. If you’ve been thinking about it and are–like me–kind of a procrastinator, then don’t miss out on the opportunity to save $200 via that early bird discount. Hit REPLY and we’ll get things going.

Also, I’ve improved the formatting of the schedule for all Specialization School workshops. You can see the improved schedule at

Two online experiential learning workshops this October: