Try Before You Buy: 5 Steps to Get the Most Out of LMS Demos

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I get it. You’re on a time crunch. You need an LMS and you need it yesterday.

Or at least before the summer ends or the quarter ends or the world ends. Which is what it may feel like if you don’t finish the section process and get something implemented.

So you’re rushing. You’ve got too many options to focus on one, looking at all the possible eLearning software options and not being sure which one is just right.

So you check out blog posts to get an idea of what’s out there. You read some reviews to narrow it down.

And you skim.

Try Before You Buy 5 Steps to Get the Most Out of LMS Demos

Ok, maybe more than skim, maybe you really read all the information given on the websites. You’re not being negligent. You’re just not sure what else you need to do.

I’ll tell you what you need to do: try them out.

Would you go to a car dealership, point at the one with the nice shiny paint job that seems like the style you heard was best and bring it home? No way! That’s madness.

Madness

We know, Leonidas, we know.

Your LMS should be treated the same way. It’s a big purchase that you may spend a lot of money and time implementing, and hopefully you can stick to the same program for a nice, long time. It would be awful if you bought something in a hurry, spent all that effort integrating it, and find out that all those nifty features don’t do what you need them to do at all.

When you demo, you can’t half-watch a video or thoughtlessly click through a slideshow. You have to focus and really be thinking about what the product is and what you need from it. Here’s how to approach your LMS demos to get the most out of them.

Pre-work

You should be doing work for the testing long before you start a demo. If you already have one, examine your current LMS. See what you still need. See what works and where you’re coming up short.

Make a comprehensive list of the things you absolutely must have, and another list of things you’d like to have. This could be features, price ranges, add-on capability, or anything else that’s important to you and your users.

The most important part of your pre-work is narrowing your focus. All that skimming and research and market guide reading should be enough for you to winnow down your options to no more than five final contenders. Any more and you run the risk of the demos running into one another and the results getting lost in the flurry.

Involve more people

If you’re doing demos alone or with only your core team, you’re doing demos wrong. You absolutely must involve other people.

At the very least, the demo process should involve your eLearning content team, anyone who may be an admin for the system, the IT department who will be handling any errors and issues, and some of the users themselves. If you aren’t getting input from all these groups, you won’t have the full picture of what you need.

While you may not need everyone there for the demo itself, you at least need to do some data-collection from them. Talk to them, in person or electronically, about what they want. If you’re working with a large company you may want to consider using a survey to streamline the process. Compile a list, and pay close attention to any overlapping desires or requests.

Get a personalized sample

Different software vendors offer different types of demos. Some offer a canned video walkthrough, others offer a brief trial of the software itself in full or limited versions, while still others offer more comprehensive personalized demonstrations.

Don’t feel trapped if the software you’re interested in only provides a canned example. Contact the vendor and request a personalized demo. This way you have one-on-one time with the sales rep and can get your questions answered in real-time as they arise, and you can delve more deeply into features that are of interest to you.

Look at everything

Keep your notes on you throughout the demonstration. You should be prepared with questions already. Some talking points to consider might be:

  • Industry-specific certifications
  • Mobile learning options
  • What type of training and implementation help is offered with the software
  • Why should you select software X and not Competitor Y?

Don’t be afraid to write down and ask additional questions as the demo progresses.

And take notes!

It may be helpful to create a scorecard (like this one) from your lists of must-haves and would-like-to-haves. That way you can make comparison as easy as checking a box. It also makes sharing the results with other people after the demos much more visually clear.

Regroup and confer

Remember all those people you involved in the planning process? You need to be communicating with them after your demos are completed. Send out a summary of the demoed content to the people who helped you develop your lists of requirements. See what they think, and pay attention to what they have to say. Any red flags? Anything they’re particularly excited about?

Hopefully the winner will be clear, but even if it’s a tight race, making an informed decision will always be better than taking shots in the dark.

How do you demo?

What’s the hardest part of the software selection process for you? What are your favorite questions to ask during a demo? Tell me all about it in the comments below.

Looking for Learning Management System software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Learning Management System software solutions.

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About the Author

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Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen is a former Capterra analyst.

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