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The People With Many Roles Meeting

And 3 demo tips to win them.


This past week, I stepped off a plane and into a boardroom for a meeting with not one, not two, but fifteen people. Large audiences, I fear them not. However, once we began intros, I realized that I did have reason to be real SCURRED…for this was the dreaded People With Many Roles Meeting.


The ever- treacherous People With Many Roles Meeting is the one with the cross-functional audience where it’s seemingly impossible to make everyone happy; lean too far toward impact and outcomes, and you alienate the more technical folks. Go too technical, and you alienate the decision-makers and get written off as a cheap tactical tool.

At any moment, some portion of the audience can be smiling and nodding at every point you make, while others are giving you evil stares and raising evil objections like “that would never work for us!”

In essence, it’s sort of like every State of the Union, without the sick burns:

My aforementioned PWMRM was truly a role-smorgasbord (!) consisting of marketers, front-end developers, data analysts, ecommerce executives, and retail merchandisers…and ended up going incredibly well.

How’d I do it? With three tried and true Just F*ing Demo! Tactics:


A People With Many Roles Meeting is no different than a big family dinner. Everyone is jockeying to be heard and make sure his or her interests are defended. Do yourself a favor and acknowledge this fact EARLY. Let everyone know that you’ve cooked their favorite dish, and will be serving it in due time.

After learning through introductions that we had a cross-functional audience, I made it very clear during my agenda exactly what features I planned on covering for “each” particular cluster of people. This ensured that everyone’s expectations were aligned, and that folks from one cluster weren’t hijacking parts of the demo aimed at others, or raising objections that were deep in the weeds.


The most valuable products are the ones that can be utilized by different personas within an organization to achieve different outcomes. The challenge for you as a presenter is being extremely clear which components of your solution were designed for which people, and in essence giving “mini demos” for each.

This is where the bucket concept comes in handy.

  • Place features designed for a particular cluster in their own bucket.
  • Call out to the specific cluster and explain what you are about to show them. This not only grabs their attention, but lets their colleagues know “don’t worry, you won’t have to use this, so don’t get scared.”
  • Show the features, but don’t go into too much detail, or risk not leaving enough time to hit all of your audiences.
  • Summarize why this feature is important for that cluster, and highlight where perhaps you didn’t show the entire scope of capability due to time/audience constraints.

I always offer to set up subsequent, smaller meetings to go deeper into the weeds with the individual clusters. Again, this limits the chance of getting too far down a rabbit hole and burning time reserved for another cluster in the room.


Remember, in a heterogeneous audience, every person or cluster of people could have their own distinct desires. Thus when a question is raised, take the time to pause and consider “should I answer this directly, or do I need to follow up with a response question?”

This is particularly important with technical and non-technical audiences, because you need to know what’s in their mind. It could be:

  • Technical person: “Can the non-technical folks in the room use this feature?”
  • Technical person’s mind: “I really hope the non-technical folks can use this feature, so they stop bothering me to do this shit for them.”


  • Technical person: “Can the non-technical folks in the room use this feature?”
  • Technical person’s mind: “I really hope the non-technical folks aren’t planning on using this. I’m the one that has to handle that part of the process and don’t want them F*ing it up.”

Thus, drop a response question:

  • “Well, we have a couple of different options. Tell me how you’d like the non-technical folks to be involved in this process.”

Try these three tricks in your next People With Many Roles Meeting…you’ll be amazed at the outcomes.

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