Destroying technology: The secret to an eye-opening demo?

Picture this scenario: You’re presenting the kick-off session Friday morning in front of 300-plus managed service providers who were up late Thursday night with a gala dinner and awards ceremony followed by an evening of cigars, cocktails and Latin music. And your presentation is on the vital but perhaps somewhat dry topic of data backup.

What do you do to make sure attendees are engaged and entertained by your keynote?

Well, if you’re Don Kleinschnitz, chief development officer of CA Technologies, the answer is simple.

You break stuff.

Kleinschnitz and his team kicked off the Friday morning festivities at N-able’s 2010 Partner Summit in Scottsdale, Ariz., pitching VARs on CA’s Remote Backup Manager offering. Opening the session, he promised the MSPs in the audience they were going to have some fun.

The demonstration part of the program involved taking data (a felicitation to a birthday boy in the audience) from a Dell Latitude laptop, backing it up to an eSATA external hard drive, and then pretending the Latitude was out of service and restoring the data to a disparate system, in this case a Lenovo ThinkPad T60.

Only once the data has been transferred, Kleinschnitz wasn’t in the mood for pretending. Rather than just unplugging the notebook and asking MSPs to imagine the Dell was scrapped, things got real.

To the surprise of the audience, Kleinschnitz took the laptop to the point of no return by pouring a bottle of water over it. And then just to really bring the point home, he spiked the defenseless Latitude on the ground football-style.

“How many people have wanted to do this all your life?” he quipped.

With the crowd drawn into the presentation, Kleinschnitz proceeded to bring the data back to life and deliver the data in question to the ThinkPad, and the birthday wishes were presented. The only hitch? The projector in the room refused to recognize the new laptop. But holding the ThinkPad up to the audience to much applause, Kleinschnitz demonstrated that Russell clearly got his happy birthday.

Please don’t take this post as a suggestion that you should smash a laptop every time you want to make a point to a customer – there are other ways to change up your presentation, insert some creativity and make sure you’ve got the attention of everyone in the room.

But every now and then, it doesn’t hurt to smash something.