How to Prepare For and Evaluate an LMS Demo

In today's world, there are a host of reasons why a company needs an LMS. When shopping for an LMS, an organization should complete a series of steps to find an LMS that best suits the needs of their training administrators and learners. While selecting an LMS can have many steps, arguably none are as crucial as an LMS demo. Often, this is the first opportunity for a company to carefully evaluate the LMS to ensure it's meeting its diverse needs effectively. 

More companies than ever need to have an effective LMS for employees who might not be in the office in a traditional manner, working remotely or from a variety of locations. On the other hand, as employers compete for the best new hires, they want to make sure they are onboarding them in the most effective way because, surprisingly, 14.8% of new hires leave after the first six months. 

You first need to have a firm grip on your needs as a business to find the ideal LMS that will meet those needs. Read on to learn more about LMS demos, why you need to have one, how to prepare, and finally, how to evaluate the LMS product from the demo.

Who can benefit from using an LMS

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Whether you’re a first-time LMS buyer, a seasoned LMS pro, or somewhere in between - chances are you’re reading this article as you know that your training program is facing challenges. A learning management system can help spark organizational transformation, but as with any tool, it is also in how you use it. We’ve seen:

  • Organizations of every size and shape boost their training outcomes through using an LMS effectively
  • Reduce staff turnover with robust onboarding that concisely conveys your organization’s principles
  • A decline in the effort and time required to meet mandated compliance training requirements
  • Behavior and skill-based training across many industries and organization types like manufacturing, sales, retail chains, government agencies, franchising, call centers, and associations that positively impact organizational goals

To start selecting an LMS that will benefit your organization, find a vendor you want to work with and arrange a demo of their software.

Why you should arrange an LMS demo

As a business owner or manager, you know that resources are tight. As well, it's important to be judicious with your resources. For example, you would never make a big purchase of equipment for your business without researching what's available. 

Adding a learning management system to your business’ learning ecosystem is important for every current and future employee and manager. You want to take the necessary time to choose the best product. 

Not all LMS platforms are the same. While many might share similar features, the way the features work may not be the same on each platform. And even if the features are similar, if you don't have a firm understanding of the capabilities, it won’t be advantageous for your company. 

As part of your research of the LMS market, set up a learning management system demo to gain valuable insights into the platforms that interest you. But you also want to make sure you're prepared for the demo and have a system for evaluating the product—more on this a little later. 

What you should expect from an LMS demo

Chances are, the LMS vendor will cover a lot during the brief time they demonstrate their  LMS platform. The key to getting the most from your LMS demo is to be prepared. Most demos last between 30 and 90 minutes, which can feel like a blur, especially if you’re unfamiliar with learning management systems. 

While the LMS representative providing the demo could indeed talk for that long about the product, you need more than what they are scripted to say.  

As part of your LMS demo preparation, you want to provide the company with a list of your needs and expect they will show you how their platform can help meet those needs. You want to understand how the LMS product offers customer support to your and program administrators. Ensure the demo allows you to see how the LMS will help you meet training goals and solve training challenges. 

How to prepare for an LMS demo

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One of the most important parts of getting an LMS for your company will be how you prepare. The more you understand your needs, questions, and expectations from the demo, the more effective the time will be. 

Take your time to prepare for an LMS demo by doing some thinking and planning. Many companies will stay with an LMS for an extended period of time. Keep in mind that you'll have a long-term relationship with this vendor, and you want to be completely confident in their customer service to you. 

Not all vendors treat demos the same way. You want to ask what will be provided in a demo and even spell out what you need to see from the company. Have a clear understanding of what you think the LMS needs to do for you. Consider this list in two parts, what the product must have and what would be nice to have. Then ask the vendor to show you how their product satisfies those two lists of requirements. 

Your business needs to have a sense of how you will use an LMS as this will help the demo provider to show you how their product can meet your needs. Think about who should be a part of the demo.

You might ask the LMS vendor to show you some specific features like:

  • SCORM compatibility
  • LMS features for learners
  • How training administrators will use the LMS
  • Customer support and onboarding
  • Custom features like knowledge bases, training assessment features, and dashboards
  • Content creation and course building
  • How the LMS handles instructor-led training (ILT)
  • Lesson plans, course enrollments, and notification capabilities
  • Mobile learning
  • Gamification elements
  • Brandable elements and white-labeling options
  • Reports
  • Forums
  • Platform accessibility

Along with the feature discovery and review, there are some questions to ask during the LMS demo, too. For example, you want to discuss timeframes for LMS implementation, platform training, and after-purchase support. In addition to the questions, as part of your planning process, consider who from within your company should be involved in the process. 

How to evaluate an LMS demo

As you organize your LMS demo, there are two distinct user groups that you’ll need to consider - the group that needs to use it – the learners or users and the trainers and administrators working with the platform. 

 Your company will want to consider:

  • Features of the LMS
  • Implementation of the LMS
  • LMS administrator services
  • Moving from an existing system and the data migration
  • On-going training and after-purchase support for the LMS
You want to evaluate various platforms, like SmarterU, to make sure they check the boxes of your organizational needs. What will the LMS vendor know-how and experience be like with each product? How well will the LMS vendor provide customer support and training for you as you work with their platform?

LMS platform features for users

Your users will view the LMS product with a different lens than perhaps your training administrators, technology and IT team, or even managers. Therefore, it will be helpful to have representatives from your company who will use the LMS to evaluate the product demo. 

This group can evaluate how the LMS meets their needs. Do they get their questions answered? Is it user-friendly? Will the system engage them when they need it for learning? During each of the platform demos you and your team conduct, take detailed notes. Then, after each LMS demo has ended with the vendor, have a second meeting with your stakeholder team to discuss the most recent demo – while it is fresh in everyone’s mind.

LMS features for training program administrators

Training administrators will need to have a different level of understanding of how the platform works. It will be advisable for this group to see how the product offers customer support when they're working on it. 

They will need to evaluate how they can input the information they need to be a part of the LMS and if it does all the things they need it to do in a manner they can understand. 

Ultimately, the training administrator group needs to evaluate if the product will provide the features your employees need within the LMS. 

Who should attend an LMS demo

Close-up of a laptop screen showing 4 people on a video call.

Another essential consideration is who should be present for the demo itself. You want to consider the company stakeholders who will ultimately make the purchasing decision. You also want to consider who your users will be. Your future users may provide insight into the decision-making that the administrators might not consider. 

Possible attendees might include:

  • Trainers, team managers, training managers
  • Chief learning officer
  • Content training creators
  • LMS administrators
  • IT team members

You might include key members of management teams that will be directly impacted by the LMS purchase, too. They can consider the needs of their departments as part of the LMS demo evaluation.

How to narrow down your options

As you work through the platform demos, you need to have a system in place for evaluation. Therefore, it makes sense to know what each demo will cover beforehand. Not only will you be prepared for the specifics covered, but you’ll also be able to evaluate the presenter’s ability to run a meeting. 

Many companies will create a spreadsheet with their needs listed. Then, as the LMS demo progresses and you learn how the features will solve your training challenges or benefit your organization, you can “score” the feature on a point scale. It’s important to define the scale pre-demo with your team and keep the scale and demo evaluation system consistent across all presentations. Also, it’s beneficial to have debriefing meetings with your team to discuss how they scored a demo after each demo has ended. Then, with your scorecards calculated and everyone’s notes compiled, you can create a shortlist of favorite LMS platforms. 

Once you've narrowed down your top LMS choices and have a better understanding of each platform, you may need to schedule follow-up meetings or calls to have specific questions answered. 

However, at this point, you'll be ready to discuss hiring and contracting the services and the timeline associated with deployment. 

Final considerations when completing LMS demo evaluations

You already understand your company needs help with training. You know an LMS platform could help you train new and current employees, keeping them informed and well trained. 

As part of any comprehensive LMS demo, the vendor should convey:

  • How their platform meets your business needs and goals
  • How they will support you and your team after the initial purchase
  • If they offer any value-added services such as LMS implementation, managed LMS services, or course development

Ready for a SmarterU LMS demo?

Are you ready to consider an LMS demo? Start your search with a SmarterU demo! Need more information on how to evaluate a demo first? Our friendly team can help you create an evaluation plan to help you get your search underway.

Contact us today, and we will be back with you within three business hours to get you started finding an LMS for your company.

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SmarterU LMS is a top 15 all-purpose learning system according to Talented Learning 2023 list by John Leh

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