In the past several years, I've run my fair share of trials for different electronic resource products. Generally, if you're familiar and comfortable with databases and electronic resources, you can get a good feel for the product without a demo. However, with some products, a demo is a very good thing. This was brought home in the past week with demos on two products that afterwards I realized I wouldn't have figured out all they have to offer without the demo. At least not in a two week trial.
I arranged the first demo for me and a couple of other librarians, because we were given the option to add on the module to an existing product when we renewed (through our consortium), but I had never seen it or heard of it. And, honestly, I wasn't getting much information from the brochure sent by our rep. So, we set up a trial. Next thing I know, the Product Manager is offering to do a 20 minute web demo. I figured what the heck and arranged for the business librarians to join me. Incredibly robust product; I doubt we would have realized half of what it can do without the demo. It was about a 20 minute demo, but it was 20 minutes well spent. Very, very nice product.
The second demo was yesterday. Brief and in person. Again, amazing product. We might have gotten a lot of what it has to offer during the trial, but there are things we would have missed. Another 20 minutes well spent.
Now I'm thinking maybe I should do more demos or at least remember that for some products a demo will be needed. In case you're interested, the products demo'd were Mergent Horizon and West's Campus Research.