Several years ago I worked in Germany and discussed a phrase in German which doesn't really translate to English well.

Basically, the phrase was something like, "things will always go wrong during a demonstration" - but I cannot remember it. It was also considerably more elegant.


1 Answer 1


I'm not sure I ever heard a complete saying about this, but usually Germans will make a reference to the "Vorführeffekt" in a situation like this.
It pretty literally translates to *"demo effect" and means just that: that demonstrations in themselves have a tendency to go wrong.

Note that this also includes demonstrations of negative things, i.e. trying to reproduce an error when your IT person is watching. This may well be the commonest situation when people use the term.

  • Yes! I think this is what I was remembering.
    – enderland
    Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 14:56
  • Or even shorter: Demoeffekt.
    – divby0
    Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 15:12
  • 10
    @divby0 Is Demoeffekt even a german word? I never heard that before.
    – Timbo
    Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 15:53
  • 7
    @divby0 Why bring up a made-up word if there is one (Vorführeffekt) that's well understood and very common in German? Commented Oct 16, 2013 at 9:36
  • 2
    One could add that because the formation of the Word Vorführeffekt is analoguous to scientifically proven physical effects like e.g. the "Hall effect" it gives the impression that it is a fundamental law of nature, so it's bound to happen.
    – fifaltra
    Commented Jan 1, 2014 at 20:21

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