Monday, August 08, 2011

Public Speaking and Presentations: Eleven Thoughts

I attended a presentation this week where two people spoke. The first had no slides and his presentation seemed to be an ill thought out musing on his personal enthusiasm for his current role. The second bored us to death with an ill-conceived and disorganized presentation on his attractive sounding software.

By way of background, I have done many presentations in my career, some good, some bad. I have also received media training and done both radio and TV interviews with the benefit of a PR person to coach me. And I, in turn, have trained and coached sales people and distributors, consulted to firms who develop sales and sales training materials, helping them develop and deliver presentations, videos and sales pitches.

So, let me offer some simple rules about presentations for those who have not received training.

1. Prepare. There are very few people in the world who can stand up and interest a crowd. You are probably not one of them. If you were, you would probably be on stand-up comic circuit. I think it was Voltaire who apologized to a client on the extreme length of a book. He explained that shorter takes longer. It's also true with presentations.

2. Figure out in advance what message you would like to implant in the audience. Most people immediately forget what they have read or heard. So, you need to figure out what number you want them to remember, what picture you want them to be able to reproduce, and what story want them to be able to tell to their spouse, their boss, or their colleagues.

3. Don't assume that your audience knows what you know. Start with the basics so that even those in the audience who are not experts can get something out of the presentation.

4. Quantify. People are generally more interested in the implications of something than the something. I recently did some work with a major communications equipment vendor in the area of fixed mobile convergence. One of the exercises I did was to calculate the net present value over ten years of having voice calls diverted from congested cell towers to a WiFi connected call which went over the fixed broadband connection in the home or office. It turned out to be worth as much as $3.2B per million customers. Translating the general unquantified benefit to a number gets people's attention. It's not easy sometimes to come up with number, but more often that not, you can. Personal benefits matter too. For many managers, not getting fired for making a poor purchasing decision is an important issue. So, if you are a minor player and the client has committed to using a well established vendor, don't compete directly, pursue an indirect method of entry into the company.

6. Showing people software is generally extremely boring. My belief is that if you can't sell a piece of software without showing it, you are not very good at selling. Show the ideas behind the software so people can understand what is going on. If you are going to do a demo, automate it, practice it or use a canned slide show. Don't waste people's attention and time. If you do, you will lose them -- they will drift off and play with their tablet or phone.

7. Don't be confused. Most people don't buy software because it is better. They buy it because of momentum. So talk about momentum, your ecosystem, your backward compatibility and product evolution. Your software may well be the best thing since sliced bread was invented, but people tend to make decisions on technology momentum. If the technology is better but unsupported and lacking a long term future, it does not matter if your technology is better, unless it is orders of magnitude better. And if it is magnificently better, then it is likely only going to appeal to a niche.

8. Ask the audience questions. It gives you a chance to both wake them and keep them involved. It also allows you to gauge their level of knowledge.

9. Don't talk about yourself, your programs and how you are personally excited about everything your company is doing. Excitement should be the result of your presentation not a personal description of your emotional state.

10. Make the presentation easy to retrieve. Provide a web address from which it can be retrieved.

11. If you do a question and answer session, repeat the question before replying, so that those in the audience who could not hear the question have some idea on what you are replying to.

There are, clearly, many more guidelines, but these eleven seemed particularly obvious after the presentation this week.

No comments: