Category Archives: Presentations

As performing a Shakespearean Soliloquy

I do much wonder that one man, seeing how much another
man is a fool when he dedicates his behaviors to love, will,
after he hath laughed at such shallow follies in others,
become the argument of his own scorn by falling in love—
and such a man is Claudio. I have known when there was no
music with him but the drum and the fife, and now had he
rather hear the tabor and the pipe. I have known when he
would have walked ten mile afoot to see a good armor, and
now will he lie ten nights awake carving the fashion of a new
doublet. He was wont to speak plain and to the purpose,
like an honest man and a soldier, and now is he turned
orthography; his words are a very fantastical banquet, just
so many strange dishes. May I be so converted and see with
these eyes? I cannot tell; I think not.

-Benedick, Much Ado About Nothing

When you have the opportunity (good fortune?) to watch a Shakespearean play, at some point the leading role will turn to the audience, look at you, and slowly, for dramatic effect and to keep you with them through complex verbiage, tell you their thoughts, pour out their emotions, and advance the plot.

Lesser actors, however, will focus elsewhere- perhaps at the other characters on stage, or off into the wings of the auditorium, and they’ll be rushing through their lines as through an obstacle course (for there are many lines in Shakespeare, dripping with wit and meaning), relaxing only to celebrate their completion of one verbal feat and preparing themselves to take on the next.

In your public speaking, do you take the time to grab the audience’s attention with dramatic pace and the import of your message?  Or do you rush through the words, the clicks, the bullet points to meet some time constraint or agenda?

There’s a reason for the meter

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“I’m not dumb, just a little slow”

I picked up that very useful phrase from a passive mentor* of mine years ago.  It comes out once in a while in discovery sessions and in sales meetings.

While adding a bit of self-deprecating humor to a situation, it also conveys that you’re working with your audience to understand what they’re trying to get across.  And with the mix of business process, technology, new ideas, and salesmanship floating around any business meeting, it really can take a little bit for something to sink in.

It can get your audience to rephrase, re-approach, and even re-think how they’re explaining things to you.   They can get downright considerate for you, which is the opposite of the way sales situations are often perceived- a sales team trying to pull a fast one.

So keep it in your back pocket.

*Everyone has the potential to be a mentor if you’re paying attention.  Learn from everyone- the good and the bad.
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It’s time to start the play

You’ve got an audience’s attention, which is, when you think about it, a pretty good financial investment on their part.  Interested parties and decision makers have come together, on the phone or in person, to hear what you have to say.

You’ve got this audience’s attention, and they want you to talk about them.  More to the point, they came to see how your product can help with their business needs.

You’ve got your audience’s attention, and it’s important to set the context of the conversation by reviewing their challenges and how you’ll be resolving them.

You’ll start losing some of your audience’s attention as their cell phones start buzzing and important calls come in, but it’s important for them to know the background of your business and the amazing stories behind some of your reference customers and how successful they have been using your solution.

You’ve lost your audience’s attention because you took 27 minutes to start the play.

They came to see a play.  It’s okay to tell them what the play is about, but you’d better tell them when the play is going to start.

Oh, and start it quickly.

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Will the callers please identify themselves?

This day and age, when so much business communication is conducted by web-meeting and conference call, it can be difficult to know who is speaking.

No, the initial round of introductions on a call, typically performed by all on the customer side as quickly as possible so as to obscure themselves* and by all on the selling side as to impress and overwhelm the customer,** does not suffice.  A flight through fifteen names does not make anyone stand out.

Here’s a tip:

Throughout the call, when you feel compelled to speak, begin your portion with a simple “this is FirstName,” and then carry on with your question or comment.  It only takes a second, and now everyone on the call will know who is speaking.  After you’ve contributed two or three times the audience will know who you are and recognize your voice.  The other three or four active contributors to the call (the rest are happy to put themselves on mute and get some email done) will pick up on this trick. As a result, the key players will know who is speaking and some work will get done.

* “Otto Manfredjensenjen, IT Analyst.”
** “Hi, My name is Archie Leach, and I’m your Account Executive focused on our overlay solutions in the customer relationship space.  I’ve been working with BigVendorCo since 2004 and have covered many business disciplines and lines of business and am intrigued to learn more about yours.  Throughout the call today I’ll be making liberal use of the mute button, but forgetting whether it is toggled on or off, so if you hear me pouring coffee, playing with my dog in my home office, or sighing throughout the call.  Thanks!”
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Don’t Slow Down

Just pause.

When you listen to someone with a very thick accent, it can be difficult to understand what they’re saying.  But if you give your brain a second or two, it processes their meaning and feeds it to you.

Being a fast talker is like having a thick accent.

Whether you’re nervous, new, or just from a fast-paced region like New York, if you’re a fast-talker, you’ll risk losing your audience.  Eventually, you’ll be given well-intentioned advice to slow down.

Don’t slow down.  It’s unnatural for you and, frankly, really difficult to do for more than a sentence or two.  Then you’ll find yourself back to a hundred words a minute.

Just pause.

Present your ideas at your normal speaking pace, but pause between sentences to give your words time to sink in; time to let your audience’s brains process what you’re saying and catch up with you.

Then carry on.

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Pause

You get a lot of content across in a presentation.  More than will ever be remembered by your audience.

That said, here’s a simple technique to ensure that they receive more of your message:

Pause.

The transition of an idea from your brain to your mouth is faster than your audience’s consumption of that idea from their ear to their brain because they have to digest it on the way in.  So make your point, explain your feature, describe the value, finish your sentence… and pause.

Count “three.. two… one…”* to yourself and then on to the next one.

It’s the tempo of your communication that draws them in.  A steady, clear beat provides open space for them to comprehend or ask for clarification, and then you can move on.

 

*That “three.. two… one…” goes faster than you think.  Maybe a full second.  If you make thirty major points over an hour, you’ve added half a minute to your presentation.  Don’t rush; you’ve got time.
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Eventually…

If you stay in the game long enough, you’ll find yourself visiting the same customer in the same meeting rooms multiple times in a sales cycle.

If you stick around longer, you’ll find yourself visiting the same customer in the same meeting rooms in a different sales cycle with a different sales team.

When you’re a grizzled veteran, you’ll find yourself visiting the same customer in the same meeting rooms, but with different customer contacts and a different sales team.

Eventually…

You’ll find yourself visiting the same customer in the same meeting rooms, but this time you’ll be with a different vendor, selling the replacement to the solution you sold them a decade ago when the world was young and a quart of milk was still a quarter.

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For Example…

When multi-channel data enters the system through the Context Adapter, it can either go through the Data Processing Layer, the Context Service, or the Event Stream Processor.

Depending on which entry path is taken, the data might pass through the Dispatcher and Message Bus, or possibly the Context Gateways and Enrichment Services, ultimately residing in the Core Customer Profile,* which you might then leverage through the Analytics Layer or, really the point of the whole exercise, through the Consumption Layer.

For example…

Mr. Customer, when Sue your consumer sends out a tweet referencing your brand with a few not-so-polite hash-tags, we can capture that tweet, its context, and determine its negative sentiment.  Isn’t that an important insight?

When we start to match up Sue’s Twitter handle with other hints and clues and customer data we’ve gathered through other channels like your web store and her order, we can put two and two together and realize the product was likely damaged in shipping.  Now wouldn’t Sue love to hear from you to rectify the situation?  Wouldn’t her next tweet be in praise of your brand?  Isn’t that the kinds of customer service that will differentiate you from your competition?

Both of these sections tell the same story.

If you’ve got an amazing innovation that took a few ingenious and technological leaps and bounds to create, you’d better give your audience a few examples of how it all works.  They simply haven’t caught up with you yet.  Telling Sue’s story helps your audience realize that there’s a missing piece.  They’ll suddenly know what a Context Gateway is and why they want one.

 

*Only after passing through the Secure Access Layer, naturally.

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Record It

You invest a lot of effort learning solutions, understanding the marketplace needs, and preparing for presentations.

Why not save this effort by recording it?

Tools like Camtasia can capture your screen and even a cheap USB microphone records broadcast-quality sound.  If you spend an afternoon learning the basics of the Camtasia editor, you’ll learn to cut, zoom, pan, and merge media clips together into a tight, professional video.*  Now you have a backup, a leave-behind, a promotional video, and a growing library of recordings you can depend on down the road.

You might also want to record yourself as you learn.

Turn on the recorder as you work through product marketing presentations of the latest releases.  As you read through them, you can practice explaining the concepts to pretend customers or work out use-cases and examples.  Record yourself as you set up demo data or walk through standard scripts and you’ll always have a reference for those intricate bits.  You may never edit (or even look at!) these recordings, but they’ll be there for future reference.  You’ll be surprised how quickly you recall your thought processes and understanding as you review them.  You’ll be ready to share them with others who are starting down paths you’ve already covered.

And that’s the return on your investment.

*You can even add ukulele background music, if you must.
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Captain’s Case

The captain has a case.  The doctor has a bag.  The mechanic has a toolbox.

What’s in your Pre-Sales kit?

  • Computer technology: Laptops, tablets, and phones.
  • Peripherals: USB charging cables, wireless mice, video projector dongles, presentation clickers, laser-pointers, cat-5 cables,* external batteries, laptop chargers, mi-fi devices, USB drives
  • Tools: LED flashlights, sonic screwdrivers, post it notes, pens, pencils,
  • Entertainment: headphones.  So many pairs of headphones. Bluetooth headsets, soduko books, Kindle books, real books, juggling balls, sun glasses.  Ever carry a cribbage board?  It comes in handy during layovers in Montreal.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Advil, Aleve, Sudafed, vitamins and minerals, tissues and napkins, ear plugs, water, candy bars, protein bars.
  • Spare change: The national debt of Liberia, last time I checked, comprised of mixed coins from foreign lands, guitar picks, and an eclectic collection of lint and candy wrappers.
  • Identification: passports, business cards, corporate ID, boarding passes, loyalty membership cards

There’s hardly an audio/visual situation we can’t rescue by rummaging about our bags and pulling out what’s needed, like a grandmother with a piece of Juicy-fruit gum.  Within our wheeled* kits we have everything needed to stand up our soap-boxes on the business street-corner.  So preach your stories, brothers and sisters!

*Remember when we had those retractable modem-cables to sync our email?
**You wouldn’t carry this stuff around in a backpack, would you?  What, are you still in grade school?
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