Jason Dea's Pages

Friday, June 10, 2011

How to put me to sleep in 3 easy steps

Sleeping like a baby

Over the course of the past few weeks I have had to sit through several presentations for one reason or another. Some live, some via webcast, but all about "enterprise IT management". Sounds exciting I know <note sarcasm>. Ultimately I didn't really learn all that much about enterprise IT management, but I did learn a lot about how to structure an incredibly boring presentation.

Here is the typical presentation I saw:

  • The first 1/3 dedicated to about us content. You know slides where people talk about how long they've been in business, how many employees they have, where they are headquartered and other such trivia. Personally I am not a fan of about us slides and frankly never use them. As far as I'm concerned if someone is going to take the time to watch me speak, I'll assume they've at least done a first level Google search to find that information out beforehand.
  • The next 1/3 of these presentations was clearly supposed to be the meat, and it was also the turning point of where these presenters typically lost me. This was the architecture section. This is the part where people seem to feel the need to include 'build' animations, or Visio diagrams. This is also where you'll often hear the dreaded phrase "I'm sorry this slide is a bit of an eye chart"… Sigh… A whole lot of talking, but they still never manage to tell me anything about the problem they solve.
  • Finally the last 1/3 is where they talk about the product details. And boy do people ever love to get in to details. Apparently enterprise IT is all about a race to have the most features. Sadly after sitting through these presentations I still had no idea what the point was for any of these things. I definitely did not feel very educational nor was I compelled to buy anything or research further.
I have a bit of a different view of presentations. I fully admit that Steve Jobs I am not. But I've been told that people enjoy my presentation style and for me that makes me feel as though I'm winning, if not yet bi-winning.

I have two motivators whenever I present. First and foremost I value my audience's time, and secondly I have a deep seeded fear of not sounding like a used car salesman.

So I focus my presentations around education rather than simply a traditional sales pitch.

The time allocation I try to follow is

  • 1/3 discussion of the high level problem (i.e. how does this issue affect your business as a whole)
  • 1/3 why current solutions may be lacking (i.e. how this problem affects YOU, the user or person I'm trying to relate to)
  • Finally 1/3 a better way to solve the problem, again as objectively as possible, what new approaches, or technologies allow new solutions today, and my conclusion is (check out my company we understand the depth of this problem and are one of the new solution options you have)
I also try to frame each section of my presentation with a story as well. As my father used to tell me growing up, "you should always be grounded in reality". So what better way to engage my audience than with real world stories? Customer stories, stories from my life, and stories from my own experience either dealing with these problesm or helping other people like the audience understand these problems.

No about us, no build animations, no eye charts, and hopefully a few laughs and some education.

Bring up the problems up front, try to relate on a personal level, and hopefully no tired eyes by the end of my sessions. That's my goal.


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