Was asked to prepare a presentation on the differences between NFV and SDN the other day. It's quite fun to see how simple one can make it. Eventually, it came down to two slides - one for technical people and one for sales people, and then even that was further reduced, to a haiku.
Haiku poetry is a beautiful form from Japan, where the poem has three lines in total, with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, then five again in the last.
I think I might have to try my hand at haikus for every presentation, as it does simplify to an absurd degrees. With a technical subject like SDN and NFV, of course you need to have the technical answers first, but finishing with a haiku definitely makes the presentation more memorable.
Here's an abstract of three of the slides in just one picture.
We’ve talked about Presentation Zen before, but there are times when you have to deliver detailed messages to a senior audience and for those times, a pretty photo and a single line of writing just won’t hold up.
But avast! as any PowerPoint pirates might say, there be danger ahead!
Too many detail-type presentations fail when the rep has so much detail to explain that he ends up reading his heavily bulleted slides to the audience - and the audience duly responds by catching up with some z’s behind a craftily positioned laptop screen.
However, there is one way to structure your deck to capture the attention of the most senior person in the room for enough time to put the message across and ask for action, even if the slides are stuffed with detail.
And it’s something that’s even more important if you’re planning to use the same slide deck as a giveaway after the show is over.
I lent my Presentation Zen book (authored by Garr Reynolds and bigged up by no less a guru than Seth Godin) to a neighbour about five years ago. Wish I hadn’t as it remains timeless, at least in my memory.
The book doesn’t talk about presentation tools, although there are many more of them around nowadays and most better than the stalwart PowerPoint.
It’s about telling stories, designing for maximum impact and ensuring that messages are memorable.
Presentation Zen’s philosophy was diametrically opposite to that used at Microsoft when I was there in the noughties. Our internal business reviews seemed designed to obscure - by throwing so much detail onto a slide that we’d actually have to hire bigger and bigger screens so that we could read them!
We all know about the 7 Ps – “prior practice and preparation prevents p***-poor performance”. And we’re comfortable with the fact that this is even more true when getting ready for a major presentation – even if it’s “just” an internal meeting.
Whether you’re presenting to your own CEO or your customer’s, or if it’s a room of channel sales guys or the main stage at TMF, unless you’ve prepped to within an inch of your life, you will be plagued with sweaty palms, high blood pressure and eyes that swim as you look desperately at your smudged hand-written notes.
But what’s probably even more challenging than a major presentation is a short one.
President Abraham Lincoln was reported to have once said, when asked to deliver an impromptu five-minute speech, that he had no time to prepare for just five minutes, but that he could get up and speak for an hour at any time.
Now I’m certainly not a presidential candidate, but I can see that Abe was definitely a trusted advisor to many smart people during his life, even before becoming POTUS.
So how could we use some of Lincoln’s smarts and gravitas and become trusted advisors to our customers?
One of my early mentors introduced me to the concept of the “half pint presentation”. This was back in the day when you could entice your customer out for a beer at lunchtime – something that rarely happens nowadays in English speaking countries, but is much practiced in other cultures.
This type of presentation is useful for when you’ve bought the first round of drinks and ordered up some sandwiches, and then the customer says something like “so how are you guys planning to use big data to deliver new services”.
His question means that you have to speak - while he gets to quench his thirst.
To remain relevant, punchy and more importantly allow time for you to drink your beer, your presentation should take no longer than it takes your customer to sink the first half of his – hence the half-pint name.
Now, you’re expected to know everything about your own products and have elevator pitches for all of them, but my mentor challenged our sales team to prepare 20 different presentations on current technical topics that were adjacent to our main market.
With these well prepared, preferably with a diagram for each that you’ve practiced sketching out on a paper napkin, you can demonstrate that you have knowledge about issues that concern your customer even if you have no specific solution for them.
You’re on the way to becoming a trusted advisor…
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Methodical ramblings after twenty-five years in Sales, Marketing and SalesOps.