Great Speakers Tell Stories

Watching National and Internation Portfolio Calls, hearing the presentations by our sales and management personnel pretty much boils down into a boring tirade of buzzwords and numbers.

They all start with at least 15 minutes ob blah about our company and who we are. > Trust me. If you’re presenting in Germany, they know who we are. Outside of Germany there should be a short 2-5 minutes of explanation, but not more. Next would be the obligatory praises and back patting for everyone in management, who ever had to read through the summaries in any of the documentations. Even as an employee of the company I couldn’t care less at this time.

Usually we are now 20-30 minutes into a presentation and haven£t hear a word about:

  • What it does
  • Where it will generate customer value
  • How much does it cost

I’ll skip the “Is it internationally available” because… well 90% of our offerings really aren’t, so why bother?

Do we hear some of these key fact now? Probably not. Instead we focus on the WHERE IS IT LOCATED … which might be great news, but is totally irrelevant for the solution. Well.. unless you need to rent a data connection from you customers network to an individual T-Systems data center in order to even sell this service… oh… I forgot, you’ll probably need to.

We’re now heading into a short and very rough description of the “what it does” followed by pages of UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITIONS. In my view some people really should learn the menaing of the word: UNIQUE.

  1. First there rarely more than one a single company can claim for it self
  2. If you have a competitor, that offers the same service, you simple are not unique

So please, call it whatever you like “Competitor Comparison Chart” for example, but please spare me the pages full of logos and commodities that we have a unique selling proposition for. We simply don’t.

Now we get down and dirty with numbers of seats, ressources, customer references and the lot… and very likely on one page of Powerpoint.

aaaand.. times up.

What have we learned in 1 hour of presentation?

  • I can do a lot of emails while they are talking
  • I can make some phone calls on the side
  • These office chairs are comfy
  • something about blah

Because, let’s face it: Most of these presentations are boring as hell.

I actually hang up on a very interesting topic in the NPC yesterday because I couldn’t stand the presentation anymore. If you’re f**king Product Manager of a new cloud based solution the go on and sell it to me!

  • If you’re talking 10 minutes of “Ah”, “Ähm” and “Uh” to me, I’m not listening.
  • If you’re not prepared to present I will notice.
  • If there is no structure in what you say I won’t follow.

It’s very much Presenting 101. Build a storyline and be prepared for what you want to say. Simply building a slide set won’t help you.

Take a look at:

Great Speakers Tell Stories from Slides That Rock.

Presentation Styles

Since I’ve started working at T-Systems I’ve seen a lot of powerpoint presentation that where clearly mistaken to be a document for reference. So I may use this platform to write down some ideas we might apply to our future presentations to improve the change of getting our messages across to a wider audience of decision makers.

Almost every slide had too much text, to small fonts, unreadable diagrams and grafic elements without any function to the topic in it. The photo from the official media library above very much illustrates the point.

I know, most of it is corporate “design”, but it simply won’t address the needs for an effective presentation. Most sales and marketing people claim, they had a lot of success presenting these slides. I personaly know C level managers, that would have stopped the presentations after a few minutes if they didn’t get the speakers message visually through the powerpoint pages.

We should take our target audiences more into concideration when creating these presentations, as they most likely will not be adapted to the current customer situations.

A 70 page slide deck will not be much fun to watch for 140 minutes. On the other hand I regularly delete 80% of the slides in official presentations and the customer is still very satisfied with the information he got. If we need to get much more information out to our customers please do it in document form.

The last thing I want to address is the visual impression. I really love technical illustrations to understand everything about a system or software. but not within a presentation slide. If the audience cannot clearly see or read the contents of a diagram from the back of the room, there is no need to show it. Printing handouts that only use 1/3 of the page to show the slide and fill 2/3 with more text won’t help either. Keep in mind, that handouts could be greyscale, and certain colors will just look identical.

These were my thoughts, and now I want to know what is your take on this topic?