Got a presentation? Ask the right questions, bring the right stuff.

Did I bring the right stuff?

Did I bring the right stuff?

As many of you know my day job includes running software company that develops apps on the Salesforce.com platform (ExAM4Enterprise.com). This means I spend lots and lots of time giving presentations and demos. I recently sent out my standard demo prep question list to a prospective customer and got an incredibly kind note back from the person asking if they could share it with their staff. I said “of course” and a blog entry was born.
The trend in recent years has been that more and more presentations and demos are virtual, but I still go onsite fairly regularly. Over time I’ve developed a standard set of questions I ask two days prior to the meeting and a standard list of stuff I bring. Please feel free to use my list and of course let me know what I should add.
What I bring?
  1. 10 one page summaries of the presentation 
  2. Laptop (even if they have their own equipment and room)
  3. Portable Screen (I leave it in the car but I always have it. I once set it up in a restaurant’s back room to do a demo after a very successful lunch meeting)
  4. MiFi + Charger
  5. Notepad
  6. 4 pens
  7. Business cards (20)
  8. 4 AA batteries (mouse)
Note: I make those  one page summaries for three reasons:
  1. Summing it up in one page helps you focus on telling a story instead of speaking in bullet points.
  2. It can help you tailor the presentation to the audience by forcing you to think through the message.
  3. One person will show up late, one  will leave early and one will miss the presentation entirely. Providing your own summary helps ensure the right message makes it to those audiences. 

What I ask?

Hi (meeting coordinator),
I have a few questions I hope you can help me with so I can be fully prepared for (date of meeting).
1. Should I bring a projector or will we be in a room that has dedicated meeting equipment? All I really need for the demo is a computer with a browser and a screen to show it on. If needed I can bring a projector, screen and my laptop, but if you have a meeting room that is already set up I will simply use your equipment.
2. Will I have access to the internet? I will have a portable MiFi device that I can use to support an internet connection and the demo, but it uses a cellular signal and is a little slower than a regular WiFi or LAN connection. If you have connection I can use that is the ideal situation. If I am using your computer, internet and screens this question is irrelevant.
3. Can I have access to the room 15 minutes prior to the demo to set up? Our application is easy to use and only requires an internet connection and a browser, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know that being early and testing things ensures that I don’t waste everyone at the meetings time troubleshooting some small issue.
4. How many people will be in attendance? I will bring be bringing some presentation and reading materials and I would like to know how many to bring. I should also ask if there is a sensitivity to my bringing printed copies. I can certainly provide electronic instead and I know some offices are trying to minimize the amount of paper that is used. If the preference is for electronic I will simply send the materials out after the meeting.
5. Are there any security procedures or special instructions I will need in order to enter the building/find the meeting room?
Thanks in advance for any help you can provide. I’m looking forward to meeting with you all, if you need to reach me for any reason my cell phone number is xxx-xxx-xxxx.
Regards,
Joshua Millsapps
Millsapps, Ballinger & Associates (MBA) A Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) TOGAF 9 Certified ITIL Foundation Certified josh.millsapps@mbaoutcome.com www.mbaoutcome.com
As always – I’d love to know what I missing and hop you get some benefit from my lists!

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Big Presentation, Little Prep Time: What to do?

Presentation Blog

One of the most difficult things to do well is to give presentations and speeches on short notice.   There’s an expectation that goes along with a presentation that there will be a certain amount of preparation that goes into it and the audience is going to be receiving a fairly well knit together show.  There’s a couple things that you can do if you’re put into a situation where you have very little prep time.  Maybe you are coming into to speak for somebody that is sick or maybe you were just presented with an opportunity to speak and have a very short time to get ready. Either way I think that a there are a couple things that you can do that will help put you at ease and help that presentation be well received despite inadequate prep time.

  1. I think a good way to start off is to, in some way, acknowledge the fact that you haven’t had an enormous amount of preparation time.  If it’s something where it’s public knowledge that the person you were subbing in for is sick, it’s really easy. You can use it as an opportunity to inject a little humor. Anything along the lines of, “So and so is ill so you get the b team,” or  something like that is a little bit funny but it also sets it in the audience’s mind that they should take in to account that you may stumble a little bit. You may get some slack out of it and a little bit of humor can work in your favor.

Oftentimes with very polished presentations the audience doesn’t feel as engaged as they sometimes do, particularly if it’s a smaller group, with a less polished presentation.  When you’re working your way through something you’ve given a lot of times, you lose some of the natural beaks and a lot of the conversational tone that really engages audiences when you’re speaking to them.  So I think sometimes the shorter the time between preparation and presentation can actually be a blessing in disguise. You end up with a better product from both sides because there is more of a willingness to experiment and take direction on the fly.

  1. The second thing is to try to eliminate highly specific sides and builds across slides.  One thing I do when I’m presented with a situation like this where I’m having to work from a deck or something like that is I will pull out any slides that have builds across two slides.  The tendency is to talk to what’s on the slides because that’s what’s providing you the guideposts to your talk, which is especially helpful when you are short on prep time. If you have something that builds across two slides, inevitably you’ll make one of two mistakes. Either you run across the second slide during the first slide or in anticipation of needing the material that is on the second slide and not remembering that it is there, you’ll use another example or you’ll have cover that material in some other way. It really just creates a kind of fumbling appearance to the presentation. I would much rather go in in advance and have more generic slides. That gives me a lot more free range than to have a polished slide deck and an unpolished presentation.  That will just serve to highlight the lack of preparation.  So make sure to remove complexity from your presentation materials and give yourself the broadest amount of free range possible.
  2. Finally the last thing I want to talk about is building that connection to the audience. I find it worthwhile to make sure I find something to link directly to my audience and their target interests. Say for instance that you are going to speak to a group interested in education, I’ll try to find some facts and figures that, while maybe not 100% directly relevant to my topic whether it’s strategic planning or investment portfolios, can be used as stage setting but also are just generally interesting that relate to their field. If you can find a few of these things to sprinkle into the beginning of the talk you’re giving that day, you can garner that little bit of engagement and trust you want from your audience. If you’re able to get people to buy into the fact that you’re going to be interesting, maybe not be topical, but at least interesting; the audience will give you a chance.

They’ll give you a chance to engage them throughout the rest of your presentation and I think that is really critical within the first few minutes. You need to be able to build that interest within your audience where they say, “Hey this is somebody that I want to listen to talk.”  You don’t always have to do that by being directly relevant to the speech that you’re gong to give the rest of your way through.  It could just be something that just builds a bond with the audience and generates enough interest so they listen to the rest of what you’re going to say.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Trying to make a point? Tell a story

Storyteling

I’ve talked a couple times about different tools that I use including Powtoon. Last night I was pulling together a Powtoon trying to capture the story of why I think there should be a premium put on decision making, particularly within the federal space as we go into these more austere budget times. Every little decision counts. It’s important to be able to evaluate everything that you have, identify areas where you can save a little bit here so you can give a little bit back there, and make better use of your resources to support the mission.

So this is a problem I’ve briefed for years at a high level using traditional mechanisms like PowerPoint decks, but it’s really something that I think lends itself to telling a story. In general, one of the things that makes Powtoon so great is it forces you to tell a story almost by the very nature of the tool set.  The tool is centered on the idea that you’re making a cartoon.

I think one of the big failings of PowerPoint decks is they let you be very conceptual. I’ll find myself starting to put the elements together of something and so I’ll begin to talk conceptually about whatever problem I’m trying to address at the moment. It takes a lot of effort to tell that story across a PowerPoint because you have to go back later to the notes so you can remember what your thought track was supposed to be. What I like about Powtoon is that it allows you to do all of that at one time, roll it together, and have something that you can show in a repeatable fashion.

I’ve found that if I focus in on something, you can cut down a lot of the abstractions that might go into a PowerPoint deck. It enables you to focus on the story elements. You may not get in all the nitty gritty details in there the way you would have in your busy PowerPoint deck, but you get the heart of it in there. What I found is that it resonates more with people even though you get a quarter of the data that would be in a PowerPoint presentation. The fact that you pulled it into a story means that people retain it better as well. I’ve had people watch a two minute video and tell me that “You know I watched that and I finally really got what you were talking!” Now I take that as a compliment on the one hand. On the other hand, if it’s somebody that I’ve spent an hour with presenting out of a deck and I found out all I really needed to do was show them a two minute video; I’m not quite sure how to take that. I don’t know what that says about my presentation skills but I do think that there’s something to be said for that tool, specifically meaning Powtoon.

I think there’s a bigger lesson that is you really have to focus on telling stories when you give presentations. It’s what drives the response that you want to get out of your audience. It’s what drives audience engagement and it makes people remember things. It’s very hard when you’re just hammered with facts and data to pull it all together yourself and remember all the pieces that were important. If you put in a story, people will remember the same way that they remember the stories that come out of the books they read and the movies they watch. It just makes it much more digestive.  So the next time you’re trying to make a point; tell a story.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.