Marketing’s 2017 #EpicFail

Tony Compton, Managing Director

Pardon me. I was daydreaming.

I just sat down to put pen to paper and the phone rang.

My Caller ID said it was a Chief Marketing Officer.

I thought I should answer.

Here’s how the call went:

Me: S’up?

CMO: Tony. I just heard you’re gonna write an article about marketing’s epic fail in 2017.`

Me: Yeah. <with chuckle>

CMO: I heard you’re gonna tell everybody that the epic failure is marketing’s utter neglect of addressing public speaking, presentation and personal communication skills throughout the company.

Me: Yep.

CMO: How is that marketing’s fault?

Me: How is it not?

CMO: Haven’t you heard? Marketing is all about data. And technology. I’ve got to chase down every last bit of customer data across every channel of customer interaction and make it work.

Me: I read that somewhere. A few dozen times I think.

CMO: My digital marketing managers are working constantly on connecting with customers on their mobile devices. On the web. Everywhere.

Me: I’m sure they are.

CMO: So, WTF? How do I have this communication problem?

Me: Where’s your next trade show?

CMO: Vegas. Next month.

Me: How many shows and events did you do this year?

CMO: 10.

Me: What’s your trade show budget?

CMO: Over $2M.

Me: How many company staff were in your booth for your last show?

CMO: 20.

Me: Doing what?

CMO: Giving demos, presenting on our booth stage and on the educational platform.

Me: Did you get them ready to speak at the show?

CMO: No, but we offer a two-day presentation training course once a quarter at our HQ. All are welcome, if they get permission and can get there.

Me: So how many out of the 20 at your last show attended the last training course?

CMO: 2.

Me: What about the other 18?

CMO: Don’t know. They’re from sales, product development and service. Not my problem.

Me: Yet it was your show budget, your metrics, your marketing departmental performance.

CMO: You could say that.

Me: So when you have any public-facing event, who’s responsible?

CMO: I am. Marketing.

Me: Webinars?

CMO: Marketing.

Me: Sales Enablement?

CMO: Marketing. But you can’t put that one solely on me.

Me: I’m not. But if you’re truly enabling sales, how is that possible if you don’t know the sales people can speak to your content?

CMO: Dunno.

Me: What about road shows?

CMO: Marketing.

Me: Speaking to media and the analysts?

CMO: Marketing.

Me: Your annual customer conference?

CMO: Marketing.

Me: Getting your customers, executives and partners ready for that conference?

CMO: Marketing. But they don’t want to practice their speaking. They feel they don’t have to.

Me: So I saw that live video stream from your last show. Right in front of your booth.

CMO: What about it?

Me: The marketer you put on camera using that smartphone. Ever do that before?

CMO: No.

Me: It showed.

Me: What about those ebooks you produced?

CMO: What about ‘em?

Me: Did you listen to them?

CMO: Yeah, why?

Me: It’s incredible what you can do with a tin can in a concrete room and a back office.

CMO: They’re good enough.

Me: If you say so. Just LMK if anybody ever responds to those.

CMO: Look, we offer a once-a-quarter presentation training course. What’s wrong with that?

Me: Nothing, if it’s any good. But then what happens?

CMO: With what?

Me: With the effort to help your team with those presentation skills.

CMO: It’s totally up to them what to do. I’m not responsible.

Me: I think you are.

CMO: How?

Me: Where do the people at your company go anytime something’s up with trade shows, events, webinars, road shows, the media, analyst and investor presentations, multimedia, podcast and streaming production, demos, speeches, interviews, customer and partner events, sales enablement, product launches, commercials and mobile video?

CMO: Marketing. But you’re being repetitive.

Me: Similar to the way your staff repeatedly uses the word AMAZING to describe anything and everything your company does? Or repeatedly lifts the ends of their sentences when they talk during a presentation? Sure, I’m grouping it all together but there are subtle differences in all of those examples. You should know that.

CMO: Um, well, I, you know, uhhh… you know, that’s out of my control. Right? We hire professionals who should know how to speak in public before they get here. Right?

Me: Wrong. Michael Jordan was the best in the business. Yet he was the first one to practice and the last one to leave. Yet you offer no such support, practice or initiative to those who want to stay sharp. Even those who already are great public speakers.

Yet you say your full-time job as a CMO is data. And content? But no assurance that the content can really be used by anybody. I still don’t know how you can call that sales enablement. Dumping content on somebody isn’t enablement. Where do your employees go for help with their presentation skills? And I don’t mean making prettier slides…

CMO: Again, we have that presentation training course.

Me: Yes, a one-time generic course that does the basics. If it’s any good. It does nothing to get your team prepped on a regular basis. And once that course is over, the learning largely stops.

CMO: That’s the way it is.

Me: What about your January sales kickoff?

CMO: What about it?

Me: Who’s leading that?

CMO: Sales. Marketing has its usual 30-minute spot on the third day of the kickoff.

Me: Exactly.


Marketing’s #epicfail has its origin decades ago.

People have been complaining about rotten, boring presentations for as long as I can remember. Eye chart slides, feature/function and product-centric material.

Speaking in public is people’s Number One fear. 2017 was no different.

In recent years we’ve accumulated more and more business and customer channels of interaction. More sales and marketing channels. Instead of just standing on stage in the 1960s, or in front of a client meeting in the 1970s, we’re now faced with a camera in every pocket, surprise live video, bad content reproduced and repurposed into multimedia formats, all orchestrated by the “good enough” communication culture.

It shows.

To top it off, in 2017 we had the avalanche of mobile video, streaming media, live video apps, interviewers who aren’t, cringe worthy media productions, and wanna-be video producers combined with the supervision of amateur digital marketers who have become even further removed from any human interaction. All chipping away at the branding, reputation and credibility of their companies.

Article after article informs us all that video marketing is now king. The information flood contains infographics on how to use video. The tech trade show session tells everything we need to know about a successful webinar. Except who is on the phone, on camera, on the microphone, on stage and responsible for engaging the audience.

Guess who’s responsible, CMO?

Let’s remember those absent executives who don’t know, don’t want to know, and won’t return until January 8, 2018. Put it all together and you have:

Marketing’s 2017 #EpicFail.

I’d better start writing that article.

For more on Challenging the Status Quo of #Marketing and #Presentation Groupthink, follow me on Twitter: @tonycompton, @GettingPresence

For immediate #presentation & #publicspeaking tips, visit the GettingPresence website.

Look Out: Bad Audience Behavior Has Escaped the Cinema!

Tony Compton, Managing Director


Rude, disrespectful, self-centered and ignorant behavior has become symptomatic with attending any movie. There are those in the movie-going audience who bring the absence of common sense. But as I’ve been told, common sense isn’t common anymore.

Go to a movie. Any movie. Chances are decent that you’ll sit near that person, or couple, or group of friends who talk during the previews. Or during the movie. Even greater are your chances that you’ll sit behind that person who texts during the previews or during the movie. You know the one: he or she could be sitting five rows down on the other side of the theater and decide to start texting friends. With a 5” smartphone screen designed to be a guiding light in any emergency.

I think you’ll run into more problems going to see a Midnight horror movie with a younger adult audience than you will with an older group seeing Murder on the Orient Express, but no one group has the exclusive title for rotten, annoying attendees.

Granted, some theater chains make a point of enforcing a no talk, text or cell phone rule. Alamo Drafthouse seems to be doing a nice job of it. And this viral video has made the rounds…

But I’ve never been to an Alamo Drafhouse. Others chains such as AMC and CineBistro play those friendly reminders during the previews not to be rude during the film. I’m not sure they really help. Two weeks ago, the lady seated to my right was too busy playing on her phone to see what was on the screen.

Years ago, one regional theater chain in the Midwest used to have a live, in-person usher stand, welcome the audience, and ask everybody to make the necessary adjustments to their mobile devices. That seemed to help, before that chain got bought out. Now they don’t do that anymore.

Breaking News: Be on the Lookout for Bad Behavior at Meetings, Trade Shows, Conferences and Events!

It’s all around you. Like Tom Skeritt’s character Captain Dallas found out in the original Alien film of 1979, it’s moving right towards you. But look out! If you say anything about it to the person causing the problem – you may be the one to blame!

“It” goes hand-in-hand with our “me first” mentality which has permeated so much of society. And by bringing your self-centered attitude with you to the business environment, you:

Prohibit others from hearing the speaker:

You may learn in a modern way, with modern devices, but there are people sitting right next to you in a crowded room trying to listen. The way you bang on your keyboard or mobile device screen is loud and annoying. Once in a while notes are acceptable, but you’re not a court reporter. And the way you check e-mail and take notes and tweetand make noise is distracting.

Prohibit others from learning:

We’re sitting behind you and can see everything you’re doing on your screen during the presentation. Email, PPT, and web surfing and shopping. If you don’t like the speaker, get up and leave. Don’t shop online. It doesn’t help that you’re working multiple devices on the table in front of you, either.

Prohibit others from concentrating:

Could you be a little quieter and/or neater when eating in the meeting room? Yeah, I know food and coffee and dessert and sometimes more come with the business meeting territory, but use your judgement. And would it be too much trouble to clean up when you’re done?

Prohibit others from seeing: (Part One)

Want to take a picture of the presentation, and of the presenter(s)? How about a video? Better yet, how about live stream the video – probably without permission?


Here’s how you do it:

  1. Grab your smartphone with both hands.
  2. Hold it horizontally for that landscape look.
  3. Now stick your arms and hands in the air, and hold your phone up there like you just don’t care.
  4. Leave ’em there like you just don’t care.

Because you don’t.

People are sitting all around you. Behind you. They’re trying to watch and learn, too, you know…

They paid good money for their tickets. To attend that event.

You may not care about spending your company’s money to attend events, but they might.

And I sure as hell do.

Try asking those around you for permission you before you block their view for an indefinite period of time.

Now get your phone out of my face.

Prohibit all from seeing: (Part Two)

This one isn’t for the audience. It’s for the event producers with an “I don’t give a damn” attitude about the entire audience. I love – absolutely love it – when I see somebody share a conference room picture or a trade show video from a session room with 30 rows set classroom style only to have a panel discussion or a one-on-one conversation on a stage three feet off the ground. Lounge chairs on stage, and everybody beyond Row 3 can’t see. Way to provide value in attending. People don’t pay to watch a screen behind or to the side of the stage. That could’ve been done at home.

Prohibit somebody from taking a seat:

Call me old school and traditional, but a gentleman should offer his seat to a woman. Or a disabled person. Or a senior citizen. Stand up. Make room. That’s what I was taught growing up. On the bus, train, or the classroom. I’ve walked into plenty of sold-out, jam packed convention halls and I’ve seen attendees stand and circle the back walls of the hall because there are no available seats. I’ve seen people sitting on the floor. But it’s hard to recall the last time I saw a man give up his seat to a lady. I’m sure it’s happened, but not nearly enough.

A few years ago I attended a Broadway performance at Studio 54 in New York City. (That club you’ve heard so much about from the 70’s is now being used for Broadway performances. It’s a very, very nice theater…) The moment the house lights went down a young man in the row behind continued to use his phone. It caught an usher’s immediate attention.

The usher’s instruction to the young man was clear:

“Turn off your phone. Now.”

(several moments passed)

The usher repeated, “Now.”

The phone was turned off.

Damn right.

Give that usher a raise and usher him to the front of the of line of human beings waiting to be cloned. Offer those clones high paying jobs throughout the business meeting world.

You may feel as if you have certain “rights” to do what you want to do when seated in an audience. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. And I’m not suggesting all audience members sit on their hands and remain perfectly quiet for the duration…

A theater usher shouldn’t have to be the one who teaches business professionals the meaning of the words courtesy, awareness, etiquette and respect.

But it does seem as if somebody, somewhere, is teaching people the meaning of one, much smaller word: Me.

If it’s you, please stop it.


For more on Challenging the Status Quo of #Marketing and #Presentation Groupthink, follow me on Twitter: @tonycompton, @GettingPresence

For immediate #presentation & #publicspeaking tips, visit the GettingPresence website.

Three Steps to Crushing Software Demos

Tony Compton, Managing Director

I’m hustlin’ down memory lane. Trade show memory lane.

My thoughts go back to a cavernous convention hall – somewhere, sometime ago.



New York.

Doesn’t matter. It could’ve been a convention hall in Anytown, USA.

Those exhibit halls all look the same inside. Concrete walls and floors. And those blue drapes are everywhere.

It was those blue drapes that separated presentation sections in a demo area of an exhibit hall in a convention center at a trade show. Somewhere, sometime. All the time.

Makes me tired just thinking about that checkerboard layout.

Each demo section was properly appointed with a small makeshift stage, cheap plastic folding chairs, a small screen, microphone, podium and speakers – and no acoustics. Wide open spaces. Concrete structure. More echos than the Grand Canyon.

One convention lunch hour with nothing better to do I decided to check out the fast-paced scene of the demo area. Demo Area 1 had a dozen people or so watching, you guessed it, a demo. Couldn’t tell you the company represented in that section. If memory serves the next demo area was empty. After that I might’ve stopped looking and turned around.

I do recall on another occasion in the same demo area a couple of guys tried to get their computer to work for their time in the exhibit hall spotlight. I presume the computer had the demo on it. And of course you can’t do a demo without a computer. #sarcasm

I don’t know if they ever got the laptop to work. For all I know they may still be there.

Another time in the demo area I saw yet another guy presenting. Nothing remarkable about it. Couldn’t tell you the company name. I’ll never remember it.

I think the demos were concurrent, 20 minutes each.

I know the demos were bought and paid for by exhibitors and sponsors.

I wondered why anybody in their right mind would waste their time, money and effort on presenting demos under such circumstances, but hey, companies bought it.

But I never did see impressive-size crowds back there.

Giving demos is sacred to some. Some CEOs equate the number the demos given with a number of leads generated… Nope. That’s not how it works, but there are some who will never understand that. To them, giving demos is the sales and marketing security blanket that keeps them warm when confronted with the question of measuring the outcomes of a trade show investment. More demos equals more leads. So all some want to do is give demos. That’s their idea of marketing and generating demand.

But it doesn’t mean they – or their people – are any good at actually giving software demos.

So here are three ways to get good at giving software demos. Really good. Crush ‘em, as the title indicates. Not that I want you to just do demos, but they’re part of presentation life in the software industry. So you might as well crush it.

1. Get Good at Giving Your Demo

Easy, right? The arrogant will say they have this one checked off the list. Not so fast. Getting good at your demo doesn’t mean reading off intro and outro slides, and droning on through features and functions on the screen for an hour. It means employing superior physical presentation skills. How you look and sound. Knowing how to interact with an audience. Structure. Timing. Clarity. Practice. Performance. More Practice. Technical know-how.

This is a bit of an advanced opening section because you have to put in the work to improve your presentation and public speaking game to ‘get good’ at this. BTW, the work at getting good never stops. And getting good doesn’t mean crushing it.

2. Give the Demo with No Computer

Yep, you read that right. No computer. No laptop, no tablet, no smartphone, no electronic assist. Just you and a whiteboard or a flip chart. In front of an audience. (Almost forgot that last part.) And you’ll get your multicolor markers.

Now the fun begins.

I want to see you demo your product without the software demo itself. Which means you have to tell the demo story. And do so with animation. Enthusiasm. Confidence. Description.

Help the audience see your product through what you say, how you draw it out and your physical movements. Through your storytelling. Entice them.

That means you’ll need to know the software inside and out. (As you should.)

You’ll need to describe it. Make it come alive. How it may sound.

Make the user feel what it feels like to use the product, and what can be accomplished.

In other words, demo it. As you’re supposed to do in a … software demo.

3. Bring 1 and 2 Together

Yes, we’ll return your computer. But then…

If you’re a) fluent in the demo and can effectively speak to it and b) serious about a process of practice and continual improvement in your presentation game – you’ve anted up.

Next, if you’re able to demo – without the demo – and bring your software to life without electronics, you’ve got a competitive arrow in your quiver that few possess.

But when you bring the two together, it won’t matter if you’re in a cavernous convention hall, in a meeting room, in your trade show booth or on a webinar.

You’ll be able to crush it. Anytime, anywhere.

Do that, and I do believe I’ll remember your name and your demo.

So will the rest of the audience.

Bonus Coaching Tip: The presentation and public speaking exercise I would construct to coach speakers through this process would be a day-long session in three stages that would mirror the three steps above. In a small group setting, have those who give demos present – one at a time. First, all should give the standard demo. Second, take away the electronics. Third, bring the two together. Record, contrast the differences, get and give feedback along the way and see the performance improvements on video.

Keep the individual demos to 20-30 minutes. Do the math over an eight hour day to determine the number of participants that can be accommodated.

Repeat often and keep up the practice sessions.

Have a blast.

For more on Challenging the Status Quo of #Marketing and #Presentation Groupthink, follow me on Twitter: @tonycompton, @GettingPresence

For immediate #presentation & #publicspeaking tips, visit the GettingPresence website.

The Debt You Owe Your Audience

Tony Compton, Managing Director


The problem with the corporate groupthink approach to all of your company’s presentation and public speaking opportunities has gotten so bad that you’re now doing a disservice to all involved. Especially your audiences.

You’re supposed to help your employees develop their communication skills. Not hang them out to dry every time they step in front of an audience. That includes helping your marketers, salespeople, and your fellow executives. It also includes anybody and everybody who gets on the phone and interacts with customers. Those who lead company meetings. Those who have a voice.

Instead, your people are being shut out, shut down, and ignored.

Yet they’re the ones expected to deliver the desirable outcomes you want from any interaction with an audience: more leads, more qualified opportunities, more net-new business… Reinforced branding, messaging, positioning, and differentiation… Sales.

Yet how is that supposed to happen when the need to strengthen their communication skill set is ignored?

There are those who believe that employees are supposed to know how to communicate, present, and speak in public before they are employed at their company.

But then no effort is made to reinforce those skills once they’re on the team.

There are those who believe that a once-in-a-blue-moon two-day generic presentation training course addresses the need to support communication skills.

Perhaps. For two days. Maybe. If they’re lucky to get that. But then whatever is learned largely fades, if there was anything to be gained in the first place.

More, there are those who believe that only the C-Suite receives any presentation skills help at all – while the employed masses are left to figure it out on their own.

Throw them a PPT template and tell them to get back to work.

How do I know? Been there, seen it… 

If you balk at any of this, wake up. People’s Number One fear is speaking in public. (Or haven’t you heard?) Yet audiences endure the outcomes of your corporate groupthink that no attention needs to be paid to strengthening communication skills.

And while you’re more concerned with keywords, content, plans, funnels, text-heavy websites, color-correct company slides and homemade media, the audience suffers.

Now imagine…

You bought tickets to see your favorite team play. Doesn’t matter which sport. Game time is set for 7:00 pm. You spent your money. Allocated time. Looked forward to the event. Your team shows up but gets blown out.

In the post-game press conference the manager says the team wasn’t really ready to play. They had a long flight the night before. They had bad traffic on the way to the stadium. The weather is bad and some on the team aren’t feeling well. A few players didn’t feel the need to practice.

But thanks for spending your hard-earned money. See you next time!

The next night you bought tickets to a Broadway show. You have a 7:00 pm curtain to make. Again, you spent your money. BIG money. Allocated your time. The performance starts, but it isn’t very good. Some performers forget their lines. Others haven’t prepared their voices.

Backstage after the show, some of the actors say they give six performances a week and don’t care that this one was off. They, too, are having a bad day. They had bad traffic. They weren’t feeling up to performing. That they didn’t feel the need to practice.

Thanks again for spending your money. See you next time!

With empty pockets and time wasted, how willing would you be to accept any of those excuses? Yet you have the audacity to expect your audiences to accept less than what you could be giving them.

How do I know? I constantly see it…

I can give example after example. Either you get it or you don’t. And from what I’ve seen, you don’t. It’s the groupthink approach found so readily in your approach to marketing, to communication, to presentation and public speaking readiness.

In all fairness, neither of the two examples I cited would ever happen. No manager for any professional sports team would give those excuses. Broadway performers know that it doesn’t matter that they have given the same performance dozens of times. It’s a first for any new audience.

Yet you’re throwing your people out there – all the time – without a thought for those debts you owe your corporate audience.

Whether it’s you or your team going on-stage, on a webinar, on-camera, in a conference room, or to a trade show, you owe your audience:


An Experience.

The Best.

And you owe these to your audiences each and every time the opportunity presents itself.

I can’t imagine doing anything less.

It doesn’t matter that your sales people have given the same presentation 10 times this week. Or that it’s somebody else’s slides. Or they were traveling and got in late. Or are having a bad day.

Your audience deserves better than that.

Your audience doesn’t care about any of that.

But there are those who really believe that the desired business outcomes will magically appear without communication readiness.

Challenge them.


For more on Challenging the Status Quo of #Marketing Groupthink, follow me on Twitter: @tonycompton, @GettingPresence

For immediate #presentation & #publicspeaking tips, visit the GettingPresence website.

Confronting the Absurdity in Your Presentation Groupthink

Tony Compton, Managing Director

When I challenge the status quo of marketing groupthink, I’m challenging you.

In the most professional and positive ways imaginable.

Today, I’m challenging you to stand up to the absurdity found in the #presentation and public speaking groupthink found so readily in every channel of business communication.

At sessions, at conferences, trade shows, and events.

In the boardroom.

During sales calls.

During sales meetings.

On webinars.

On camera.

But rarely on point. Or at least interesting.

Because how many more bad presentations do you and I want to endure?

There are myths behind the absurdity of your presentation groupthink.

And there are truths.

Here’s how I see both of them:

Myth #1: Presentation and Public Speaking rules must be followed.

Truth #1: There are no rules. You can (professionally) do whatever you want. You have an audience. Whether it’s an audience of 1, 10, 100, or 1000 – rock them. Surpass their expectations. Make it a fantastic audience experience. Crush it. And there sure as hell are no rules that state you have to use PowerPoint slides – or any other technology.

Myth #2: Content is the most important part of any presentation.

Truth #2: No it’s not. Content is important, but it’s a distant third behind how a speaker looks and sounds during a presentation.

Myth #3: You don’t need to practice.

Truth #3: Nonsensical arrogance. Michael Jordan was the best in the business, yet he was also known for being the first one at practice and the last one to leave. Not only do you need to practice your presentation skills more than once a decade, so do your employees. Developing public speaking abilities should not be reserved for the C-suite – when and if they do care about this.

Myth #4: Panel discussions are ok.

Truth #4: No, they’re not. Ever. They are lazy, event-fillers. Examine the body language of the panelists from those self-serving panel discussion pictures. From the bored to the uninvolved, it’s a waste of everybody’s time. You have the talent and the creativity. Do something different. Anything less is a clear-cut message of “I don’t give a damn” enough to take the time.

Myth #5: Corporate needs a “compliant” presentation slide deck.

Truth #5: Absurd. Is it more important to provide a security blanket of a slide deck so somebody, somewhere can see a tangible asset, or is it more important to create an experience for your audience – slide deck or no?

I’ve seen this before. You’re doing a corporate event and are given a PPT template so that you can color between the lines for your presentation. Fine. Give them the bare minimum of slides.

If you’re looking to challenge the status quo of your corporate marketing groupthink, cite a good example by looking at the Apple product launches. Minimal to no use of “slides” with good use of video, and a heavy emphasis on the presenters.

I always wonder how Apple can launch their WW products this way yet you have to have an incomprehensible 30-page slide deck to talk about yours.

Myth #6: You have to tell the audience everything you know about our product.

Truth #6: When somebody asks you what time it is, you don’t show them how to build a watch.

Myth #7: Online learning can take the place of practicing presentation and public speaking.

Truth #7: Little bit of leeway here… There are some that will say that online learning suffices. I’ll give them partial credit. It only works after somebody has been doing in-person communication work on their skills and has developed a credible routine. Online can work in remote, consultative settings for preparation, but ideally it’s with in-person, team-based practice.

Myth #8: Turning on your smartphone camera is a great idea.

Truth #8: That may be the last thing you want to do. The saying goes “garbage in – garbage out” applies to video and presentation groupthink. Just because you have the ability to turn on your camera and stream on Periscope or Facebook Live doesn’t mean you know how to build an audience, engage, and hold interest for any length of time. Sometimes a five minute video interview can hurt your brand, reputation, and credibility.

Until you’re absolutely ready with a comprehensive game plan for using video, don’t.

Myth #9: There’s no time for any of this.

Truth #9: Isn’t it funny? You’ll have an audience. Webinar, video, trade show… customers, prospects, media, and analysts. Yet you (allegedly) don’t have time to prepare and deliver an exceptional experience for your audience?

Exactly what business are you in?

Myth #10: There’s no budget for this.

Truth #10: Sure there is. I recently saw a tweeted picture from somebody going home after an BIG trade show. The picture was of two suitcases filled with junk obtained at the show. I estimated the cost of that person’s attendance to be $5000. $5k to attend a show and bring home bags of junk. Somebody approved that expense report. Probably an oblivious #CEO or #CMO.

It wasn’t my budget – or money. But it may have been your #VC money.

There’s budget. Once you start taking this seriously.

Presentation groupthink has produced a global business community of just “good enough” offerings. Good enough sessions because everybody politely claps at the end of a presentation and goes about their day.

Multitasks during webinars that will never truly reveal the audience’s level of disconnect.

Copies one another so that every video interview looks, sounds, and feels the same.

With the same outcomes.

Finally, I recently read a post that highlighted how a handful of Chicago tech companies are developing their sales talent. About how each gets their “pitch” down. But while there’s mention of some very good skills, and a vague reference or two to “training” – there’s not one direct mention of personal communication or #publicspeaking coaching. Nor presentation training. At any of the companies. Some of that may be embedded in there – but the fact that it wasn’t front and center showed one thing: Groupthink. Sales, Marketing, and Presentation Groupthink.

Which is odd. Because while listening is important to any sales situation, so is Talking. Communicating. Presenting. Selling. Across multiple formats.

So the challenge put to you now is to overcome the absurdity in your presentation groupthink.

But you won’t find the answer in the next panel discussion.

For more on Challenging the Status Quo of #Marketing Groupthink, follow me on Twitter: @tonycompton, @GettingPresence

For immediate #presentation & #publicspeaking tips, visit the GettingPresence website.

Challenging the Status Quo of Marketing Groupthink

Tony Compton, Managing Director


The average tenure of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is somewhat short. Two years, maybe three or four. It depends which study you reference. I thought I read it was getting better nowadays. But there’s a long way to go…

Even with the short tenures, CMOs still apply approaches that are:

Outdated. Passive. Common. Routine. Disconnected. Just Because.



of “Careful” Value.

I was going write of “Zero Value” – but that’s not true. There’s some value to what some are doing in marketing. But so much in marketing nowadays simply gets by. And there is value in simply getting by in:

  • Digital Marketing
  • Events and Trade Show Marketing
  • Content and Sales Enablement
  • Product Marketing
  • “Paint by Numbers” marketing leadership from CMOs.

…but simply getting by is not in my nature.

You see it everyday. Fill-in-the-blank marketing. The majority accept, and few challenge. Groupthink. Marketing Groupthink.

That’s how I view far too many approaches to marketing.

Here are five readily identifiable areas that demonstrate marketing groupthink:

1. Digital Marketing

Copy and paste each and every “Digital Marketing” job description easily found populating the ‘black hole’ career sections of corporate websites. And LinkedIn. And others. Digital Marketing has become what? Search engines, keywords, social media maintenance, websites, emails, some writing, some campaigns, some lead gen, some CRM system data upload, some reporting, etc… Your company does it. You do digital marketing the same as the next one, and the next… Why? I dunno. It’s become routine.

Want to challenge the digital status quo? Have your digital marketers put down the electronics and stand in front of the class and tell your corporate story. Or venture out with sales people to talk to customers. Don’t tell me those ideas to marketing groupthink won’t make your digital marketers better at what they do.

2. Events and Trade Show Marketing

Your marketing up to, during, and after your company’s events has become predictable. And safe. How so? Your BIG industry event is coming up. So you pepper your contact db with messages about your sponsored appearance. (So does everybody else.) You promote your event appearance and solicit on-site meetings to drive the appearance of after-show value with high-end opportunities. (So does everybody else.) A sponsored reception, party, or steak dinner may be in the offing. You have your booth. Your paint-by-numbers booth. And you may have a presentation. Or a seat on the ‘cure for insomnia’ panel discussion. Then you (hopefully) dissect your after-show contact spreadsheet to email, call, and solicit. Just like everybody else.

Am I close?

Want to challenge the status quo? Take a hard look at why your company does the events it does. Ask questions. Don’t just take another spot on the show floor and populate it with outdated collateral, spinning PPTs, a ‘cheap’ exhibit, and people who have zero personal communication game. You may also wish to prepare your company speakers before their next presentation. You may wish to turn off your mobile cameras before streaming live video without preparation. Negotiate with event vendors, save money. And leave some of your budget-busting staff at home.

Get serious – and creative – about your events strategy.

This one’s tough. But if you want to disrupt your trade show and event groupthink – you’ll break new ground.

3. Content and Sales Enablement

Content, content, content. Somedays that’s all you’ll read. But it’s the security blanket of the ill-prepared. For terrible slides for unprepared speakers. For endless, text-heavy case studies. For websites that could double as a maze in a corn field.

I’ve never said content isn’t important. But I’ve been around the block a few times in marketing. Content ends up residing on local laptops in all forms known to mankind. Or in a central repository which dates back to 2007. And once the content is retrieved, it’s deflates the person who found it because it’s the same thing Joe used for a presentation in Chicago last week. Outdated messaging and all.

And how exactly is producing all of this “content” enabling sales?

Besides the obvious groupthink approach that sales needs content to be effective?

Want to challenge the status quo? Make sure that those that produce the content can actually use their content. Have them present it as a sales person would: on the phone, on a webinar, in a boardroom, on-stage, and on-camera. It’ll make them better content producers if they experience first-hand how it’s used.

More, it’s wise to make sure that those who are using the content can demonstrate that they, too, know how to use it in multichannel scenarios. (That’s means your inside sales reps and your external business developers. Your marketers, customer service agents, and partners. And your executives.) Be sure to make sure that those who use the content, can use the content.

Because the marketing groupthink approach to content and sales enablement simply dictates creation. And dumping of content. And freelancing of usage.

Of course I’m familiar with sales enablement technology that catalogues content. Customizes content. And delivers content. But that doesn’t mean the end-user in the field can use and present the content. (And those vendors will never tell you that.)

4. Product Marketing

I’ve written about how product marketing could be on the verge of automation. About how it’s become a cookie-cutter endeavor at so many tech companies. I know it’s supposed to be this strategic, go-to-market leadership function, but it isn’t. Not anymore. Not at the companies who copy and paste their product marketing requirements just like the vendor next door.

Follow-me, again, to be sure I got this job’s requirements down: product marketing is to develop strategy, go-to-market messaging, value props, and unique differentiators, have it’s ear to the market, the trends, the competitive landscape, the alliance partners…

Product marketing is to develop content. Draw up battle cards. Unveil material to support business growth. To forecast opportunity. To interface with industry analysts. Understand the buyers. Some subject matter expertise and some public speaking and presentation work.

Toss in a product launch, event, campaign, and marcom support, some sales enablement, with financial and technical expertise, and you’ve got the product marketing picture.

And so does every other company housing one or more product marketers.

Challenging the product marketing status quo is easy. And damn sure should be required.

Last I checked, there are ~5000 MarTech vendors, spanning all imaginable industry sectors. How in the world are you going to break out in that landscape if your product marketing approach is the same as every single competitor? And for those not in the MarTech 5000 – the same question applies. What are you doing differently?

Ideas on how to do so? Sure…

Let me start by saying I’ve seen the problem. Your go-to-market problem. You’ve got good people doing good work with great technology. But where product marketing is supposed to lead, it time and again drops the ball. Change it by:

Preparing your product marketers to regularly visit, present, and interact with customers, prospects, analysts, and the media. Prepare for interactions across all formats. Remote, and in-person. On-camera, on-webinars, and in-person. You’re likely not doing this today. I know because I pay attention. It’s easy to spot. To hear. To see. To read. Get your product marketing communication game tight.

Prepare your product marketing leadership skills. I once sat in on a presentation from one BIG Tech company that was unbearable. They were so proud of a 100+ slide deck but forgot to tell the six remote presenters on a web-conference call how to organize and make sense of it amongst themselves and for the audience. Product marketing is in the leadership role, and took none.

Add creativity. Real creativity. Turn product marketing into storytellers. Stop doing the same events, the same panel discussions, the same public-facing tasks… create a brand for product marketing by doing things differently: creating your own events, podcasts, webinars, videos… separate from the field of product marketing clones. Attack your target audience outside the standard methods of outdated product marketing groupthink.

5. Marketing Leadership

Or should the section be called the “be quiet, accept the marketing groupthink, and just do your job…

It’s the biggest “paint-by-number” and “color between the lines” area of marketing groupthink.

Marketing strategy? There’s a template for that.

The marketing plan? There’s a template for that.

The marketing budget? There’s a template for that.

The approach to events? There’s a template for that.

The quarterly marketing report? There’s a template for that.

The quarterly marketing ops report? There’s a template for that.

The quarterly product marketing report? There should be a template for that.

To marketing videos? Stare into the camera, off-set right, ask softball questions, and overlay graphics.

The approach to webinars and other recorded audio material? Overdo the content, and add one ill-prepared voiceover. Record ‘good enough’ sound to give the impression of using a tin can in a cavernous concrete room.

The leadership approach applied to marketing? So common that you don’t need a template.

Here, I’m busted. You need a marketing strategy, plan, and budget. And you have to report on marketing activities. Those are the current table stakes.

But I’ve sat in those rooms with marketing leaders.

They’re the same leaders who copy and paste last year’s approach to this year’s plan.

The ones who won’t hear of true sales enablement, innovative approaches to content, sales-oriented management styles, and creative, groundbreaking marketing.

Who nod, shake their heads, and clap politely when the next expert dumps useless but feel-good information on them.

Marketing leaders who won’t deviate from standard operating procedure.

Who’ve become infamous for low average #CMO tenures.

This article is over, but I’m just getting warmed up.

I want you to exercise your marketing creativity. Your marketing passion.

And not let it be held captive by a Xeroxed job description or outdated approaches to marketing management.

There are those who accept marketing groupthink. Who want to accept marketing groupthink. No challenges to their way of business thinking allowed.

So you can either smile and go back to your cube, or you can challenge the stats quo.

Challenging means creating.

It means professional #leadership.

It means taking ownership in the business.

Seeing that talent is nurtured.

For ensuring success.

For acting on the need to bring marketing innovation – and professional disruption.

In technology and business practices.

For breaking the business mold and doing something that stands out in the crowded marketing landscape.

To strive for excellence in yourself and those around you.


For more on Challenging the Status Quo of #Marketing Groupthink, follow me on Twitter: @tonycompton, @GettingPresence

For immediate #presentation & #publicspeaking tips, visit the GettingPresence website.

10 Signs It’s ‘Amateur Night’ at Your Trade Show

Tony Compton, Managing Director

25 years ago I tried to persuade a friend to compete on Amateur Night on Showtime at the Apollo. With no luck. He was a very talented rap artist. But he knew (and anybody who watched the show knew) that rappers stood little chance of winning that competition. He thought I just wanted to see him get booed off the stage. (That was a comical part of the show.) I knew where he was coming from, but… nothing ventured nothing gained.

Regretfully, today’s trade shows and industry events bring a new the meaning to Amateur Night. Or Day. Or whatever you want to call it. And it’s so damn easy to see…

Though I vividly recall watching Showtime at the Apollo over two decades ago, a tour of current trade shows would have you wondering if anything has been learned in the last five decades. If there’s ever an industry — an area of marketing performance, corporate communication, sales enablement, lead and demand generation, and revenue-generation —  ripe for innovation and disruption, it’s the trade show and event industry.

Turn on your computer, wake up your mobile device, wander around some convention halls, view the Tweet streams, and within minutes (maybe seconds) you may see what I’ve seen:

1. Two Bags of Junk and a $5000 Expense

Somebody proudly tweeting a picture of two suitcases full of swag (junk) that was (allegedly) to be brought home from a trade show. I started to do the math. One conference registration, plus one flight, plus ground transportation, plus meals, plus hotel, plus incidentals, plus time OOO, plus time wasted on-site gathering this stuff, plus time packing, plus (God forbid) luggage fees = $5000. Maybe more. Probably not much less than that. Gathering stuff is not why one attends a show. More, who is paying those business expenses?

2. Signage, Ineffective

Will somebody please take exhibitors to a baseball game? Or for a long drive on the highway? Look at an outdoor sign, or at a billboard. The companies with bold, simple messaging stand out. You remember those Coca-Cola signs with the logo – and nothing else? Good. So why do a majority feel the need to cram messages and shoehorn every product and company feature onto their 10’ backdrop?

3. Exhibit Space Rich, Booth Poor

So you splurged on a 20’ x 20’ booth. Congrats! But then you populated it with four posts with four monitors, one reception counter and some chairs. Oh, and you placed your logo here and there. Way to break the mold on the creative marketing effort.

4. The Exhibit Hall Copy Machine

When that long row of 10’ x 10’ booths resembles Cellblock D at a Federal Prison, it’s Amateur Hour. It’s tough to ‘break out’ of prison, and it may be even tougher to ‘break out’ in the crowd of endless booths that look the same. No amount of crammed messages on your signage will help. No rotating PowerPoints on a 27” monitor will change anything. And no literature racks with collateral from 2014 will separate you from your confinement.

5. Streaming Amateur Video

Doing Periscope, Facebook, and YouTube videos from trade show booths and convention halls is all the corporate marketing rage. Yet I’ve seen better, more engaging, more original, and more entertaining content on cable TV programs that feature homemade video submissions versus some of the so-called ‘professional’ stuff generated from industry events. I used to wonder if those in charge at some of these companies knew that these types of videos were being produced to represent their company – but then I see some CEOs who have taken part in such productions.

Oh well…just another competitive marketing and trade show advantage given away.

6. Nonsensical Event Imaging

Here’s what I’ve seen: pictures of event speakers next to their eye chart PowerPoint slides while the audience plays on mobile devises. That’s usually accompanied with a caption that reads “Joe really knocked that software demo out of the park!” Anybody notice that the audience isn’t paying attention? Or that the slides are illegible?

I’ve also seen those ‘just behind the scenes’ pictures of a TV interview being conducted for yet another trade show interview. Problem is that angle has become common and faded years ago. It all looks the same and had grown long-in-the-tooth. Plus, it used to be compelling to see the larger cameras, and detailed staging behind some of the bigger, on-scene video setups. Now, a picture behind one person holding a single light next to a small mobile camera on a tripod watching XYZ executive be interviewed just isn’t cool. Or compelling. It’s simple. Mediocre. Average. Played out. Every single interview, from every single trade show, of every single show attendee or industry executive, looks and sounds the same.

7. Public Speaking & Presentation Arrogance

Did you practice giving your presentation before going on-stage? Probably not. Not sufficiently, anyway. Did your colleagues? Doubtful. Did you care more about how you look and sound while giving your speech versus the overly detailed content of your color and logo-correct slides? Maybe you looked at yourself on video to practice before going on-camera from your event?

My apologies, I forgot. What you, your colleagues, and your company do is good enough.

8. The Panel Discussion Recipe for Disaster

Take six high-chairs, six microphones, six ‘just stopping by’ panelists, one moderator, and a handful of pre-planned, softball questions and try to engage an audience for 60 minutes. Or substitute four cozy, comfy living room chairs on-stage. Then take pictures, circulate, and try to sell everybody on the notion that this panel discussion was earth-shattering and ground breaking. One look at the body language of the panelists is all anybody needs to know that it wasn’t.

9. The Self-Proclaimed Self-Important Event Producer

I once had the pleasure of supporting an exhibit for a midsize tech company, at a midsize trade show, in a midsize convention hall. Nothing remarkable about the event itself. 100 exhibitors, maybe. What I do recall is that we needed something from the show producers. Couldn’t tell you what it was or why we needed it. What I do recall is finding the guy who was our contact and point person for the show. He was riding around the hall on one those indoor golf-cart-looking vehicles. He was very busy, and very important. He was friendly-ish. But just couldn’t help at that moment in time. Not right away. You see, this was during booth and exhibit hall construction, and he said (they) were “building a city.”

Relax, pal. It’s a midsize trade show. Not the first human colony on Mars.

10. The Rookies

Yes, I know there’s a first time for everything. That includes attending a trade show and corporate events. But there are those rookies who swoop into town and proudly proclaim that “The Networking Breakfast starts at 7:30 in the morning and I have to be on time!”

Enjoy your breakfast. You, the hotel catering staff, and two others just in from Europe fighting jet lag will have the place all to yourselves for the first 30 minutes.

Trade shows are business investments. Sales and marketing expenditures. Attendees are there to learn, not collect junk from other vendors. Speakers are there to engage, influence, and motivate audiences. Marketers are to help uncover opportunity. All are there as an investment to grow the business. You won’t get there by applying Amateur Night behaviors.

Stand out in the crowd. Dominate the event. Do something that’ll capture the imagination and attention of your competitors, and your target audience.

Have the industry crowd take your picture.

Do that, instead of taking and circulating yet another generic event selfie.


Follow me on Twitter: @tonycompton, GettingPresence

For more, immediate tips, visit the GettingPresence website.