You Attend an Event, You Own It

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

Ah, Springtime. Another week, another round of “gotta be here” industry events.

Finding the activity from these events is easy. Just find event Tweet streams by hashtag or look on your LinkedIn profile page and eventually you’ll see all kinds of evidence from shows which span the globe: pictures, quotes, comments, etc. from attendees on the scene. Smiling pictures of people at the event are the norm, but pictures of booth giveaways, convention food, and the host city from a hotel room view are also par for the course.

Meanwhile, back at headquarters, the boss probably wants to know why you’re attending that event. I’m not talking about being an employee of a company sponsoring an event or a member of the corporate team producing the event. (Those attendees have their own separate challenges justifying their reasons for attending an event.) I’m talking about being a regular event attendee.

Oh, and let’s cut through the clutter about what an event is called. Trade Show, Convention, Conference, Summit, Workshop, Meeting, User Group… it’s all the same here. If you attend an event, you own your attendance.

So let’s get right to the point. The boss should want to know two things upon your arrival from your event attendance:

1. What did you learn at that event?

2. What were the business reasons you attended that event?

If I’m sitting in the boss’ chair, I’ll go one further:

3. Tell me what you learned, and show me the business reasons for attendance.

Do it without charts, a dashboard, slides, or electronics. And no paper printouts.

Go.

Note I wrote that the boss should want to know, vs. will want to know. Some just don’t give a damn. Bad boss, and maybe you should be the boss or your company should get another one who does give a damn. Or at least care enough to know why you attended that event, how much it cost, and what were the results.

But aside from a few platitudes, I wonder if many event-goers could articulate what they learned at an event, let alone speak intelligently about the business benefits, and results, shortly-after the conclusion of an event.

Here are some reasons why:

The Inactive Event Learning Experience

Go back to that event Tweet stream or review your LinkedIn profile and look at those event pictures. What do you see? Attendees sitting in sessions from keynotes to track breakouts. Some watch. Some listen. Many are playing on their electronic devices. Few learn little of anything. And when one session ends, it’s on to the next. Rinse and repeat. If an attendee has stuck around long enough for the last session on the last day, chances are they’re part of the dwindling group. Many others have left for the airport before the event concludes. It’s standard practice for the conference and trade show industry to conduct “educational” sessions this way. Tidbits are gained, and stories are told. But two or three days worth of cramming an information overload in this type of event format down the throats of stagnant audiences isn’t conducive to effective learning. I know ‘cause I’ve been there, done that…

Speaking of Keynotes…

So you’re an attendee sitting in Row 49 in the back of a crammed ballroom attempting to watch a keynote speaker. The speaker seems to be genuinely interested in delivering a good performance but is somebody using eye-chart graphics worthy of inclusion in the Ophthalmology Hall of Fame. More, the keynote session is wrapped around with cornball entertainment meant for others who clearly don’t get out of the house often enough. Exactly what would you say is of value in that cheesy and cramped ballroom setting?

Shopping, Anyone?

Are you attending an event to wander the exhibit hall and go shopping for your next piece of technology? Newsflash: you don’t have to. Vendors will come to you, at no cost to you. But hey, if getting endless sales pitches and gathering trade show junk that will go from a vendor’s booth, to your bag, to the nearest garbage can is worth your time and investment, have at it. But what are you learning from that exercise? And why are you paying for it?

Ill-Prepared Presenters

There are some phenomenal public speakers in business. But they are in the minority. Most speakers are more worried about the content of their presentation vs. their ability to communicate their content. They’re more concerned with slick slides than audience value, and the learning experience. The end result is a poor attendee experience where little is gained.

I’m all-too-aware that most speakers don’t prepare or adequately practice before their presentations. Heck, most don’t practice their communication skills at all – ever. Either out of fear, or arrogance, or laziness. And most companies do little or nothing to help. But you, the attendee, are still paying thousands to sit in those sessions and learn nothing. Nothing you can deliver with confidence back in the office.

You Attend, You Own It

So be prepared to answer what you learned, and describe in detail the business benefits of your attendance. Because all of that vendor stuff you brought back with you on the plane doesn’t count. Neither does your electronic file of endless slides. Nobody is going to read those. Those pictures of smiling people at the registration counter don’t count. And that smartphone video of the entertainment act is worthless.

If I’m the boss, and you just spent four days out-of-the-office attending an event to the tune of thousands of dollars, you’d better come prepared on Monday morning with clear, concise, concrete answers about your attendance. But taking a look at what I’m seeing on these Tweet streams, what’s going to be learned is that event attendees aren’t really learning anything useful at all – except how to spend money and create excuses for being OOO.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com

Your Words, Your Voice, Your (Lack of) Credibility

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

#Content isn’t the most important part of your next presentation. It’s how you look, and it’s how you sound. Not how your slides look. Not how your handouts look. Not how your pre-recorded demo sounds. And it’s certainly not the furniture selection for your next six-person sleep-inducing panel discussion.

Yes, content is important. But it’s how you look and sound as a presenter that makes the difference.

It’s the how you sound portion that’s the focus of attention in this post.

When I hear a somebody in a presentation, video, podcast, or interview who employs poor speech habits and a substandard vocabulary, bad impressions are made. Impressions of not being prepared, of not being well versed in content, of being evasive, uncertain, and uncaring. Uncaring to give an audience the best possible effort in being ready for a business appearance.

Say these, and risk your #business credibility:

1. Filler Words

You’ve read about filler words. You’ve also heard them, and about them, for as long as you can remember. The global epidemic of their usage continues, so here’s more ammunition for the professional bombardment asking, begging, and telling people to stop, breathe, and think before uttering another filler word.

Filler words are the “umms, uhhs, I mean, I think, well, look, and you knows” which permeate the vast majority of the spoken part of presentations, webinars, demos, corporate videos, sales pitches, panel discussions, speeches, meetings, interviews, conference calls, and regular old business conversations each of us experiences every day. Filler words are worthless.

How to get rid of them? Before you say anything, breathe deeply and think. Think about what you’re going to say. Then crank up the volume of your voice. Speak with volume, emphasis, and conviction. (I’m not taking about yelling.) When you do these things, your filler words will disappear. Try it. Bob and Eileen Parkinson taught me this years ago. Still works today. It’ll always work – no matter the venue, format, or environment of your next presentation, speech, conference call, or meeting. Practicing this vocal technique will serve you well.

Want to have some fun with this one? Here’s what I do… Count the number of times a presenter uses filler words during a presentation. Silently count on your fingers and toes. Chances are good you’ll run out of appendages within four or five minutes. It may take longer, but I’ve seen and heard filler words accumulate much, much faster.

Even more fun would be to take any recorded business presentation and edit out the legitimate corporate content. Leave the filler words and run them together in one long voice track. Over the course of a 60 minute presentation the net result may be several minutes of filler language that did nothing for the audience. Look at it as several minutes that could’ve been better spent delivering value to an audience.

2. Go and Like

The word is said. Not go – or went.

As in “…and then I go, You should be more careful when you cross the street…”

Or “… and then I went, You should be more careful…”

Or “…then he goes, We should get a bigger boat…”

You didn’t go anywhere. He didn’t go anywhere. You said something.

Same for the word “like” in conversation.

As in “…I was like, You really needed a bigger boat.”

Nobody was like anything. Somebody said something.

You may have to verbalize those lines in your head in your favorite ‘daydreamer’ accent, but you’ll get the drift. Eliminate the annoying misuses of the words go, like, and their derivates.

If you said something, say that you said something.

Or it’ll be, like, whatever

3. Amazing

The award for the most annoying overused word in the English language goes to the word amazing. Dinner was amazing. The performance was amazing. The interior of that refurbished house is amazing. We had an amazing time. It all turned out to be amazing. The word has been overused to the extent that it’s lost all meaning. Pull up your thesaurus and find an alternate.

4. Going Forward

This short phrase is gaining traction, and that’s not a good thing. Remember the next time you are treated to something along the lines of, “Going forward, our new CEO will seek to grow the business.” Or, “Going forward, the new coach will take the team in a new and exciting direction.”

Going forward? As opposed to what? Going backward? Or sideways? Unless a time machine is hanging out in the office, you’re always going to be going forward.

5. Background, History, Review, Overview, Timeline…

Your company’s Founder may have been a nice, no-nonsense business person born in the late 1800’s. And I’m sure times were tough when your company’s first product was launched in 1901. But nobody is attending your presentation to see black and white pictures of your company history, a timeline of the last 100 years, pretty pictures of your corporate campus, or anything that has anything to do with sleep-inducing topics entitled background, review, history, and the rest… If you want to get an audience to tune out and drop out from the jump, include the words Summary and Review with those already listed and you’ll be on your way to nap time.

Here’s one tip for today: Record your next presentation, speech, or webinar, and hear what your audiences hear. Listen to yourself.

I once worked with a VP who was a bright, articulate, and experienced executive. But his continual usage of the phrase “you know” during his presentations severely undercut his credibility. I also worked with another senior executive who liberally used a variety of filler words during an interview. It didn’t help that the interviewer didn’t prepare his communication skills, either. If only these former colleagues could hear what the rest of the world could hear, maybe they would’ve prepared for their vocal skills for their future business presentations. Why they didn’t take their vocal skills seriously remains puzzling.

So record yourself, listen, and analyze. You’ll start to notice where you can improve your vocal skills, credibility, and overall communication abilities. Most people don’t do this. It’s either out of fear, arrogance, or pure laziness that they don’t. Enjoy knowing that when you record and improve your vocabulary and vocal skills, you’re strengthening a significant business advantage for yourself.

Here’s a bonus tip about what not to do, and what not to say. If you’re giving a presentation or speech in a setting where you’re wearing a wireless microphone, remember when you have that microphone on your person. In the aftermath of a presentation, a couple of speakers have forgotten that they’re still wearing a microphone. Some have been known to trash talk other presenters while still wearing a microphone. One story even recalls how a presenter took a live wireless microphone into the men’s bathroom after a presentation. I don’t know if any of that was recorded, but it might’ve been.

Always know where the microphones are, promptly remove any microphone from your person after a presentation, and always treat any microphone as if it’s turned on.

In public speaking, presentations, and event management, there’s no substitute for experience.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com

United Has Plenty of Company in Playing it Cheap

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

The damage is done.

United’s brand and reputation have been irreparably harmed for a generation, at minimum.

Once upon a time I was a #United frequent flyer. I think I have over 400k lifetime miles on the airline. I’m not 100% certain of that number because I haven’t flown United since last summer, and I just don’t feel like checking my UA frequent flyer account. And for this #Chicago born and raised traveler, I can’t say I was totally surprised to learn about what had happened with one of their passengers. Shocked, angry, disgusted… yep. Surprised? Not really.

The world now knows what far too many ORD flyers have known about United for years: the airline is – to say the least – operationally challenged. The way it has served its customers has been deteriorating for years and I’d given up on United, flying them only when absolutely necessary.

Then this incident in Chicago happened.

No doubt you’ve heard about the firestorm that has engulfed United Airlines this past week. But this post isn’t a rehash of the events that transpired this past Sunday. It’s an article that examines one specific element within the sequence of events that got the airline to where it finds itself today. One particular business aspect of the rotten customer experience that United executives and investors surely wish they could get back. It’s one that was controllable, would have made economic sense, and one that United CEO Oscar Munoz would go back in time to retrieve if given the opportunity. But that ship sailed on Sunday, and now it’s too late.

I’m talking about the $800 (USD) ceiling that was the cutoff between the final offer from the airline to entice volunteers to stay the night in Chicago and the start of the passenger selection and eviction process which led to the physical incident with Dr. David Dao. The compensatory offers from the airline to the passengers on that Chicago to Louisville flight should’ve increased. Eventually some passengers would’ve taken a higher amount to give up their seats. Even if they had to get to their final destination, a few may have (or should have) put on their thinking caps and ran the numbers: $800 (or more) minus a one-day car rental to Louisville – minus gas – equals profit for themselves. Even if that profit came in the form of a voucher for future United travel. The drive from Chicago-O’Hare to Louisville is only five hours, and I’ve driven it many, many times. It’s a piece of cake. But I digress…

The point is that United played it cheap with its passenger offers, and it’ll cost the airline exponentially more than the small amount of extra funds it would’ve taken to get one of its Louisville-bound customers to accept an offer for their seat. Sad part about it is United isn’t alone in playing it cheap. Far from it. They have plenty of company across all industries in the form of other organizations which think it’s either perfectly acceptable to gamble with certain business situations, not invest in critical areas of their business, remain ignorant or stubborn in their corporate arrogance, and conduct business as usual with their heads in the clouds.

Until it’s too late.

From a #sales, #marketing, #technology, and #socialmedia perspective, here’s how:

1. Professional Development

Employees are continuously asked to write, present, and communicate. Market, sell, and service customers. To organize and run meetings, lead teams, resolve problems, and perform at a high level. But when it comes to provide professional business coaching for any of the above, most companies fall short or offer their employees nothing at all. Yet employees are thrown into situations when they’re either not equipped for success or nothing has been done to maintain and upgrade their skills. And for those who claim that employees should have certain professional skills when they’re hired and that they don’t need to provide additional support… I’m certain Michael Jordan knew how to play basketball before joining the Chicago Bulls. Tiger Woods knew how to play golf before and after he won his first Masters tournament. Yet they always had coaches to improve their games. They were at the top of their games and still needed coaching and practice. All companies should do the same for their employees. (And no, those once-a-year two day cookie cutter training sessions don’t suffice.)

When is it too late? Every time a speaker is ill-prepared for a presentation, a rep isn’t prepped for a customer interaction, a webinar unfolds with a lackluster approach, a time-wasting team meeting is held, a company’s brand and reputation are damaged.

2. Trade Show Sponsorships and Exhibits

A juicy Silver-level sponsorship at the next industry event is secured. Not platinum, nor Gold, but it includes a 10’ x 10’ booth location in a decent, but not great, area within the exhibit hall. But beyond the initial sponsorship investment, not much is done by the sponsoring company to succeed at the event. A homemade booth, constructed by a combination of sales, marketing, and office staff who should be doing something far more productive occupies the exhibit space. Poor exhibit messaging, no staff preparation, and five-figures of investment flushed down the toilet. And the sponsoring company wonders why the attendee world didn’t come running to their exhibit? Corporate damage at an event, complete.

When is it too late? Most likely weeks or months before an events starts, but certainly one minute after the exhibit hall doors open.

3. Live from… Trade Shows, Conferences, and Events

The ongoing frustration with inept speakers giving bad, text-and-tech heavy presentations has been a cross-industry plague for decades. Today, lousy presenters aren’t confined to the ballroom. Everybody walks the convention hall and its exhibit hall floor with a video camera and mobile TV studio in their pockets. Show attendees will put your naive employees on live television on a moment’s notice – with disastrous results. I’ve seen it happen and that content lasts forever. If each and every one of your event-bound staff are not fully prepared for how they will be seen and heard on-camera, a company is gambling with its brand and reputation.

When is it too late? As soon as somebody hits that camera button on their smartphone or tablet and streams live, from your booth, demo, or event session.

4. Voice, Video, and Media

Some companies place little value in the voice of their corporate content. I’m talking about the actual voice that is used to voiceover company productions that can range from ebooks, to demos, to radio and TV commercials, to event videos. More, some companies place little value in the video and voice of their corporate content. About that, I’m talking about the notion that turning on a smartphone camera is all it takes to produce compelling, thought-provoking, lead generating content that will attract and hold an audience. And what about simply transferring bad presentations into streaming media, thinking that will do the trick?

When is it too late? The moment somebody sees and hears your employees or multimedia content and realizes your prep and production values are garbage. Then hits the off button and tells two friends, who tell two friends…

5. Technology, Across-the-Board

Still running your Commodore 64 corporate laptops on IE7? Using software that’s outdated, not integrated, not maintained, nor supported? Still too cheap to consider the tech tools that can actually make your team more efficient and much more effective in their pursuit of identifying new customers, enabling sales, servicing customers, and winning new business?

The year is 2017, not 2009. The recession is long over and it’s the employees holding the job market cards, not the companies. The time for employees to accept less-than-minimal tech support from companies because of tough economic times and fear of job acquisition or loss is over.

When is it too late? The moment a company starts losing the competitive recruiting and turnover battle for talent.

It’s possible to extensively extend this list and go even further. Chances are that you’re aware of many situations where a company is being cheap at its own risk. Some executives turn away from the business suggestions and pleas from its employees, customers, and partners in order to short-sightedly save a buck or two. Some succeed at getting away with it. Others get away with it until something goes wrong, but then it’s too late and very costly.

Unfortunately, there are those who will only take action when something goes terribly wrong.

United investors and executives had every opportunity to listen and handle their business differently, but they chose another path – no matter what the slick on-board pre-departure videos produced over the years said. Their public relations failed. Their corporate #communications failed. Their #customer relations failed. And yes, they were cheap and arrogant about the whole damn thing.

Play it cheap, and gamble with your own business at your own risk.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com

10 Reasons Not to Worry About Being a Good Public Speaker

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

Next time you’ve logged onto LinkedIn (or any social business site) – scroll down. Scroll, scroll, scroll until you reach the first picture you see from a recent industry event. Don’t worry, it’s in there. A picture that shows the audience at the latest “can’t miss, we’re so happy to be here!” event in front of a formulaic stage set-up that’s been employed in hotel and #convention ballrooms worldwide since the 1970s.

It’s the picture you’ll see where the audience is:

Pre-occupied.

On their laptops.

Holding tablets.

And their phones.

Doing something else – other than paying attention to their surroundings, and the presenter(s).

You read about it and hear about it everyday. People are most afraid of public speaking. But fear no more, the business world has now evolved to such a state that the fear of public speaking has become outdated. Irrelevant. Why? Here are 10 reasons:

1. Few Are Paying Attention

Just look at that posted, boastful picture of the last great industry event. I’ve seen that picture and I’ve attended that event. There used to be a time when event presenters actually had to connect with audiences and deliver value for the time and monetary investment. Not anymore. With the onset of multiple mobile devices, most in the audience find it perfectly acceptable to show up, but tune into something else during presentations. Yes, it’s rude, inconsiderate, and a complete waste of time. But who cares? It happens everyday, at every event, and nothing is done about it. Don’t worry about your next presentation, most aren’t watching or listening. And when it’s done, rest assured you’ll receive a pleasant, gratifying round of applause.

2. You’re Given Little to No Help

Your company would never spend a dime on helping you improve your presentation skills, so you have the perfect excuse for another poor, nerve-wracking performance. Despite your best efforts and pleas for help, your corporate leaders don’t feel as if your professional development is worth the time or the money. They’ll sweat you about that $50 you spent because you took a more convenient nonstop flight to get home to your family, and they’ll throw away thousands on marketing programs that don’t payoff, but any request for presentation help is ignored. Again, don’t be afraid. They certainly can’t blame you for another poor performance if they won’t help.

3. Mediocrity Rules

It’s not just mediocrity, it’s simply getting through a presentation and hoping nobody says anything or does anything about it. Example: the build-up to your next webinar is tremendous. Hundreds register – and actually turn up. Your webinar technology rocks. Your mind-numbing slides are in place. And while you go on and on and on for 58 minutes of your allotted hour, the audience multi-tasks. (Kinda like point #1.) When you finish, that’s it. The reviews are in. The performance was ok. The report is filed away, any sponsorship checks have been cashed, and it’s on to the next thing. Audiences have been so used to accepting watered down performances that it’s become routine. Don’t worry if your next presentation is nothing special. You’ll fit right in.

4. Everybody Rocks!

Not only do some of your colleagues and company big shots think they’re great presenters, but they’ll be the first to tell you that whatever they do easily transfers to other forms of media: video, ebooks, podcasting, interviews, etc. This means anything goes – consistent, developed talent or not. So even if you can’t stand in front of an audience, it doesn’t matter. Neither can they. Oh sure, they may be magnanimous and say they can use some help here and there, but they’ll never give it any more than a passing thought. And if they don’t need public speaking coaching and practice, neither do you. Just follow their example of self-absorbed communication performance and you’ll be on your way.

5. Panel Discussion? Just show up for those…

I never heard anybody say, “Gee, I wish this convention had more panel discussions. I just love sitting in cavernous ballrooms watching six people on stage drone on about software…” Rest easy, if you’re on a panel discussion all you have to do is show up. You should only get one or two questions. You’ll have a few minutes to provide some nonsensical answer about a mundane topic. Kinda like those political tv talk shows with eight guests – and a host. Each person only gets a few minutes to say what they have to say. Relax, you’ll be in and out of that panel discussion before you know it.

6. Who Cares? It’s a One-Time Assignment

You’re a digital marketer. A damn good one. Your company doesn’t care whether or not you can stand up and tell a story. Or influence an audience. Or motivate your customers. Your job is heads down on your laptop all day. But some genius thought it’d be a good idea for everybody to present at the next departmental meeting, so you have to do it. But it’ll all be over in an instant. You don’t have to make a good impression on sales, or the C-suite, or partners, or your marketing colleagues. Get through it and go back to your desk. It’s not worth worrying about. Or caring about. Or applying any energy, thought, or passion. Dumb assignment, anyway.

7. Your Slides (or Demo, or Video) Will Do the Talking

Yes, yes, yes — your presentation is coming up but you’re clever enough to not have to practice, prepare, or even give a damn. That’s because you have an ace up your sleeve. The “this presentation has already been given, and I have the slides” trick. Good for you. That’s a great way to beat the system. And you’re correct in assuming that nobody will notice that you’re reading somebody else’s presentation. Ot that’s it’s outdated. But it’s a tremendous way to not worry about being a good presenter – and it’s an even better way to cheat the audience.

8. You’re Only Presenting for 5, 10, or 15 Minutes

You have that all-important 30 minute presentation that your company sponsored, but you’re only speaking for 15 minutes. That analyst (customer, vendor, academic, etc. ) is speaking for the other half. All you have to do is cobble together five or six slides and talk about a company history, roadmap, or filler content, then turn it over to the next speaker. A few planted questions and answers at the end of it all and you’re home free. Nothing to fear, except that somebody paid $15,000 to sponsor that presentation. Whatever.

9. Forget About the Audience

Who cares about them? Why bother? They’re not spending their money going to Las Vegas to attend that show, it’s their company’s money. So why bother putting in the extra effort in your presentation? Boring panel discussions are perfectly acceptable to most. So are text-filled slides presented by sleep-inducing speakers. Chances are you won’t draw much of a crowd anyway, so it’s not worth putting in the extra effort. Just sit there, shut up, and speak when spoken to. Don’t rock the boat and be a hero by putting on a performance that stands out in the crowd of sessions. In fact, you’ve spoken a dozen times to other groups about the same subject. You’ve put in your time, the audience doesn’t care, so don’t worry about having to give that 13th performance. You’ve done it plenty, and I’m sure your sick of it by now.

10. You’re Just Not a Public Speaker

Nobody is going to blame you for not being able to deliver a good presentation. It’s not who you are and you never have to worry about how you look and sound in front of an audience. You’ll never be called into action, so it should be the furthest thing from your mind. Look at where you work! Nobody at your company takes presentation skills seriously, especially at the executive level. If they don’t care about things like that, somebody like you shouldn’t care – let alone worry. You’re simply not a public speaker, and you never will be.

#sarcasm

Absurd? You bet. But the vast majority deliver presentation performances and event experiences that demonstrate otherwise. And I refuse to accept mediocrity, not to mention subpar personal communication performances.

What’s really riding on your next public speaking performance?

  • Your business communication ability to connect with distracted audiences.
  • Your ability to perform, with little to no corporate help.
  • Your company’s investment in the event sponsorship, but not your professional development.
  • Sales.
  • Jobs.
  • Your professional reputation.

If you don’t think your business #communication, #presentation ability, or impromptu public speaking skill set will ever come into play, read this. But for those who recognize and put into practice skills and techniques to handle any pubic speaking and presentation opportunity, you’ll have an arrow in your quiver that’ll rock your competition. They’ll not only fear competing with you, and they’ll still fear having to give that competing presentation.

And that’s your winning combination.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com

Five Product Marketing Train Wrecks You’ll Want to Avoid

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

I can’t quite completely close my eyes and write this article. I have to see my laptop and its keyboard to get the job done. I don’t employ any sort of speech-to-text technology, so it’s the traditional method of typing another post for me.

But I can close my eyes and envision the repetitive, copycat product marketing job descriptions plastered across Internet job sites and career centers – before writing my own generic summary of them. On average, those descriptions read something like… Product Marketing Help Wanted: candidates who have experience understanding market dynamics, setting #strategy, enabling #sales, forecasting accurately, being subject matter experts, displaying fluency in the competitive landscape, cobbling together a SWOT analysis, talking to analysts, supporting product launches, interacting with partners, supporting campaigns and lead generation efforts, writing and creating #content, recognizing opportunity, representing the company at major events, trade shows and conferences, running and delivering departmental reports…

Since my work has largely been in the B2B enterprise software and professional services space, I think I’m fairly close in my assessment of those one-size-fits-all product marketing job descriptions. Sure, you may add your own flavor to your own description, and add a bit about deep, deep, deep precise technical knowledge, the need to be a social media or SEO/SEM keyword rockstar, or know something about SaaS and other software delivery models, but my breakdown lands close to center.

But it’s what’s not included in those product marketing job descriptions that can – and has – led to disaster. Here are just five examples:

1. Nothing to Show for Product Marketing Efforts

For all of that fancy talk of marketing strategy this, and content creation that, if at the end of the next fiscal quarter product marketing can’t produce and deliver some form of measured economic value report, trouble is brewing. And I’m not talking about running some last-minute lead generation report off of a CRM or Marketing Automation system. Product Marketing must know why deals in each and every quarter were won or lost, the revenue gained or lost, why business events transpired the way they did, and what worked and didn’t work, in which regions, the content used, the communication skills deployed, the marketing channels engaged, and the corrective actions that will be taken.

2. It’s 1st and Goal from the 1, but Your Team Can’t Take the Field

Some product marketers can (seemingly) be very good at what they do. Astute market strategy, fantastic compilers of content, technically fluent, and all around good people. The problem lies in product marketing’s lack of ability to help get the team across the goal line. I’ve seen it before: good people, with good products and services. But they’re wholly ineffective at taking what they have to market, which leads to boatload of go-nowhere marketing clutter and terrible sales enablement. Their team can’t take the field, let along cross the goal line. This is far more common than you may realize.

3. Zero Personal or Team Presentation Skills

I’ve watched company presentations allegedly orchestrated by product marketing that have included everybody from product management, to executives, to sales engineers, to consultants, and beyond. (Sometimes I wonder what happened to the overnight security guard.) Product launches, corporate updates, etc… Far too many product marketers are consumed with helping create slide decks with over 100 slides that encompass everybody under the sun. Yes, over 100 slides. Then the attempt to cram that slide deck into a 55-minute presentation is even more amusing, especially when a group of colleagues each takes a piece of the presentation. What’s memorable about it (besides the mess left behind for the audience to decipher) — is nothing. Any product marketer with any sense of business presentation skill should know better than to go down the path of these types of presentations.

4. Inability to Inform, Train or Coach Colleagues

Let’s keep building on the sales partnership front. As a product marketer, I’ve had the task of working with global colleagues to introduce them to the latest on products, services, competitors, customers, etc. But I had to do in both in-person and virtual formats. Even on-camera. That means having the skill to seamlessly move from communication format to communication format to discuss all that was fit to share. It’s one thing to create strategy, plans, content, and recommendations and upload it to an internal portal or sales enablement tool and dump it on the team. It’s another ballgame to stand in front of your audience, introduce it, and work with them on its effective use. BTW – product marketing must do this constantly, and quickly. No more waiting around for the January sales kickoff or that mid-year company boondoggle where marketing gets 30 minutes on the corporate agenda.

5. Being Captain Obvious: One Step Away from Product Marketing Automation 

So product marketing must compile what those at Gartner, Forrester, and the rest have to say about the market? Take information and run reports off of the CRM system? The same for the marketing automation tool? To quote and use the Office Space line, “What would you say Product Marketing does here…” I can envision much of what product marketing does as becoming robotic — data to be inputted into standardized quarterly and annual reports that any stakeholder can see. The solution – product marketing should take everything into consideration and develop thoughts, opinions, and original strategies of its own. Things nobody will hear anyplace else. Product Marketing commoditization should be a thing of the past. Tell me (and every single audience) something I don’t already know and can’t get anywhere else.

For the CXOs Only: The Product Marketing Challenge

Here’s one rapid, sure-fire way to evaluate the communication skills of your product marketing team. Invite your product marketers to participate in a departmental challenge, one person at a time. You can either have them prepare for this, or it can be a complete surprise. Pick a topic central to their work, one that your product marketers should know inside and out and have them present it back to you – or any audience. The twist? Shortly before they begin their presentation, pull the plug. Meaning = they can’t use anything electronic to tell their story. No slides, no demos, no computer, laptop, videos, tablet, or smartphone. Flipchart, whiteboard, sure. If you wish, this can be done virtually with a laptop and an electronic napkin – but no webinar-type slides. See how everybody does. Product marketers should be able to fluently talk to their audiences about everything pertinent to the business, without the aid of electronic presentation crutches. If they can’t pass the simple product marketing test of personal business communication, the rest is inconsequential. Get back to basics and get to work.

At least that #productmarketing test is one train wreck you’ll see coming.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com

Putting Your Sales Team, and Your Enablement Program, into the Presentation Gauntlet

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

Here’s something you don’t see everyday: a post that combines Marcus Lemonis and Bruce Lee.

Last week, I wrote about how Mr. Lemonis debuted his CNBC TV show The Partner, and quickly put 10 experienced job candidates through an initial test: an impromptu, solo #presentation task two-and-a-half minutes in length in front of an unexpected conference room filled with several dozen well-dressed extras to go with bright lights, at least one television camera, and one senior-level decision maker. 10 candidates entered the room. All good people with solid, professional credentials. A few did alright, but most did not fare well. As executives, all should have been able to handle the task, but it was clear that there was presentation work to be done across the board.

In the third act of Bruce Lee’s unfinished 1972 film The Game of Death, Bruce’s character enters a pagoda with two associates in an attempt to fight their way up the building to the top floor. Standing in the group’s way is a martial arts expert on each floor. For Bruce and his friends, the object is simple: fight and defeat the bad guy on one floor, and move on to the next until they reached the top – where an indoor sunglasses-wearing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar waits in a dimly lit attic. Defeat Kareem, and it’s mission accomplished.

Unfortunately, Bruce died in 1973 before he could finish his movie, but material found over 10 years ago reveals about 40 minutes of footage unseen for 30 years. It shows how Bruce is the only one out of his trio capable of defeating the bad guys. His associates try to fight, but they’re no match for the pagoda inhabitants. In fact, at times they’re used as comic relief. On the #sales and #marketing front, this footage reminded me of how a senior-level account executive will take junior sales and marketing reps on visits to customer sites. The junior reps would stand no chance at closing a deal with major league decision makers – some arrogant enough to claim they eat salespeople for breakfast. But a more seasoned rep will walk out of these meetings with a signed contract.

Now combine observations and lessons learned from Bruce Lee’s film and Marcus Lemonis’ TV show.

I appreciated Mr. Lemonis putting the candidates through the presentation challenge, but the reality is that challenge was basic. Barely table stakes for any business leader. If executive-level candidates have trouble handling a short, surprise, professional presentation situation, they’ll have little chance of walking into and orchestrating any presentation scenario – planned or unplanned. No matter how good their sales enablement content is.

Now back to Bruce.

His Game of Death character was able to fight and defeat all pagoda opponents, no matter the fighting style or weapons they used. He was experienced, and prepared. His associates were not. No matter the style of opponent, Bruce’s friends couldn’t win. It was up to Bruce to save the day.

Now to your sales team, your sales enablement program, and the presentation gauntlet.

I view the premier episode of The Partner as an example of the senior-level presentation deficiencies which run rampant throughout the corporate world. I also draw upon my experience watching presentations of all shapes and sizes over the past 30 years. Early on in my professional life I used to be surprised at what I saw on the trade show, conference, webinar, and corporate event circuit. Not anymore. What I saw on The Partner confirmed my observations, and the same observations certainly shared by many of you reading this article. People need help in this area of professional development, and many companies either overlook it, don’t care, don’t want to spend the money or shortchange it, feel as if it’s not important, or leave it up to individual employees to fend for themselves. The real-world results speak for themselves.

Which brings me to the other side of the coin: salespeople (and marketers, and customer service reps, and executives, and IT pros, and numerous other departmental staff) who crave the help, practice, coaching, and continual improvement they need and want in their presentation game. Like the candidates on TV, and similar to those who benefit from content-rich support: your colleagues – at this very moment – are seeking options to improve their skills to better communicate and interact with audiences across multiple channels because the market demands it. The business world demands it from them, they need the skills to do their job, yet help is hard to find – if it’s available at all.

Your sales team equals the candidates on a TV show, working through a surprise presentation challenge in order to compete, and win.

Your sales team also equals Bruce Lee and his associates on a raid of a sales pagoda having to conquer different presentation formats and styles on each floor.

You, as an enabler, have to equip your people with #content and personal performance skills to succeed, and pass, every test. To advance, and win business.

My presentation gauntlet for your sales team is simple: a series of presentation challenges throughout the business day, using various styles and formats, incorporating sales enablement content made available to them. If I looked at a typical Outlook calendar day for a typical salesperson, I’d expect to see conference calls, in-person sales presentations, a webinar or virtual session, various internal and external #meetings, product #demos, partner activities, and on-camera, #video meetings. Maybe some booth duty at a trade show or even an interview with an industry reporter. Not only is it reasonable to expect that these type activities would fill the average day of the typical salesperson, it’s mandatory to see this on a regular basis.

Specifically, make an internal event out of the presentation gauntlet for a day or two. Imagine, one conference room in your office is set for your salespeople to conduct individual, executive-level sales pitches, the next, a webinar. On another floor, a larger room doubles as your trade show booth, while still another houses a laptop camera to mimic a video conference call. Employees play the part of the audience, and judges. Put your colleagues through the gauntlet of different presentation styles and formats. Score the performances. Mix it up and make it a competition. Have fun.

Prepare everybody, throw curve balls and surprises throughout the exercise, customize the activity, and practice the #communication techniques and personal skills needed to succeed in any format, in front of any #audience, with or without content, computer, and modern-day presentation crutches.

To be certain, while some high-performing closers will do well in an area or two, ways to improvement performances for all will undoubtedly present themselves. For others outside of #business development and not used to #publicspeaking, my prediction is that the gauntlet results will be even more revealing.

The other day, my friend and communication expert Bob Parkinson said something apropos on the subject of business presentations, a presenter’s physical and vocal skills, and communication effectiveness: “If it was all about content, we’d all be Shakespearean actors.”

The point is clear. Shakespeare’s content has been available to all for hundreds of years. Yet only coached and experienced actors can deliver a performance worthy of the material. Because it’s the skill of presenter, working with the content, that makes for an effective performance. Getting to that high-level of performance doesn’t just happen overnight, and the process of practicing, staying sharp, and improving performance never stops. Now more than ever, this applies to professional performance in the business world.

Just ask Marcus Lemonis about the ability to present yourself, your story, your brand, and your message. Then imagine what Bruce Lee would say about what it takes to prepare for competition, and to succeed and win.

Or maybe you could ask Michael Jordan, who was the first one to practice in the morning and the last one to leave at night – even while he was at the top of his game.

So now if you’re really enabling your sales team for success, and preparing them for any given situation, in front of any type of an audience, sign yourself and your team up for your internal presentation gauntlet. Observe the performances, measure the results, and improve. Because most aren’t doing this, and you’ll have a communication advantage over so many who are lacking.

Your team will love it.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com

Forget Enabling Sales. Or Anything Else. Enable Your Presentation Skills First.

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

It’s about time somebody credibly demonstrated the importance of personal #presentation skills and put it on full display for the global business world to see. During this week’s premier of his new television show The Partner on #CNBC, entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis did just that.

For the past several years, Mr. Lemonis has been the host and business expert on another CNBC show named The Profit. On that show, Marcus documents his attempts to help failing businesses across the USA. Most of the companies featured on The Profit are on the smaller-to-medium size: local and regional organizations across industries that have gone astray with failing business models. More often than not, Marcus ends up investing in the failing businesses featured on his show, and assumes full control of all turnaround efforts. On occasion, Marcus walks away from difficult or reluctant owners, and businesses with seemingly little chance of survival. But to date, he has invested tens of millions of dollars in dozens of businesses across the country. As a result of his investments and increased demands on his time, Marcus Lemonis is in need of executive help. Thus, the search for, and a new TV show named, The Partner.

This week’s premier featured 10 candidates brought to downtown Chicago to start the process of competing for the opportunity to become Mr. Lemonis’ new business partner. 10 outstanding candidates with impressive, executive-level job titles from all walks of life. (On a personal note, the first episode show was set at The Drake hotel, blocks from where I studied for my undergraduate and graduate degrees, and minutes from where I’ve lived for most of the past 25 years. Very familiar home territory.)

Each Partner candidate had been successful in the professional world, brought stellar credentials to the show, survived the audition process, and had a great story to tell. Problem was, most couldn’t effectively stand and deliver their story or their messages when it mattered the most: under pressure, on the first show, in the first round, in a surprise business #communication situation many were clearly not equipped to handle.

The setup was this: each candidate was told that they were to be given two-and-a-half minutes to present their case as to why they were the best person for the job. Next, Mr. Lemonis told the candidates he was going to set up for the presentations in a nearby conference room. One-by-one, the candidates made their way to the meeting room expecting a traditional job interview setting. It was anything but.

Unknown to the candidates, a surprise awaited them. Marcus had intentionally filled the meeting room with a large group of business people. There were well-dressed professionals sitting around the conference room table and standing shoulder-to-shoulder across the width of the room behind the table. I estimate the meeting room size was 15’ x 25’ – maybe 375-400 square feet. The number of people in the room was 30-40. Several brights lights from the back of the room illuminated the candidates as they each stood alone in front of the room, and at least one TV camera in the back was visible. The object was to (professionally) intimidate each candidate.

I watched as the candidates opened the conference room door. The solo reactions were priceless. From the footage shown, two or three of the candidates did an okay-to-decent job of handling the impromptu task. Most did not.

It bears repeating. All 10 candidates were stellar, executive-level candidates and have something to offer any business or professional organization. All very good people. But when it came to the first business communication challenge on the show, in this competition, most of candidates fell short of expectations. In fact, some of results were disastrous.

Here’s what I saw: one candidate walked in the room, then out, and quickly back in. Another appeared shocked. Few smiled, or even gave the impression that they were enjoying the moment. In the individual attempts to tell the group why they were the best candidate, many didn’t organize their thoughts and stumbled over their words. One looked away and employed a low vocal volume. Still another complained about the bright lights, and when asked what she would do if she was at an event representing the company in a similar meeting situation, her response was “I don’t know.” (She didn’t advance to the next round.)

It also bears mentioning that the candidates didn’t have the use of PowerPoint slides for these presentations. No slides. No props. No smartphones, computers, or laptops. Just the candidates themselves, standing at the front of the room facing the crowd, the lights, the camera, and the hiring manager – the decision maker – Marcus Lemonis.

I’m certain each had great personal and professional content, but only a fraction of the group had any skill or proven process to communicate it.

And for those who haven’t taken the time to properly enable themselves to use their own content to be effective in such a challenging situation, how could they (or anybody else for that matter) who takes a similar lackluster approach to presentation skills and personal business presence be expected to properly enable sales? Or marketing? Or customer service? Or any area of any business?

I smirk at the current deluge of ‘content, content, content’ without those who order or produce such content understanding how it’s effectively used by those in sales, marketing, service, and front-line executives when they face prospects, clients, partners, and investors in highly-competitive situations. After all, it’s not just the content, nor its delivery model that will win the day. It’s a professional’s ability to stand, deliver, and be heard first – then the quality of the content, second.

One issue is that of straightforward sales enablement. So many alleged sales enablers claim they provide meaningful content to salespeople, via innovative technology, in order to produce increased corporate revenues. But if these ‘enablers’ can’t handle a situation where they have to stand and deliver their own impromptu story to a business group, how can they call themselves sales enablers? Maybe they should enable themselves first with the personal communication skills they need to present their ideas to any audience put in front of them. Then they’ll have a genuine understanding of enabling others to be successful in front any audience, in any given situation, planned or unplanned. It’s only at that time that content – or more content – can be introduced.

Another presentation and enablement issue goes up to the executive ranks. In nearly 30 years of watching executive presentations given by CEOs, VPs, Directors, etc. I can safely say far too many of the presentations are sub-par. Below expectations. Hard to watch. Not engaging. Inexcusable. Good people, great content. Rotten presentation skills. To make matters worse, audiences are now treated to video and audio versions of sleep-inducing presentations, ebooks, and all sorts of amateurish multimedia content that clog social media feeds.

If executives won’t enable themselves to possess outstanding presentation skills, how can they assess any form of personal communication, sales effort, or team enablement via content production alone? If they can’t stand, deliver, and present themselves without the crutches of modern-day slide decks and electronics, how will they really know what works and what doesn’t in front of an audience? And what presentation support or professional development in this situation should their employees expect? (None.)

Just because somebody has a spiffy sounding executive title doesn’t mean they can effectively present. And if that’s the case, don’t talk to me about enabling anybody else. Enable yourself, first.

The ability to pass the tough presentation test put forth on The Partner requires more than a one-off, two-day generic presentation skills course taught once a year at corporate headquarters for the fortunate dozen who are able to attend. It takes continual communication practice to individually prepare for the presentation challenges of executive meetings, sales pursuits, webinars, on-camera appearances, media interviews, conference sessions, industry speeches, trade show duties, product briefings, and traditional conference calls. Lest we forget that everybody has a camera in their pocket and can live stream from any one of your corporate activities on a moment’s notice, whether or not you’re prepared, ready, willing, and able.

I know first hand that many companies won’t take the time or spend the money to effectively develop this area of employee communication performance. First, you have to know what you’re doing in this area, and today’s marketers (digital and otherwise) simply don’t know what to do. Nor do human resources departments lost in the 1980s. Some think the responsibility of presentation coaching falls to product marketing. That’s even worse. Before you know it, employees look outside the organization for presentation help, on their own time and on their own dime, because their employer has nothing to offer in this respect.

Yet we now see just how important this facet of the individual professional game is.

More, for all you Digital Marketers out there… or those that emphasize digital this, and digital that, as the opening for what’s important to lead generation, sales, and marketing, and your business in general, please take note. The candidates were not asked to keyword their way into the interview. Nor were they asked to demonstrate how well they use their Facebook skills. Not yet, anyway. They weren’t asked to Snapchat, Tweet, or show they’re chops on LinkedIn. The opening challenge wasn’t an exercise in SEO and SEM or compiling a text-heavy incomprehensible slide deck. It’s was a test to immediately put their personal communication and business presentation skills on the line, and do so in the a surprise, intimidating environment. Damn right. Pull your collective noses out of your mobile screens and pay attention to the business world around you and what it takes to personally communicate with your target audience – and your sales team.

Finally, some may ask what I would’ve done in a similar situation.

If given 2:30 to present, I would have prepared two short, scripted statements: one opening and one closing. Those statements would work, no matter the size of the audience. I would have physically prepared by breathing, relaxing, and preparing my voice. Again, these tactics work no matter the size of the audience. I’d have water available. Upon entering the room, I would have smiled. I’d smile, and stay in control and in charge of the situation. If possible, I’d introduce myself to as many in the room as possible before starting. I’d organize my thoughts, and do an amped-up voice check so that the very last person in the back of room can hear me – loudly and clearly. I’d gain my balance, establish my stance, pick the first person to look in the eyes and deliver my opening statement.

And I would only start speaking when I’m ready to start. Not one moment sooner.

I’d finish with a call to action, and with a statement with what I want the audience to do.

If you want more ideas about preparing for a planned presentation, webinar, or on-camera appearance, you’ll find them here.

But what I want you to do now is watch the premiere episode of The Partner on CNBC’s website, and share your thoughts on Marcus Lemonis’ presentation challenge.

Then consider what you’ll do to prepare yourself to meet the communication challenges of similar presentation situations. Only then should we talk about comprehensive team sales enablement – and the proper incorporation and usage of content.

Again, that’s only after are personal presentation skills are up to a sufficient level of performance and you’ve demonstrated the ability to pass any presentation test.

I’m looking forward to the next episodes of The Partner, and I hope Mr. Lemonis stays the course with emphasizing outstanding presentation skills from all of his #executive candidates, and the business leaders working within his portfolio of companies.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com