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.

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.

United Has Plenty of Company in Playing it Cheap

Tony Compton, Managing Director

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.

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Five Product Marketing Train Wrecks You’ll Want to Avoid

Tony Compton, Managing Director

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.

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

Tony Compton, Managing Director

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.

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Proudly Wired-In, But Severely Disconnected B2B Marketers

Tony Compton, Managing Partner

For those B2B salespeople whose Q1 ended on March 31st, what was marketing’s measurable contribution to your revenue report card? Did marketing partner with you to hit your numbers? Did your marketers possess the ability to truly partner with you in all facets of the sales game, and did they really know your business?

B2B marketing’s zombie walk into the cozy online world of keywords, social media, product-centric websites, and mind-numbing data dumps is well underway. Ironically, for those marketers who claim that they’re always wired-in, this condition has been creating more and more disconnected marketers. Too many marketers are spending too much time in the online world, and their work is becoming increasingly seen as foreign and irrelevant by the business developers they’re supposed to support.

Shake Up Marketing. Start by Taking Away The Security Blanket!

The days of allowing B2B marketing to be disconnected from sales has been over for years, and no company should suffer from this problem. As a salesperson committed to hitting your numbers, the next time you get a fresh 90 days, do yourself a favor and pull marketing’s collective nose out from behind the security blanket of monitors, keyboards, tablets and smartphones. Online, email and social media efforts help, but it’s not enough. You need a robust marketing team which acts as a true partner to sales, comprehensively fluent in all areas of the business. Don’t just accept a marketing team that’s complacent and limited by electronic channels. You deserve a marketing unit that’s not caught up in an online comfort zone.

The Widening Gap

While business developers are fighting battles, too many marketers sit back in cubes with hot cups of coffee, tinkering away with an indecipherable avalanche of data, focused on material that does little to contribute to sales enablement, the pipeline, and the bottomline. Some marketers feel a sense of self-worth and tangible satisfaction as they post, tweet, and retweet, email, update websites, and run weekly reports which may never see the light of day. All the while oblivious to the critical sales and customer worlds around them. Problem is, this conveys a terrible message: marketing’s wired-in, but disconnected.

Face Off with Marketing, and Start on Offense

Challenge any marketer who is continually buried in a laptop, and they’re likely to sulk or squeal. “Online, Email, and Social Media Marketing are really important!“ is the natural response of the insulated marketer. Yes, we’re all aware of how important everybody says that stuff is. But this quarter, I’m asking you to create an internal exercise to shake things up. Insist that marketers temporarily put down their electronic toys. Ask them to show you what they can do in front of a live internal audience, without electronic assistance. Get marketing out of its online comfort zone, and into the world of real human interaction.

For this exercise, ask your marketers to answer straight-forward questions about your business, and do it in front of a group of stakeholders. It’s a solo performance for the marketer, but one that will help you get a handle on how well your marketing team understands messaging and positioning, customer pain points, value props, the problems you solve, and the measured results your company delivers.

Here’s a sample list of what you can ask your professional marketers:

• What does your company do?
• Who are your target customers? In which industries?
• What value do you provide your customers?
• Why did your company win (or lose) its last competitive bid?
• How would you describe your competitive landscape?
• What separates your company from your competitors?
• Describe a customer case study, and explain its usefulness to sales.
• Demo a product.

Ask your marketers to respond to the above without the use of a computer, a smartphone, or a projector. Don’t allow the use of printouts, sell sheets, or collateral, and certainly no phoning a friend. Do allow the use of a whiteboard, and flip charts. Give them some room for creativity.

“But how can I demo a product without a computer?” a marketer will cry… The bigger question is, “If you were visiting a customer, and your computer fizzled seconds before showtime, what would you do? Fold up and go home, or be a professional and rise to the challenge?”

“But I don’t talk to customers or prospects. That’s a job for sales!” If you hear that, find another marketer.

Requiring marketers to tackle this modest set of questions in front of a live audience should be standard operating procedure. It’s an eye-opening exercise, and a very healthy one. Remember, you deserve a high-performing marketing team, one that is not only connected online, but also intimately connected to daily sales pursuits.

Let’s End Complicit Executive Management

The word is out. It’s no secret that the migration of B2B marketing into a world dominated by online activities is a less expensive corporate route to take. Few, if any, events, no direct customer contact, no travel, no public appearances, no coaching, and no involvement by marketing with external sales activities equals greatly reduced expenses. Got it. But naively rushing into a romantic relationship with marketing technology doesn’t change the fact that marketers must possess the personal ability to stand and tell a company’s story: who you are, what you do, and how and why you do it. Your marketer’s ability to convincingly tell your corporate story – inside and outside of the electronic comfort zone – is precisely what will help drive demand, power sales enablement, generate new business and protect your customer base. That human ability will also strengthen your company presence in online, email and social media channels.

Only then will marketing be wired-in and connected.

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For the Exasperated Colleagues of Incorrigible Executives, Managers and Lackluster Presenters

Tony Compton, Managing Partner

“Even Tiger Woods needs a swing coach.” That’s a line from the recent Two and a Half Men series finale. Over the past 12 years I caught the show on airplanes and in syndication, and wondered how questions about Charlie Sheen’s character would be put to rest. So I watched the finale. And out of everything that happened in the series and its hour-long ending, it was that one line about Tiger Woods that stuck.

Again: “Even Tiger Woods Needs a Swing Coach”

During the finale, that line was uttered in reference to Charlie Sheen’s character, and his erotic activities. But when it comes to Tiger Woods’ golf game, your presentation performance, or the speaking performance of your colleagues, the same holds true. No matter how good you are at public speaking and delivering presentations, keep your game sharp with ongoing practice and expert coaching, and offer similar resources to those around you at work. Sure, Tiger Woods’ game has recently suffered. Today, he needs a coach and a back specialist. But that’s not the point. In good times and bad, Tiger always has a need for a swing coach. It’s an ongoing requirement, even for somebody at the pinnacle of his career. Despite his success, Tiger Woods never stops learning, never stops practicing, and continually tries to improve his game. So do his competitors, and so do yours. In sports, business and life, the competition is fierce, hungry newcomers abound, and it’s tough to stay on top. Just ask Tiger about his current ranking among golfers, and about how difficult it is to become, and stay, Number One.

Your People Are Seeking Presentation Help to Become Number One

I’m not writing about the kind of presentation help one may receive through the creation of better PowerPoint slides. I am writing about establishing a comprehensive plan to provide continual presentation skills help for you and your team. Create a plan, and give your employees access to the personal coaching and resources they need. From the Wall Street Journal and numerous websites, much has been written lately about how everybody from executives to entrepreneurs must “find their voice” to deliver positive impressions. It’s how audiences evaluate and judge us. Yet many companies don’t provide employees with the tools needed to develop a powerful voice, let alone maintain one. It’s ironic. Executives who don’t help employees improve presentation skills demand that their people deliver boastful results, even if it is with little to no help. I imagine many are told: “Bring back qualified leads…get prospects excited…convey messages…beat the competition…SELL MORE! The entire sales and marketing team spent a half a day on presentations six months ago! What’s the problem? Get out there and do better!”

Thanks for the Dismissive Pep Talk, but Not Much Else

For those who have suggested spending time and money on dedicated presentation training and coaching, roadblocks can be everywhere. If you’ve tried but have been met with resistance, recall if any of these reactions look familiar:

  • “I’m a great public speaker and don’t need practice.”
  • “We don’t have the budget, and it’s not a priority.”
  • “Great idea and I really want to do this. Let’s talk to – insert any name here – and see what we can do for next year.” (But next year never arrives.)
  • “We’re too busy, we can’t get everybody together, and there’s no time.”
  • “Once the slides are finished, I’ll practice.”
  • “Halfway through our presentation skills workshop, I have to jump on a once-in-a-lifetime overseas conference call with a client that I can’t miss. It’ll be at least an hour.”

The excuses are endless. It’s confounding to witness the lack of concern for helping employees practice presentation techniques, while watching entrenched approaches to preparing must-have, text-heavy slides anchored by officially sanctioned logos. In company after company, staff create, clean, and beautify visuals for all to see. But when it comes to finding expert help to stand-up and practice a presentation, some are fortunate to join a one-off, pre-scheduled public speaking workshop booked for sometime in the future by somebody in Human Resources. That’s if the employees are lucky, if they get permission, if it fits the schedule, if there’s room in the class, and if they’re able to travel. Moreover, this works only if one buys into the notion that a generic, cross-departmental workshop is all anybody ever needs.

Back to the World of Sports 

While Tiger Woods is known for his performance on the golf course, Michael Jordan is known for his performance on the basketball court. In similar fashion to Woods, it’s been said that Jordan was the first one to practice in the morning, and the last one to leave at night, despite being at the top of his game. Your company presenters are entering a highly competitive arena each time they get in front of an audience. Tiger picks up a golf club, Michael a basketball, and you and your team pick up  microphones and video cameras. Tiger and Michael would never compete without rigorous practice and expert coaching. Why should you and your team be any different? Remind your colleagues of the importance of practicing and preparing for every speaking engagement, and take the necessary steps to get ready for all corporate appearances before anybody takes the stage, goes on camera or phones in a webinar. Share what you’ve read about Tiger Woods’ and Michael Jordan’s #winning attitudes toward staying on top of their games. Even the incorrigible among you may take notice.

Follow GettingPresence on Twitter: @gettingpresence, and stay tuned to this blog for insights and solutions from experts who have faced, and met, the same event-related challenges you face everyday. We’ve prepared speakers, and helped executives, salespeople and marketing leaders make the most out of business conferences, industry trade shows, customer meetings, and sponsored webinars.

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