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.

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

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.

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

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

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.

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

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.

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

Look, There They Are! It’s Your Target Audience!

Tony Compton, Managing Partner

You’re investing good money to get your presenters, with your messages, in front of your target audience. Whether you’re sponsoring a webinar, an industry conference, or a Vegas trade show, expenditures will be totaled, and results measured. Even if you have a subject matter expert driving crosstown to give a speech, an investment is made. But remember, event producers won’t guarantee one thing: results. It’s up to you – not the producers – to make the most out of every speaking engagement, at every event.

Your Path to Preparation

How are you preparing for that next event? Specifically, the next company presentation. What are your most important preparation activities? Logo ready? Sure, it is! You may even have a dusty file somewhere that’s 10 pages long which gives the reader the do’s and don’ts of how to use it. Slides? Of course! How could anybody possibly give a presentation without slides?

There’s no doubt your preparation checklist has it all, even a certain amount of pride. The next event is set, your company session is on, travel is booked, and the conference producers have your payment, up front of course. You’re confident (or naive enough to think) that your company presenters are ready to step into the arena, at every chance they get, and kill it for you and your company. Since you’ve done everything you could do to ensure the success of your presenters, how could they not be the rock stars you think they are, and they tell you they are?

Avoid the Blame Game

When presentations fail to deliver, and the predicted returns from an event don’t materialize, who’s on the Hot Seat? After a failed presentation and an immediate executive demand for answers, some marketers feel like liberal activists sitting across an interview table from Wally George. Shall we include blaming sales? Possibly. But wait a minute, maybe it’s product management. Why? They were responsible for giving a number of talks at the last customer event, and they’ve also delivered a lot of recent webinars. So maybe it’s their fault. How about all of the above?

Some take a different path and choose to look externally. After a less than stellar company and speaker performance at the Trade Show in Destination City, USA anger may be vent at event producers, with disdain directed toward some attendees. But don’t blame the attendees, and don’t jump to conclusions about the event producers. Producers are rarely to blame, and it’s never the fault of the audience. True, some mistakes are made by organizers, but if you consistently choose your events wisely, you have the right audience. Your target audience is right in front of you. My advice is to focus on your presenters, and your approach to strengthening their presentation techniques. This will go a long way to avoiding those unproductive, post-mortem blame games which permeate meeting rooms.

Your Assignment, and Call to Action

Coming soon is your next batch of 2015 industry events. Some are on your personal calendar, and the event listing on your website undoubtedly reflects what’s in store. To increase the value of your sales, marketing and event expenditures, consider the following:

1. Before the next set of company presentations: take a moment to baseline how your company prepares speakers for appearances, and the consistency in readiness tactics, and structured practice. Ask presenters how they’re getting ready for upcoming presentations. When they finish telling you about “when, where and how” to catch a performance, and all about the slides they’re preparing, repeat the question and get some real answers.

2. Attend an upcoming company presentation, and during it: examine the audience, and count how many laptops, smartphones and tablets are in use while your speaker is speaking. See whose attention is elsewhere. If it’s a webinar, it’s safe to imagine that a large portion of the audience is multitasking. Rate your presenter’s ability to break through clutter, and deliver critical messages. Watch and listen to how your presenter handles the audience, acquires and holds its attention, delivers a clear and concise point of view, and motivates the audience to follow-up on any calls to action.

3. After the presentation: do some “back of the envelope” math. Request speaker evaluation scores. Total your expenditures. Look at the qualified leads, any new business opportunities, and see how much the entire process is worth. It’s easy to do. This isn’t a financial audit. Just scratch out the information on a cocktail napkin while killing time at the airport. It’ll be an eye opener.

Taking this step-by-step approach will help you get a clearer picture of how your company approaches events, presentations and speaker performance. This will provide you with insight into what many choose to undervalue: the practice of preparing people to expertly stand and deliver in front of target audiences.

You want to report positive results from hefty event-related expenditures, so help yourself by helping your people prepare for their next appearance. Start now, because there are very real consequences of doing something positive and substantial to support your colleagues versus doing little or nothing at all. When the time has passed on the upcoming season of industry events, and you’re standing in front of your company’s executives, investors and Board of Directors with results in hand, what will you have to say?

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.

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

Prepare Your Company Speakers as if You Really Give a Damn

I know you care about all of your event-related expenditures. So why doesn’t it show?

Tony Compton, Managing Partner

$1,000? How about $2,000? Or $10,000? More? How much did it really cost your company to have a presenter take part in the last industry conference, trade show, webinar or fill-in-the-blank event? Was the presenter’s demo or session part of a sponsorship package, or was it a solo appearance? Did you pay for a customer to co-present? Odds are you’ll have a hard time getting the “all-in” costs, and the harsh reality is that you’re spending time, money and resources on corporate presentations which quite often fall flat. Just because your people are out there giving presentations doesn’t mean that the efforts are paying off. In this case, activity does not automatically equal productivity.

True, under most circumstances there will be an expense report with time and travel-related line items, while Finance can provide invoice amounts for sponsorships and event-related costs. Marketing should be able to tell you how many people registered, and attended, and how many leads came as a result of an event. And don’t forget the financial modules in some marketing automation systems which can churn out detailed event-related reports. Pretty cool stuff. But hey, at the end of the last speaking engagement, your crew felt fortunate because a tangible spreadsheet of registered participants was delivered, and somebody uploaded the contacts into your CRM and Marketing Automation tools. Now the show’s over, and everybody’s in the system. Great! On to the next event!

Not so fast…

Imagine this scene: a well-structured conference with sessions presented by industry experts, held in a business-class hotel. You and I have been to dozens of these events. During a recent presentation, I took a look around the room. I observed the speaker, the slides and the audience, then started counting. I counted half the attendees using their laptops during the presentation. Moreover, some attendees were even using multiple devices during the presentation, and this behavior never changed throughout the conference. However, after each session, the audience politely clapped and it was on to the next one. All involved appeared satisfied. Detect a problem?

It’s Your Company, Your People and Your Budget

I started doing more math. What did it cost to send each one of these participants to attend the conference? What did it truly cost the presenters to prepare, take time out of their business week and travel to the event? And what return are the attendees, the speakers and the represented companies expecting? The presentation content shared throughout this conference was outstanding. Trouble was, half the audience wasn’t paying attention. It begged the question, “With so much time and money invested, does anybody really give a damn?”

This isn’t a sweeping indictment of all presenters, presentations and business conferences, and I know most, if not all, will readily say that they do indeed care. But it’s hard to see it, and hear it, in what’s given to attendees today. As somebody who has been involved with conferences and trade shows for over 20 years, I’ve been fortunate to have had a seat in the audience to watch and learn from some of the best presenters on the planet. The kind of presenters who can carry an audience across the finish line, even if the computer with the slides on it crashed 30 seconds before showtime. I’ve recorded positive feedback, and watched what an outstanding presentation can do for a company, and somebody’s career. On the other hand, I’ve also seen what a bad presentation or boring webinar can do, and the damage it can cause. Chances are, so have you.

If you spend money on sending speakers to industry events and have an interest in your bottom line, you understand the multitude of problems behind poor and lackluster presentations, these questionable investments, and how elusive getting a grip on comprehensive solutions can be. The pain that comes with allocating resources on speaking engagements with substantial costs and vague returns is common. It’s a problem that’s been made worse recently by: arrogant and cynical presenters; a lack of expert coaching for speakers who wish to improve their performance, but don’t receive the necessary support from corporate; seat-warming, multitasking audiences; and ostrich mentalities by those who could make a difference, but choose not to do so.

High-performing organizations don’t wallow in the excuses found in the fear of public speaking, marketing’s inability to answer questions about presentation preparedness and event metrics, and the resistance offered up by some on the inside. Neither should you. For far too long, we’ve become accepting of mediocre, uninteresting and even bad presentations, and the lack of due diligence by all involved. Few I know have the appetite for sitting through another hour-long session that disappoints in the first 10 minutes. What’s worse is how some executives carry on and don’t believe that it’s their people who fail to deliver and need coaching. It’s always the other guys who need help. Meanwhile life goes on, very little changes, and the competition outperforms ill-prepared public-facing presenters on a consistent basis. Yet in the next sales and marketing pipeline review and win/loss analysis, where does your company’s responsibility of making sure its people possess much needed presentation skills lie?

In my view, it’s time to act. Right now, you’re approving resources and expenditures to send speakers to the next batch of 2015 events, and it’s time for you to want to get full value from these investments. It’s time for you to prep your company speakers to meet the rigorous challenges of delivering outstanding presentations. It’s time for you to act, and act as if you really do give a damn.

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.

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