Thursday, March 09, 2006

lesson: getting to the point, doing it nicely

A month and a day ago I was on the march - the powerpoint deathmarch, that is - but today. . . today, me hearties, I arrived. Today was the day it would see the light of day, or more correctly, it would see the customer. Alea jacta est, and whatnot.

The Deck, burnished, glowing, dare I say, perfect, was emailed off in advance of the call. Needless to say, by the time The Call was over, the deck was in tatters and out of order, but it had served its purpose.

So as I type, 2 oz of Lagavulin (neat) at my elbow, what did I learn about giving pitches over the phone that I didn't already know? I'll admit to nothing. But for illustrative purposes, I offer the following:

  1. It is a good thing to put your big point up front. Make it. Then move on.
  2. If you've got fluff in your slides, embrace their fluffiness. And move on. Sometimes they have to be there for "later on". That doesn't mean you have to talk to them all.
  3. Don't let your audience derail you - too much. If you're there to have a conversation, that means both of you get to have your way. Roll over completely and you come across like a chump. Frog-march your audience through every. . .last. . .damn. . .slide, and you come across like a chump. Find the balance - this is why they pay you the Big Bucks.
  4. If you have a cast of thosands who need to be on the call, discuss your roles ahead of time and use your favorite IM client to communicate during the call.
  5. If you must talk, don't talk over someone else.
  6. If you've got comparisons, make them.
  7. If you need architecture slides, show them.
  8. If you have pros and cons, state them.
  9. Avoid slides with close-up pictures of cows. It seems every Web 2.0 luminary, consultant, CEO likes to put up a slide with a big picture of a cow on it. Schmidt did on Analyst Day last week, gawd bless his 'eart. Which means you can't. Take a moment to live with the disappointment. . .there. Now move on.
  10. Unless you're Steve Jobs, avoid empty slides with single words on them. If you are Steve Jobs, keep doing what you're doing, cause golly, it sure seems to be working out swell for you.
  11. Leave the dense eyechart slides for the appendix, which is the useless collection of extra slides you tack on the end of the deck that don't really need to be there, but you'd feel remiss if you failed to include them. No one will read them, but they make you feel better, and that's OK.
  12. You don't have to answer every question on the phone. But keep track of the questions, because sometime soon you will have to answer them.
  13. And above all, be honest, have fun, be nice, and stay focused on the clock. You need time to wrap up and talk about what happens next, so as much as you want to roll in the dark goodness of technical minutae, avoid the temptation to do so.

Then end on time. I leave this to the very last, because I fear it is the only thing you will remember. Even if you sucked royally, ending on time leaves your audience thinking well of you. So at least you'll have that going for you, right?

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