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Sometimes The Best DEMO Has No Slides

DEMO 2014

If you have never heard of DEMO, it’s about time we change that right now. DEMO is all about new tech solving big problems. A select group of innovative companies are invited to showcase their solutions to a large audience of press, analysts, investors, CIOs and entrepreneurs.

DEMO_black

About DEMO 
Produced by the IDG Enterprise events group, the worldwide DEMO conferences focus on emerging technologies and new product innovations, which are hand selected from across the spectrum of the technology marketplace. The DEMO conferences have earned their reputation for consistently identifying cutting-edge technologies and helping entrepreneurs secure venture funding and establish critical business. For more information on the DEMO conferences, visit http://www.demo.com/.

I think DEMO has some interesting characteristics:

  • Presentations are 4 minutes or less. No exceptions.
  • No slides are allowed.
  • Live software demos only.
  • Presentations are followed by an additional 4 minutes of Q&A by an esteemed panel of Judges.

What I love about DEMO is that companies are given the main keynote stage to share their exciting products. 40 companies have the limelight for 8 minutes and share some truly exciting and creative innovations.

4 Minutes or Less
Normally I have at least 30 minutes to share Incorta with most demos being 60-90 minutes in length. This was going to be a whole new challenge. The amount of effort involved in making an impression in 4 minutes is completely different than 60 minutes. I think President Wilson Woodrow summed it up best.

Wilson Woodrow Quote

If you are to speak for 4 minutes I think you need 2 months to prepare!

The Challenge
What to focus on? You cannot show everything and often you might have many facets that make your product stand out from the competition. How do you decide on which piece to focus on? This was something that was pretty difficult for us at Incorta.

The Dry Run
The day before our scheduled DEMO time slot we had a dry run with Erick Schonfeld on stage at the San Jose Convention Center. Our focus in that demo was the ease of bringing data into Incorta and how we negate all the complex star schemas, ETL and traditional data warehouse work that cripples most Business Intelligence projects. After candid feedback from Erick, we decided we should change our demo. We changed direction entirely and created a new script. We decided to focus on our mobility and flexibility for Business Users to be able to take control of their analytics. How Incorta Enable users to quickly make changes to their dashboards to  answer pressing questions that traditionally take months to solve.

Re-writing your demo at 1 AM in the morning before your DEMO presentation is not the ideal, but sometimes you have to make these kind of changes.

If we had a deck could we have made such a sweeping change? Would we have been nimble enough to change direction? I would argue we would have not felt we could throw our DEMO slides in the trash and start from scratch with less than 12 hours before we walk on stage.

In this case no slides is perfect!

Incorta at DEMO

When was the last time you changed direction at the last minute after investing weeks into your original idea? How did that turn out?

Turning Fear Into Fuel: Courage & Vulnerability

ivanlendl

When I was 11 years old I had to stand up and present in front of 700+ school children in what we in the UK call “Assembly.” The room was made up of children from 11 to 18 years old along with teachers. It was intimidating to say the least and I was terrified. To make matters worse I had to present my own content, not read from a book. I had to share my own thoughts.

Four students were given the topic: “Your Hero.” We all had to take turns sharing about what we admired in our heroes. I cannot remember what I wrote down at all for the presentation apart from I spoke about tennis legend: Ivan Lendl. Ivan never won Wimbledon but he was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame. There is not much else I can say apart from that.

The speech was terrible. I read my pre-written text word for word. My head was buried into my chest to avoid looking out at the sea of faces. It was nerve wracking. Once I was done I had to remain on stage standing next to the third student sharing about their hero. It was then I looked up and surveyed the room. I was no longer the primary focus of attention. Then it hit me. The absurdity of it all. I was up here doing something I certainly didn’t want to do and looking out I could quickly see that no one was interested in listening to our speeches. Maybe it was built up nerves that just overwhelmed me, but the thought of how crazy this all was made me burst out laughing uncontrollably. It was terrible. I couldn’t stop laughing.

Piano recital exams
Even though there was only one person in the room. It was fear that I felt. Pure, unfiltered fear. Sweaty palms. Racing heart and lots of mistakes.

Number 1 Fear
You might relate to some of these fears. Fear of performing in public can be debilitating. Public speaking is the number 1 fear for most people.

Avoiding public speaking is not a solution. It hurts those who need to hear your message. It hurts your career. The only solution is be courageous. Courage is not the absence of fear. It’s facing your fear. Whenever you face your fears you rob them of the irrational power they have over you.

Fear is simply misinformation disguised as reality. Step number one is to say yes I’m scared but I will be courageous and face my fear.

If you had to have 100 meetings with 1 or 2 people you probably would be okay, albeit very tired. If you had 1 meeting with 100-200 people you probably would be panicking. Fear enters. Why? Fundamentally what is the difference? How can you change this fear to actually become something that excites you and motivates you to be even more engaging with your audience?

The Journey
That 11 year old boy become a man who actually loves more people in the audience. The larger the audience the better. That 11 year old would not have believed you. It wasn’t possible. It isn’t possible. Are you believing the same lie I did for so long?

So what happened? Being comfortable in who I am and what I can do. I let go of the fear of being perceived a certain way and just be me, the real me, along with my mistakes, stammering and screw ups. How do you let go of that mask? You practice, you push yourself a little more each time. For me it was done a lot through performing guitar in public. I couldn’t avoid my mistakes. I had to embrace them.

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So I implore you to put down that theatre mask, the podium you hide behind and make yourself vulnerable. People will love you for it. Face your audience and let them see you. I mean really see you.

For those of you on this road, you never really leave it, but it certainly has a point when you can embrace that energy and not let it paralyze you. Where are you on this journey?

12 Years Ago Changed Me 2 Months Ago

Mavericks

In January 2014 I was at the peak of my career, and having the most fun I’ve had in a job since… I don’t know when. I had finally found my niche. I was experiencing great success not only in pre-sales, but Oracle-wide as an advocate for re-imagining corporate decks. With exciting opportunities on the horizon, I dropped the news that I was leaving Oracle.

Why leave when what looked to be the perfect set was approaching? 2014 was set to be a Mavericks year for me. Instead of paddling into that wave, I broke away and paddled to a completely different beach. I had no intentions of leaving, but I left the best job of my life.

What happened?
The Apple G4 Dual happened. January 2002! A memory of a feeling that deeply affected my outlook and perspective on my work. I remembered the first time I opened my Apple G4 Dual. I was mesmerized by even the process of opening the box! I stopped at each stage as I was transfixed by the beauty, design and attention to detail. I took pictures and savored each and every moment. I felt something special, even magical at that time. The experience affected me. The little things did matter. The fonts matter. The weight of the fonts matter. The position of the fonts matter. These things began to matter to me just as much as the message. I would never be the same again.

g4-mac

Other companies said the box didn’t matter. IBM, Dell and HP shipped their products in bland brown cardboard boxes. This pleased the accountants. It made sense. After all, everyone throws the box away right? Looking back it’s easy to see that history has shown them to be wrong. By the way, I have every box of every Apple product I’ve ever bought and ironically I even keep the brown box that my white box is shipped in. The following chart without question proves hat there can be no other possible reason for Apple’s success other than their attention to detail in packaging. 😉

Cool Boxes and APPL Stock Price

The Details Matter to Incorta
In January 2014, I saw a product that reminded me of those same feelings I experienced back in 2002. Incorta gave me the opportunity to design not only the user experience of the application, but design how the product is experienced. To be given the chance to create an experience from the ground up. To create a culture around some of my experiences, thoughts, and ideas. The possibility to create not just interesting slides, but to re-think how we do sales and the entire user experience from beginning to end.

I get to answer the questions such as “How do we best serve our future brand fanatics? How do we help them actually enjoy going through an enterprise software  selection process?” For too long business software vendors have fed us the lie that enterprise shouldn’t look and feel like consumer software. Function and features are all that matter. Somewhere along the line we forgot that B2B was really just H2H (Human to Human). We lost that human touch. The balance sheet was all that mattered, and the balance sheet didn’t care about the font.

I get to design the whole ownership experience which begins with your first impression of Incorta all the way down to the… well actually, it never ends.

I want to create a product you don’t want to put down. A product you want to touch, hold, and savor. And that’s just when you are reviewing the Non Disclosure Agreement.

Have you had an Apple G4 Dual moment? If so what was it and how has it changed you?

Photo Credit: Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Adam Stanton.

 

Put Your Co-workers and Boss in Their Place

controllingboss

Presentations have to be focused on the audience and not self-serving. No surprises there right? You wouldn’t expect anything else from me? Quite frankly that doesn’t go far enough! I am a firm believer that you should place your audience above  your co-workers, boss or anyone from your company. This might sound like common sense but reality can be a lot tougher than throwing out pithy sentiments.

Are you prepared to stand up for what is right for your customer, audience, or future advocate?

How about before you even begin creating your presentation? Great presentations start before the presentation is crafted. Understanding the true purpose is crucial to any meaningful presentation for your audience.

I recently faced the challenge of “the rubber hitting the road” on this very issue.  I was asked to present material that co-workers requested which I believed was self-serving and not in the best interests of my customer. I was challenged to follow my own convictions, beliefs, and opinions on what was truly valuable to the people that really count: the audience. Thankfully, I am no longer afraid to speak up even if it offends people in order to do the right thing. I personally don’t care who you are. I won’t go against my convictions and fail to stand up for the customers best interest even in the software selection sales process.

People have approached me recently to let me know how much they appreciate my openness and boldness in standing up against the craziness of boring and mind numbing corporate decks. Sure I’ve reached a point where I’d rather be unemployed than sell out. That being said, don’t think for a second that I don’t have a killer presentation in my back pocket that would serve as the first blog post if I was “let go.” 😉

I view myself as a guide for buyers inside of the software selection process. I want potential customers to make well informed decisions. I  have no interest in exploiting an opportunity to sell. I want to hold up my head with pride in 2-3 years when I walk back into that same company. The most valuable commodity I have is my credibility. I don’t plan on devaluing that currency.

Next time you create a presentation, make sure it’s truly for the primary audience. Don’t try to impress your co-workers, boss or anyone else. Knock the socks off the audience with a presentation that gives them everything they want and more.

EXCITE them,
SURPRISE them,
STAND UP for them.

They will thank you! Any company worth its salt will appreciate that quality in you. If they don’t, you’re in the wrong place. Don’t be afraid, move on to a new opportunity where Leaders Eat Last. They will provide you with a safe place to take risks, delight your customers, excite your audience, and hold your future advocates above that of any political corporate game.

Now raise your glasses and toast to creating some truly breathtaking presentations in 2014. Let’s turn the tide this year and make progress towards #KillingCorporateDecks.

Happy New Year

#KillingCorporateDecks in Action

Einstein - Simple Quote

A couple of weeks ago I spent two days sharing Oracle’s E-Business Suite Extensions for Endeca (EEE) with some of our Oracle Partners (#e3Partner). As a side note, count how many Macs you see in this picture. Very close to 50/50! When I first used my Mac I would be the only one. Times are changing!

e3partner Training

During the course of the training session, I provided guidance on how to explain the benefit and value of the Endeca solution. My goal was to help our partners become better evangelists and advocates for the transforming power of EEE. My slide deck utilized the techniques I cover in this blog along with a few more that will be featured in upcoming posts. Stay tuned as some you will not want to miss.

Conversing with your data

I received quite a few many compliments from members of the audience after seeing my #KillingCorporateDecks approach, validating that this approach really makes a difference to the most important person in the presentation: the audience.

Can I have the slides?!! That presentation was really awesome. Refreshing. Loved it! 

I am invariably asked “What tools are you using?” Partly because most people cannot believe I am using PowerPoint. Using a Mac plays to their impression that Apple computers are made for cool artsy material. PCs are associated with bullets. It doesn’t have to be that way, but certainly I prefer to work on my Mac. #RantAvoidance.

Probably one of the favorite compliments was:

After seeing 4 hours of heavy dense decks, it was a much needed break to have visually lighter approach. 

Don’t confuse visually light with light on content. Most people when they present don’t speak to a lot of what’s on their slides. They have more information than they can share. This confuses the message but gives the presenter a sense of security. “Look at the level of detail I have. I really most know my stuff. I’m an expert.” Don’t kid yourself! I think Albert Einstein summed it up best.

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. 

Are You The Best Leading Role, Supporting Role, An Extra or Left Out In the Cold?

The presentation is not about you. The audience should be the focus of the presentation, unless you are some egotistical maniac.

It’s really their story – you need to figure out how you fit in as a member of the cast. You are not the leading role; you’re purely a potential supporting role. The sooner you come to terms with that the more successful you will be in connecting with your customer. Yes, yes,  you’re special. Of course you are a snowflake. One of a kind. Very special. You know cause your mom told you right? Well I’m sorry to burst that bubble.

U2, The Black Keys & The Civil Wars

Realize that approaching your audience to talk all about yourself is obnoxious. It quite frankly doesn’t work. Let’s face it. No one is coming to listen to you because you are U2, The Black Keys or The Civil Wars. They come to listen to you because you have something that might benefit their story. Simply put, your story is of no interest to them. Get over yourself. Face the truth and change. The only other option is to be irrelevant and left behind.

When you present to an audience, your audience is actually assessing whether you are a key supporting role, an extra or just getting in the way of a good story. This is an audition. The future advocate (old term prospect) wants to see if you play a role in their story. They are not interested in being an extra in your story. They don’t care how amazing your product, your slides, your jokes are. Start with your customer. Start with understanding them. Know their story, how else can you show how you fit into their story.

So now while you are coming to terms with the cold reality that you’re not that important, go and listen to one of my favorite bands of all time. The Civil Wars. #ToughLove.

Killing Oracle’s Corporate Decks!

If there’s one thing I am more passionate about than Oracle software, it is being clear in how I convey why Oracle is the best choice. Let me be VERY clear. I only will position Oracle when I truly believe it is the best choice. To do otherwise is suicide. Sadly what I see in most presentations is that we are clearly unclear in how we convey value from Oracle software. Most presentations I’ve seen in the corporate world have me reaching for the barf bag that I strategically grab from all my United flights. I’ve been tempted to get a bunch made with an Oracle logo on it to hand out before some of our presentations.

To not change is to say I don’t care about legacy. I don’t care about the future. Oracle can die the death of a thousand papercuts.

This is most obviously shown in the difference between Apple and Microsoft.

The Obvious Comparison

Don’t get me wrong. The content is often amazing. It’s life changing (for the better) in most cases for our advocates (customers) and future advocates (prospects). We put a lot of effort into the material. Every solution consultant is passionate about bringing value to help amplify the business. I find it heart wrenching where we take that material and then make it clear as mud. How is this the case? Bullets, bullets, and more bullets, and yes the occasional #meaninglessphoto that is an attempt at something limbic and engaging for the right side of your brain. The effect is after 10-15 minutes everyone (myself included) is struggling to pay attention and learn this life altering information that I really do need to know.

Quite frankly it’s a massive disservice to everyone involved. A good idea is fragile. Whether it will grow, blossom and gain momentum really depends on those early stages. How you get people on board with your idea is critical. Too much too soon and you will kill it. People need to understand the why and frantically pursue that idea with tenacity and passion.

So why is this so hard? Why do we resort to self-destruct mode putting out the same material we have seen for the past 30 years? Why?! Sweat and tears. It’s nothing short of hard work. At times it’s frustrating, difficult, and is a constant battle up hill. Change very seldom comes easily. The greatest ideas have always met a fair degree of opposition. People focus on the immediate pain, and not the long term view, the why behind what we do.

This is where I find myself, meeting the friction of seeing we need to change. It’s not an option. To not change is to say I don’t care about legacy. I don’t care about the future. Oracle can die a death of a thousand paper cuts. Remember, guns don’t kill people. Bullets do.