What is Your Point

three handprints

It’s as simple as 1 – 2 – 3.

Last week I was an audience member for two, in-person presentations. On Monday, I attended the Kickoff Breakfast during Denver’s 3rd annual Denver Startup Week. A week bustling with excitement and enthusiasm centered around technology and local startups. While Denver has not reached Silicon Valley status with regards to volume of startups and VC funding, it’s hard to ignore Denver’s growth and how our “town” has morphed from it’s frontier days to the technology bubble it has become today. The sessions were categorized by Business, Design, Technology, Manufacturing and Headline Event and judging the sentiment during breakfast, it was sure to be a fantastic week.

On Tuesday, I was invited to join existing customers who were hosted by a local business partner. Kudos to this organization for continually driving the number of attendees to dedicate an entire day to learn about their products and solutions. There were over 90 customers interested in new features, product roadmaps and of course … free training.

For both events I was anxiously excited to hear the respective keynote’s message.

Both disappointed.

The first, a self-noted successful entrepreneur from Silicon Valley spent more energy delivering profanity-laced rants about race and sexism than making an actual point. A lost opportunity to what appeared to be 500+ professionals excited to start the week. The second, a seasoned veteran who delivered a presentation that had audience members studying smartphones and recalling Ben Stein mumble role call. Anyone? Anyone?

The most basic public speaking skill learned from the first time you stepped in front of a microphone is to have a message. It’s easy. Ask yourself, why is your audience listening to you? What is it your want them to take away from your speech? What is your point?

Steve Martin captured it best in Planes, Trains and Automobiles — “if you are going to tell a story have a point. It makes it so much more enjoyable for the listener.”

The next time you step up to a podium, grab a microphone or don a headset ask yourself, what is your message. Remember, it’s much easier for the listener and it’s as easy as 1 – 2 – 3.

Musicians Have a Back Up Plan, What is Yours?


For those of you who follow me regularly know my background as an audiophile. In fact, if you attended one of my presentations earlier this year you’ll recall the limbic opening I shared while recanting my first job during my teenage years. For those of you not in attendance, I was a DJ while growing up in New York.

Fast forward a few years, now living in Colorado where there is no shortage of opportunities to attend live music. Last week I was afforded the chance to see Jamie Cullum live at the Arvada Center for the Arts. Jamie Cullum is a jazz musician but the farthest from a traditional pianist. The performance was fabulous and the band played for almost three hours.

So What? (What does this have to do with software demonstrations)

During the third song Mr. Cullum’s wireless microphone died. We watched his lips move but the notes were silent. Mr. Cullum could have stopped, complained to the technician, delivered a bad joke and blamed someone for the technological mishap. Instead, the band played on. They segued from a jazz band to a jam band while a roadie worked quickly to correct the glitch. Their transition was seamless and the crowd, appreciating their efforts, roared.

Bands rehearse every day, all day. They are perfectionists and prepare for any dilemma and quickly adapt to changing situations. Conversely, software engineers (generally speaking) practice when there is extra time in their day.

Think of a few ways in which you and your “band” of presales engineers can prepare for any possible situation. It is so essential to ensure you orchestrate your team for any public appearance and even more important to have a back up plan. Your audience will appreciate your adaptability.



Each Sunday I look forward to a few select columns in the NY Times. One of the most insightful columns is called the Corner Office located in the Business section. It includes interviews with top executives and discusses the challenges of leadership and managing business.

About a year ago there was an interview with a renowned art/theater director that caught my attention. The article was about the success of ideas in a smaller setting. The interviewee responded to a question stating “if you don’t make sure the show is right in a small room, it will never be right on a big stage”. So what does this response from a theater director have to do with software demonstrations?

Taking chances requires practice.

All of us can, and should, follow her sage advice. All too often, presenters fall prey to what they know and lean on from their past successes, relying on the “same old demo”.

Whenever you prepare for any presentation, regardless of the audience size (1:1 or 1:many), your preparation is paramount to your success. Whether you are delivering your tried and true “overview demo”, or something new, test it. Share your creative openings with a small audience whether that be a co-worker, a family member or a friend. Their objective reactions will provide you the feedback you are looking for to hone your message.

Remember – “if you don’t make sure the show is right in a small room, it will never be right on a big stage.”

Becoming a Captivating Speaker

Last week I was inspired by a recent blog article titled 7 Lessons From the World’s Most Captivating Presenters.I often coach teams and individuals to recognize the distinction between a good and great presenter. The author offers us great suggestions on how to captivate your audience. Three memorable quotes for me were:

  • “there is no shortcut to excellence”
  • “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”
  • “people will never forget how you made them feel”

I was so elated after reading the article I immediately distributed it to several organizations the old-fashioned way – email. It’s been fascinating to read many of their responses and what they connected with most in the article.

Today, I’m distributing via my blog to share the message to a wider audience. You can access the link @ http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/34274/7-Lessons-From-the-World-s-Most-Captivating-Presenters-SlideShare.aspx

Even the Experts Need to Practice

Stop yourself from “eastwooding”

Imagine … you are an 82-year old actor accustomed to performing in front of live audiences your entire professional career. Your experiences aren’t limited to acting but you’ve also acheived elite status as an award-winning director. Two weeks ago most of us witnessed what happens when you don’t prepare for a presentation and decide to “wing it”.

Over the weekend, in an interview with a local newspaper, Mr. Eastwood recanted the events leading up to his performance at the Republic National Convention  – http://usat.ly/QrXJt1.

Now, I’m fairly confident no one following my blog, or any of our peers in the channel, can hold a candle to Mr. Eastwood’s extensive public speaking resume. However, even with his storied career his actions clearly prove you MUST always practice, practice, practice. It is so essential to be impeccable with your words and test your ideas/thoughts before you go live.

Even if, as Mr Eastwood learned, you’ve been performing presentations for years you still need at least one dry run. Take time to walk through your presentation with a co-worker, a friend or family and I guarantee you will be rewarded by your efforts.

Inspired by Feedback

I’m inspired to revisit my blog after a short hiatus.

Last week I had the opportunity to reacquaint myself with my public speaking skills. It had been about two months since I was on a stage and it felt revingorating to garner smiles and head nods. I spoke on a topic many sellers are intersted in today, how to accelerate a sales cycle.

I’ve considered myself a good public speaker, however I was overwhelmed when an audience member complimented me by saying I remind him of Seth Godin http://www.sethgodin.com/sg/. Hopefully a reference to my enthusiastic delivery, creativity and less about our matching hairstyle.

I look forward to sharing ideas, on a more frequent basis, so you can improve your sales and presentations skills.

Talk the Talk

One of the most critical steps during any ERP or CRM sales cycle is the research you perform prior to the initial contact with a prospect. Good pre-discovery can significantly streamline a sales cycle while contributing to building your relationship as a trusted advisor.

Sales teams who dedicate at least 30 – 60 minutes to learn about an industry they aren’t intimately familiar with, often put themselves in a strategic advantage over the other competitive “horizontal” sellers.

The reason is, individuals and companies alike, prefer to invest in experts. It’s a fact. Look at your own personal, consumer buying patterns. When given a choice between saving a few dollars to engage with a business who may understand your needs versus spending a premium to invest in a product and service that understand exactly your specific need. The majority of the time people lean towards the premium option.

Before your initial call you should know – What are the key metrics in the industry? What are the top three priorities for the CFO? What current trends and business opportunities drive the prospect’s industry?

How do you get started? In addition to the traditional research avenues – a company website, Bing or Google, LinkedIn, etc. there are several industry tools to aid you in becoming proficient and speaking your prospect’s “language”.

Three tools I rely on and recommend to partners, in order of preference:

Prior to my post I contacted all three organizations to learn about discounts available to Microsoft partners. While they exist, the reps weren’t forthcoming on what discounts they provide to Microsoft partners. However, when you call remind them you are a MSFT partner and learn more.