How a pre-recorded presentation can make you a great listener

IMG_2604[1]It’s a fun debate – the “old school” mentality of showing live software versus the simpler, stress and error-free technique of leveraging pre-recorded assets. In the end does it really matter to the ultimate judges, your audience?

I can’t be alone when I admit, moments before most presentations, my brain bounces around at least a dozen or so random thoughts as I prepare for the stage, plug in to a projector and tell my story.

Presenting is stressful no matter how savvy or good you think you are.

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, in an office building high above the streets of downtown Chicago, home to one of the largest accounting firms in the world, I was preparing for a short demonstration to a few influential executives.

Tethered to the projector and patiently awaiting my opportunity to present, a timely question was posed from a fellow team member, “Why would you not show live software? Are you afraid?”

His tone indicated a sense of bravado, a slight challenge to my ego? I smirked. Years ago I would have accepted that challenge without any hesitation, feeling the need to convince others of my public speaking prowess. Whereas today I’ve evolved to a much higher level of engagement with my audience.

Unbeknownst to my audience the effort to “warm up” my software consisted of a double-click on PowerPoint file saved to my desktop. No sweat beads dripping down my back, no concern about gaining “guest access” to the firm’s internet and nary a concern to connect to my own software. For the next 30 minutes I dedicated my time actively listening and engaging with the executives in strategic discussions and less time stressing over which windows, reports, screens to open next.

GO HYBRID – My advice is adopt a hybrid approach. Our conversations, as I’m certain yours will too, wandered beyond my script. Fortunately, with a live connection to our cloud as my backup solution, I was able to adjust and seamlessly segue between screens. This hybrid approach, the use pre-recorded and live software can support just about everyone scenario. And, I guarantee you’ll become a better listener focused on your decision makers how you can solve their challenges.

If you still don’t believe me read the pros and cons listed below:

PRO – you ever worry about access to another company’s corporate network

PRO – you will become a better listener

PRO – a click-thru demo may actually “run” faster

PRO – let’s face it, none of us are getting younger, never forget where to “click” next

PRO – an easy, simple and powerful “giveaway” for your prospect.

PRO – as a result of creating scripted demos, you will sound more polished than ever

PRO – no more sweaty armpits

CON – you will disappoint your co-worker who was setting you up for failure!


Dog Eat Dog World


Many months have passed between posts and as I begin to travel, meet and influence new audiences I decided to dust off this blog in order to share tips, techniques and anecdotes again.

Today’s post comes from a NY Times article I’ve been saving for the ideal time.

Too often, presenters who know their trade rely heavily on confidence and dedicate less time on practice. You know the speakers I’m referring to, they continue to deliver the same stale joke to audiences who never appreciated it in the initial delivery. In the software industry, can you believe presenters make reference of “CEO, the Chief Excel Officer” and expect a hearty laugh from the crowd.

For many years I’ve cornered my significant other or a friend, sometimes both, to listen to my presentation opening before I deliver it to my audience. In fact it has become required practice in my preparations to ensure my opening story was relevant to the topic or agenda. What better way to test your message on someone who doesn’t fully understand what you do for a living.

Don’t wag your tail and ignore this sage advice. The next time you are on stage and you see those tilted heads and blank stares from your audience, you’ll remember I tried to throw you a bone.



Learn and Lead by Example


There is a difference between learning the theoretical and applying what you learn in a business situation. Ensuring a way to bridge the two to converge and support each other has always been a challenge. How do you coach great individuals in a classroom to prepare to deliver a memorable presentation and then follow it with an example from the outside, “real” world.

Whenever I’m afforded the opportunity to be on stage I apply the techniques and tips I teach to Sales and Pre-sales teams. It’s rare I capture those moments in a recording.

Today’s post includes a link to a recent webcast I delivered as part of a series of prospect-facing webinars at Microsoft. Each month, spanning the last nine months, I delivered 30-minute webcasts designed to convert new prospects into leads for partner distribution.

Anyone familiar with delivering demonstrations via webcast is intimately aware of the challenges germane to this environment –

  1. Do you sound energetic to the audience?
  2. How do you address diverse interests of everyone on the call?
  3. How do you keep the remote audience engaged without receiving immediate feedback?

Regardless of delivery – in person or via the web – a persuasive demo scene should always be structured to include:

  1. A creative opening to engage your audiences attention
  2. A relevant topic that demonstrates a process or a job function
  3. A closing statement that offers the audience a reason why you felt this was important to mention.

The embedded video is 25 minutes short. There were techniques I deliberately applied during the webcast to engage my audience every 3-6 minutes. What were they? As you listen to the recording, what did I do well? And, as with any presentation, there were areas for improvement. What suggestions can you offer?

Keep Tuning Your Message

1839 Macmillen

OFTEN when I coach sales teams I emphasize the importance of incorporating a theme in a presentation so that your audience connects with your message and they remember you.

Today, audiences are inundated with presentations, demonstrations which tend to blur together and speakers begin to all sound the same. Yes, I know your software, your solution, is unique which is exactly what your competition tells audiences too.

In a previous post I discussed how essential it is to have a theme in order to make yourselves memorable. It’s simple, easy and extremely impactful. And it has been proven to contribute to the narrow margin of winning opportunities. I guarantee you and your audience will enjoy it!

Sometimes your theme won’t connect with your audience. What do you do? Hone your message? Abandon? Give up? Hone your message?


I recently visited four cities in the past three weeks speaking to over 200 business owners, salespeople, consultants and developers.

Kicking off our first event in New York City I led with a PowerPoint slide,

P = m v

in large, bold font on a white background. This is the formula for momentum. Momentum of a particle equals mass * velocity and it become the theme for my presentation. Throughout my presentation I referred to momentum frequently but the theme didn’t connect with the audience as I had planned. I even found myself jokingly saying “we have a lot of P right now.”

Amateur-hour, right?

Returning home I recognized my theme was satisfactory but the delivery needed improvement. A great idea or theme needs to be tested. Although I practiced my delivery the entire week leading up to the first event, the live session in New York became a beta for subsequent events.

The following week in Chicago I arrived with cycling gloves, nutrition bars titled “Momentum Bars” (a great give-away) and a cow bell. This time while the formula was on the screen, I provided three examples of momentum:

  1. What momentum means to avid cyclists and how early season training can impact momentum on uphill climbs and downhill descents.
  2. What momentum means as a Cubs fan. The evening before our event I attended a game at Wrigley Field and I marveled at the Cubbies 1-game winning streak.
  3. What momentum means as a Microsoft seller supported by the positive momentum of our respective businesses.

Fine tuning my original theme made an impact on the audience. There was a definite buzz in the room.

Can I attribute the excitement solely to my refinement?

No, but it certainly provided a connection to my audience. As a result co-presenters elevated their presentation delivery often referring to the theme, we delivered a consistent message as a team and I know my audiences will remember P = m v.



Touch My Computer and I Break-a Yo Face

Powerful Laptop Computer

Why do people (most notably co-workers and room proctors) feel compelled to approach your computer moments before you go live with a presentation?

Guard your computer at all times, especially before you “go live.”

One of my earliest memories presenting software to a large audience was early 2001. Back then, software virtualization was rudimentary. Demo environments, built on external hard drives, were swapped for the internal hard drive. Boot time spanned approximately 20-30 minutes and you needed to provide the machine with ample time to “warm up”. The conference, comprised of manufacturers and accountants, I was paired with a sales rep on our team who was known for his theatrical antics. Moments before we are set to begin, unbeknownst to me, he decides to make a few changes to the PowerPoint. Not a good idea. My laptop shuts down and now we have 20 minutes to fill with his standup routine.

With less than one week before I present at our annual conference, I recall last year at the same event where I narrowly escaped a similar plight when a room proctor decided my resolution settings weren’t optimal. Apparently he was distraught with the three inches of black space around the edges of the 60 x 60 screen. Fortunately for both of us, his face was untouched and so was my laptop.

Be on your guard at all times. Control your destiny and don’t allow others to impact the great presentation you planned.

Got Content?

Got Milk

Years ago the dairy industry took an innovative approach to motivate new, and existing, consumers to pour more of their product into drinking glasses. Their creative campaign, “Got Milk”, still resonates today. Just like the love of a glass of milk, everyone loves content. We are always searching for fresh and new ways to attract customers.

Of course just because content is free doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. Content needs to be relevant, it needs to align with your sales and marketing strategy, and ultimately it needs to connect with prospects.

Last July we revisited our approach at Microsoft examining how we deliver monthly, prospect-facing webcasts. The result of the Grow Your Business (GYB) webcast series is a streamlined experience, reducing the duration from 60 minutes to 30 minutes and more closely aligned session titles to what research suggests prospects are most interested in seeing. Each webcasts attracts between 150-300 registrants.

Need Content? All the assets for these events have been packaged to enable any partner to repurpose and redeliver with just a few clicks. It doesn’t get any easier nor more turnkey then the GYB (Grow Your Business) assets below.

Want Easy? Use the Ready to Go site, upload your logo, promote the event and hit the <Play> button on your desired event date.

Want Personalization? Download the assets from PartnerSource and host your own webcast.


  • 30 Minutes
  • Scripted and Pre-Built
  • Top of Funnel, Not Deep


  1. Five Ways to Turn Data into Insights
  2. Why are So Many Businesses Moving to the Cloud
  3. Making Technology Your Business Advantage
  4. It’s a New Year Be Ready to Adapt
  5. Fine Tune your Supply Chain with Insights

ASSETS – Contents include: (1) DemoMate demo (.demo) (2) Demo Script (.docx) (3) Email Template (.xlsx) (4) Recording (.mp4) (5) Infographic (.pdf)



OPTION #1Create an event using the Ready to Go site (RTG)


Search “Microsoft Ready to Go”Events >> Microsoft Led Events >> Select an Event

  1. Find the Event – #GYB
  2. Click Event Details
  3. Click Participate
  4. Complete all Required Fields
  5. Click Activate, then Preview, and Copy the “Register for this Event” URL.
  6. Share the Registration Page
  7. To-partner email template:



OPTION #2Download the assets from PartnerSource and host your own event. Search PartnerSourcePartner Essentials >> SMB Resource Center >> Go To Market >> SMB Toolkit  >> Webcast in a Box



Got Content? Yes!

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.