Monday, June 27, 2011

Do you have one big message ?

Earlier this month, I was in a conference of retailers discussing how IT can contribute to growth within their business and to the industry at large. The event had its usual bevy of IT vendors who had availed of speaking slots as well as many deciding to exhibit their products/solutions to target potential customers with their offerings. Attendance being large with representation across retailers, it was a great opportunity for the sponsors to engage.

Now this was one conference that was crafted together by a panel of CIOs and vendor representatives in conjunction with an industry body. The panel engaged with the sponsors through the planning process defining expectations and providing the suggested format of their participation in the event. Vendors presenting the traditional way using slides were expected to send their presentation to the Committee of CIOs to validate the context aligned to the theme and to ensure that it made sense to the participants. Thus, the agenda, content headlines and topics (de-jargonized by the CIOs with some catchy titles) were fairly relevant to the audience comprising of a mix of business and IT representatives across the layers of management.

Every marketing executive when provided with the opportunity to deliver an address to a captive audience attempts to put in everything that the company does whether it makes sense to the target audience. The result is that anyone listening is more confused than s/he was prior to sitting through the presentation. Charts and multiple boxes with bullet points are the norm. Animations and pictures add to the already crowded slides.

With a few exceptions, the changes to the pitch comprised of slashing the number of slides to fewer than 20 and making them readable even to people sitting in the back of the room. The clear message to everyone was what is the one big message you want to leave with the audience in your allotted 30 minutes ? Can you engage and provoke thought rather than outline the menu of options your company has to offer ? Given the task of reviewing 3 presentations each and ensuring that the changes are in line with expectations, the CIOs were a harried lot by the time they got into the conference. Few still escaped censorship by either citing unavailability of global speaker slides or by simply not responding.

The end result ? Few chose the case study route to deliver the benefits of their product or services; the compliant presentations created a wow for almost everyone, visible from the crowd outside their stalls. Vendors who did their own thing found the audience twiddling with their smartphones, chatting to their neighbours, dozing off, or simply walking out midway. If I was the speaker, it would be totally demoralizing for me.

In the day end debrief with one such vendor, he insisted that there is no other way to inform the audience of what his company has to offer. If the customer is not aware of the entire spectrum of offerings, how and why will s/he think about his company ? According to him, when he puts across 10 points, a few will be remembered. He refused to believe that his speech was delivered but not received.

Sigh ! some people don’t learn.

1 comment:

  1. Very correct. Often speakers forget the context in which they are asked to deliver and put on sales cap. As far audience, the very purpose of attending a conference or event is defeated. I believe that imparting some insight, knowledge, new learning or thought leadership itself awakes the audience to look around and know more about the speaker. In this situation, speaker himself then becomes a company's brand ambassdor and his purpose is also achieved. So its better, speaker should deliver in the context as also after understanding his target audience's level as well.

    An innovative way of presentation can be using Mind Maps which rules out the conventional bulleted presentation model and visually presents connected information. Easier to grasp as well.