Category Archives: marketing

Another GREAT presentation by Steve Jobs

Here was Steve Jobs introducing iPad2. Notice not a bullet point in sight. His graphics are simple and straight to the point. He was having a conversation with his audience. He rehearsed enough to know which slide came next. But he did not memorize his talk. He just knew what he was talking about. And best of all – he was having FUN!!!

This is how a presentation should be done.

Always give examples

In all your presentations, always give examples and be as specific as you can. Instead of telling your audience what you are saying, SHOW them by way of examples.


The fast-food chain Jack in the box has a sustainability page on its website. Most environmental sustainability statements are like mission statements – fuzzy, ill-defined with a bunch of happy talk.

Jack in the box is an exception.

It gives specific examples. It tells the world it has installed smart irrigation controls and low flow kitchen and plumbing fixtures which “could reduce water usage by up to a million gallons a year”.

It has increased the amount of recycled materials by “more than 20 percent”.

It has “diverted more than 50 percent” of its corporate office’s trash away “from local landfills”.

It has “decreased electricity usage by more than 7 percent in natural gas usage by 95 percent” at its corporate office.

The list goes on. The specific examples with numbers give the audience something to relate to. They can relate to the magnitude of the accomplishment.

It would be very easy to make a presentation on this without putting the audience in a deep coma.

You want to communicate “enough” – not “everything”

In my previous post, I talked about how some bad presentations try to define “marketing strategy” and put up “mission statement”

In the bad presentation, it tries to define marketing strategy as something that involves the activities of selecting and describing one or more target markets and developing and maintaining a marketing mix that will produce mutually satisfying exchanges with target markets. So here are some questions about the definition. What exactly are those activities? What other targeted markets? How do you define a marketing mix? Specifically what is meant by mutually satisfying exchanges? The list of questions can go on and on with each definition requiring more definitions. If you try to talk to somebody using language like that all you will get in response is a blank stare or ridicule. Normal people do not talk that way.

As for the mission statement – this is usually one of the first things that an entrepreneur does. And the result is a painful and costly exercise that ends in “exceptional mediocrity” as Guy Kawasaki put it in his famous book the Art of the Start. Every mission statement says the same thing.

Let’s look at a major soda company’s mission statement. It states that it “wants to be the world’s premier consumer products company focused on convenient foods and beverages. We seek to produce healthy financial rewards to investors as we provide opportunities for growth and enrichment to our employees, our business partners and the communities in which we operate. And in every thing we do, we strive for honesty and fairness and integrity.”

So who would not want to say all these nice things? My God – we have premier, healthy financial rewards, enrichment, honesty, fairness and integrity! The only things this company has left out in the mission statement are motherhood and apple pie. So it wants to be the best in the world and the one to make lots and lots of money and be nice to everybody. What else is new? Do we need to see and hear that in a PowerPoint presentation?

Another idiotic thing we often see in presentation is business plan. Every new business startup spends tons of money hiring consultants to draw up business plans. And every business plan pretty much says the same thing: we see this fantastic market in the world and we hope to make a gazillion dollars in five years’ time. What else is new? In order to attract investors, most of these business plans will of course assume an exponential growth. If you don’t believe me, just go and read some of the business plans of real estate developers written three years ago. Or the business plans of all those hi-tech start-ups written a year before the burst of the Dot Com bubble.

Business plans are nothing more than fantasies – pure and simple. It is like saying that you have this great product that you plan to sell to every single man, woman and child in China and India and by gosh if you can just make a profit of one dollar each, your annual profit  would be $2 billion. But please tell us what you plan to do to actually get every man woman and child to buy your product. And how much would that cost you? The success of any company is in the execution of the business on a day-to-day basis, not how fanciful a five-year fairy tale looks like.

99.9% of business plans read like science fiction after one year in operation –  assuming the startup has not gone out of business by that time.

So skip the business plan in your presentation already. Just talk about how you plan to run your business realistically. Forget about all the business buzzwords. Just tell us your story. Describe your dream in terms that normal people can relate to. Not a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

That is the essence of a good presentation.

What’s on your mind when you see a bad presentation?

My friend Jim from the U.K. sent me a link to a “new alternative” to PowerPoint Presentation and asked me what I thought of it. He said it made him feel seasick. It made me drowsy after a minute. Here is what went through my mind as I viewed the presentation and gradually slipped into a coma:

“Look buddy – If you have something interesting to say to me, please say it. Tell it to me like we are having a conversation over a cup of coffee. Don’t splash a bunch of hideous words up there and expect me to read them while you mouth every bloody word of it.

For example, you don’t need to define for me the legal meaning of “marketing strategy”. Just tell me what it means to you – in plain old English. Every time you try to define some terms in a legalistic way, some smart attorney is going to tear it apart. He is going to say that you have missed something in the definition. So forget about it.

My friend – I don’t need you to tell me what your mission statement is in fine prints that are totally unreadable. Besides – mission statements are silly. Every company has pretty much the same mission statement: to make as much money as possible at the least possible cost while being the best in the industry and keeping customers happy. Have I covered everything? So what else is new? Tell me something new. Perhaps your mission statement is to not soil your undergarment while giving a boring presentation. That I would like to see on the screen.

If the subject of your talk is very complicated or technical, please give me a hard paper copy of your report and I will read it, analyze it, study it, and examine it in details later. Don’t put up your fancy equations and formulas on the screen. No one will be impressed. All you need to tell me right now is the overall layman’s view of your topic. As they say – if you can’t explain YOUR own topic to your 92 year old grand mother, it means you don’t really understand it!

You see – any fool can splash a bunch of words up there and read them. To explain them in good old plain English, that’s a different matter altogether.

So – enough of these bells and whistles. Just tell me YOUR story, please. Thank you very much.”

Ding ding ding….does my reaction ring a bell to you?

Another great video from Tom Peters

Everybody is a sales person. How true! I remember when I was in graduate engineering school many years ago and of course I thought I knew everything, I used to look down on sales people. One day I made a derogatory comment about salesmen to my engineering professor who at that time also had a thriving consulting business going. He glared at me and said “Never lose sight of the value of a great salesman”.

Ten years later, when I was working for a small consulting firm, the owner of the company used to send out a note to all his employees that read” “Nothing happens until somebody sells something.”


So next time when you make a presentation, just remember that you are the proverbial sales person SELLING something to the audience.

A sales pitch? Or not!

I got a marketing email from a friend last night and it goes like this:

“In order to grow, brands need to keep moving FORWARD.  Sometimes outside influences can make the people responsible for managing brands stand STILL and important initiatives move NOWHERE.  We seamlessly helps continue the momentum behind your innovation pipeline, while also providing a fresh perspective to optimize your strategic thinking.”

This was a presentation to solicit business from a brand consultant. It is hard to visualize what this consultant is selling. There are a lot of fuzzy words in there – like “seamlessly helps”, “continue the momentum”, “fresh perspective” and “strategic thinking”. It would be much more helpful if the consultant had provided a few specific concrete examples of what she does for her clients. Tell a story. Forget about all these “feel good” words. The term “strategic thinking” can mean 6 different things to 5 people!

All this talk about “moving forward” and “growing” is interesting. Do you really want to keep moving forward if you are heading towards the edge of a cliff? I think not. Do you want your cancerous tumor to keep growing? I hope not.

So – tell a story. Use specific examples. Use wheel barrow words – words that can be put in a wheel barrow!

Degrees of Finish – perception is reality

In Henry Boettinger’s wonderful book “Moving Mountains – the Art  and Craft of Letting Others See Things Your Way”, he describes an incident where his colleagues made a presentation to an executive before the real thing – a big presentation to a group of senior executives. The preview was superb. Every detail and lesson were brought to bear. Timing was exquisite.

When the group finished the preview, the executive just sat silently shaking his head. He told the group: “It’s no good. Your presentation is simply too slick.” The executive went on to say: “Yes, everything is perfectly clear. Yes, there is convincing evidence on every point. Yes, the alternatives all look bad. No, nothing relevant has been overlooked. Yes, it is a first-class job. Yes, you have carried out your assignment in a thoroughly professional way.”

So what was the matter with the preview?

The executive went on to say: “My colleagues will find the razzle-dazzle offensive and will become unconfortable. They will feel that they have no place at all to apply their judgment. I ‘m afraid if you show them what I saw, they will modify your proposal, and I don’t want that to happen.”

The presenters asked the executive for advice on what they should do. Here is what the executive told them:

“Make the visuals look cheaper and less finished…Miss a few cues when one man turns the story over to another. Right now you come on like professional actors. But don’t change the story’s message.”

The moral of this story from Henry Boettinger is that if your presentation comes over as being too slick (often as a result of too much rehearsal), it loses its credibility. When the audience sees you as a smooth talker (aka snake oil salesman or used car salesman), they will start to question your motive and the message of your story will get lost in the glitter.

That – by the way – is another reason why you should always keep your slides SIMPLE. No big company logo on every slide. And no cheesy clip arts and special effects! You want to keep your glitter to a bare minimum.

An example of an excellent presentation

Here is a Keynote presentation made by Steve Jobs when he introduced the iPod back in 2001. It pretty much set the standards for good presentation. Not a single bullet point in sight. The most complicated slide is at around 2:50 when he showed a 4 x 4 comparison matrix that is easy to read and elegant. It is a joy to watch. We should all study it and learn from it.

See for yourself. As they say – the rest is history.

You are all in Sales! Period.

I just love Tom Peters. He is the best speaker (sorry – I meant to say salesman) I know. Bar none. Listen to what he has to say about sales:

When you make a presentation, you are selling something to someone. You are selling an idea to your colleagues. You are selling your business proposal to potential clients. If you are a teacher, you are not really teaching – you are really selling your knowledge to your students. If your presentation sucks, your students turns you off and nothing is taught.

The term “salesman” or “sales” has gotten a bad rap. It is not cool to be called a salesman. We sometimes associate sales to used car salesman. And that’s not fair to sales. We refer to used car salesman as those people who are too slick and too unethical in their dealings with customers. It is the same in the presentation world. If a presentation is too slick or comes off too smoothly, we become suspicious of the speaker. We think he is not one of us – and rightly so too.

So that’s another reason why you should never over-rehearse your presentation to the point where people think you are too slick. It needs spontaneity. And from it comes sincerity and credibility. Without credibility, no one will buy from you.

How to manage a three-ring circus

At our last webinar, someone mentioned during the Question and Answer period that sometimes his firm has over 10 people on their presentation team to their potential clients. With this large number of speakers, you really need to do a good job in coordinating the presentation to prevent it from turning into a 10-ring circus.

I would spend no more than a few minutes introducing the team members specific background and expertise that are RELEVANT to sloving your clients’ problems. Do not allow them to talk ad nausea about themselves when they get their turn. The only time they talk about their past would be somethign like:”I just finished a big project that is very similar to yours and our clients ars saving millions of dollars as a result of our work.” 

There will have to be a leader in your group to direct questions from the audience to the one with the most experience and best oratory skill. Jump in any time when the answer is not heading in the right direction and re-direct it or answer it yourself. Sometimes you may have to speak to the overall understanding of the question and ask the most technical person in your team to supply the nuts and bolts portions of your anseer.

Another thing to watch for is continuity of lack of it in most presentations with multiple speakers. There is nothing more irritating and disjointed to hear five persons speak to the  point of their expertise without makign reference to one another’s presentation. As the Master of Ceremony, you must make sure Speaker A explains how his topic relates to what Speaker B is about to say. 

Rememvber: Every presentation is a story. You must have Act 1, Act 2 and Act 3 relate and feed to the main thrust of your story.  Instaed of spending you time rehearsing each speaker’s talk, spend your time rehearsing the transition.