Yesterday, I had the opportunity to hear Yousef Khalidi from Microsoft talk about Azure. I think the presentation was weak, though I really appreciated the long and honest QA at the end of the session, and wish more presenters had made time for one.
In particular Yousef missed a great opportunity to educate and differentiate. By creating a presentation that was at least 90% either publicly available information on his product or established information about cloud computing, his session added very little value and left people wanting more. This feeling was apparent in the both the content and tone of the questions he received.
3 things jumped out at me that we can all learn from, and it all boiled down to the thing every technology presenter needs to understand:
Differentiate or Die
Yousef’s introduction to Azure could have easily been the introduction for any of a dozen different cloud products. He talked about the same drivers and the same features as everyone else. When selling software, we don’t often see our competitor’s presentations. At a conference, watching vendor presentations back-to-back, the overlap becomes highly apparent. Those without overlap stand out brightly.
He paused at one point… and called out a bullet that said “scale out vs scale up” (or, was it “scale up vs scale out?”). He made a big deal about calling this out, and explaining how Microsoft did one, not the other. But, for the life of me, he never explained what they were, why they were important, or how Microsoft’s solution was designed uniquely to do one or the other. A missed opportunity to differentiate in his presentation.
And, that’s what the audience wanted. You see, right before the end of the QA session, one very astute questioner asked:
“How do you differentiate Azure from Amazon Web Services?”
Had I been the presenter, I would have hugged this guy at the end of the presentation. What a great question to end on.
Yousef fumbled. He responded “I don’t like to talk about my competitors, let me tell you about my product.” (That’s pretty much verbatim.)
It’s the right thing to do, not talking about your competitors directly. But, he should have responded by saying “I don’t want to speak for Amazon, but here’s what you need to know about cloud computing, and here are our differentiators…” Frame the problem to your advantage, and explain why it’s important to frame it that way. Help people understand why your product is different. That’s the goal of the presenter.
And, for anyone who thinks it’s “tricky” to “frame the problem to a vendor’s advantage” — look at it this way. A vendor’s created a product that they BELIEVE is better, because they’ve approached the problem from that perspective. It’s up to buyers to judge the value of that differentiation.