There’s a ton going on here at Progress, and a lot of it affects me. I’ve been particularly quiet, in part because the things happening aren’t necessarily what I’m able to speak about openly. It’s a judgment call of course, as I have no editor but my own ethical conscience.
In particular, I’d like to weigh in on the Savvion acquisition we just completed and my new role. But, I don’t feel comfortable doing either just yet.
I recently had the opportunity to present to the entire company during our annual sales conference keynote; a presentation that was streamed out to all our offices. I’ve got the recording, and I believe it to be appropriate to share that experience as part of my online resume/blog.
So, what you’ll hear/watch/read here is a bit about our go to market strategy and message through the charade of an executive sales call that uses a solution demonstration to convince a fictional CEO, Pete, of the value that Progress can help him and his company achieve.
In our scenario, I was presenting to the CEO of a logistics company with the objective of getting his support to take our proposal/project to the board with his recommendation to move it forward. I had never met the CEO, but we had worked with his “underlings” prior to gather the right information and understand this company’s pains and needs.
The Delivery Strategy & What I Learned
While I was preparing, I spoke to a bunch of our top speakers and product strategists within the company, and bounced ideas off their experience. I recommend doing this… for me, as I talk about what I’ll be presenting, I get comfortable with the words, the concepts and the flow which then makes me smoother on stage. One guy in particular, Rick Kuzyk, gave me some good advice:
When you’re talking to a CEO, they delegate you to the person they feel most closely relates to what you tell them. If you start talking about technology, they’ll delegate you to their CIO. If you start talking about operations, they’ll delegate you to their COO. If you want to keep his attention, you’ve got to speak to what he relates to.
Or something like that. Rick’s one of our Power Messaging experts, and a fantastic instructor. He gave one of the best training’s I’ve ever been to, so if you’re a Progress employee get your ass to one of his Power Messaging classes!
3 other things I’d like to mention about presentation/delivery strategy:
Amount said. Frankly, this was the biggest “a‑hah! moment” for me. I had 10 minutes in the agenda, but was asked to do a 5 minute pitch. I ended up at 7 1/2 minutes. I knew the 3 key capabilities I wanted to speak about, and how those would present Pete with value. I also knew how I had to show (remember, it was a demo-driven pitch) the solution in a way that highlighted those values. The three key values I chose were (1) visibility, (2) sense & respond, and (3) process optimization. The key ways to describe differentiation were (1) use their existing stuff so no major upgrades/investment required, (2) rapid time to value, and (3) highly performant/scalable even with a huge amount of information that we were sensing and responding to. I wanted to tell Pete what I was going to tell him, tell/show him, and then tell him what I told him. I wanted to use case studies to reinforce the key points, and close by asking for his support to take this to the board.
By the time I outlined that, I realized I didn’t have a whole lot of time to say all that! It doesn’t seem like a lot, but since I was essentially repeating myself multiple times (and that’s a technique you should use purposely — it reinforces your key messages and helps people know what’s important about what you’re going to tell them), I didn’t have much time at all.
Actually how little I had to say to fill that time was a really big surprise. I ended up using only one case study, but I believe it was enough. You’ll see for yourselves in a few.
Speed at which it was said. I know from competition that people always move faster when they’re under pressure. Even when you think you’re moving slow, you should move slower. So, it didn’t come as much of a surprise that I needed to talk slower, and that I would feel like I was talking too slow. I was fascinated though, when I saw the video below… my speed was really good. It looked like a natural pace. I hope knowing this makes it easier for me to be slower in the future.
Tempo at which it was said. I’m a bit of a showman. Not unexpected, I’ve been performing/competing for almost 30 years. I was surprised at how many people in the audience, when they congratulated me afterward (thank you all for your support!) chose their one comment to be about the tempo at which I presented. You’ll see me get on the stage and first just look across the whole audience. That was for me. I have a lot of friends in the audience and I knew that if I were at all nervous, seeing them would remind me where I was and that I would have their support. It also gave me a few seconds to gather my thoughts and be fully present, both of which would translate to my body language and presence.
Once I started the pause, I realized something else. I could feel the audience ask themselves the question “what’s he going to say?” Had I started right in, people would have been listening. But, by waiting, they pulled themselves in. I let the anticipation build just enough for some tension to grow… and that not only engaged them more, but lifted my energy for the delivery. I continued to use tempo through the presentation to keep the audience (and Pete) engaged, and to help them focus on the key points.
By the way, if any of my students are reading. We do the same thing in iaido. You don’t want a flat tempo when you do a kata. You need to make your enemy come alive. You do that, in part, with the tempo in which you present the kata. Hooper Sensei, as a musician, is really good at explaining this concept.
There was fundamentally one slide, and three components to the demo which show just as well as screen shots, as they do as point-and-click recorded demos. The slide setup the context, with the left side used first before the demo, and the right side used for the second half of the demo — when I talk about pursuing new business opportunities in addition to solving problems. The first screen shot was used for the demo around solving problems, the last two were the parts about pursuing new business opportunities. Listen for me to say something like “you’ll see that the service level delivered is the same for expedited biologicals as it is for regular shipments…” that’s the second screen shot. The third screen shot shows the results after implementing new business processes to specifically target this new business opportunity. I’ll make more sense in about 5 1/2 or 6 minutes, I promise!
Holy cow, YouTube is cool! I annotated the video to let you know which slide/screen-shot I’m talking to.
It was received amazingly well. I had a great time, but I also felt like I accomplished what I set out to accomplish. I stumbled once or twice while speaking, but I bet you couldn’t tell that the monitors in front of me weren’t working properly! You might have noticed one quick glance over my shoulder to make sure it was just my monitors and that the audience could see what I was talking to. Or, you might have noticed a grin at one point when they came back.
Forget about me though (for just one second). We accomplished our goal of demonstrating three Progress products truly integrated into a single solution with a clear message as to the value. And, the value was aligned clearly to our corporate value of Operational Responsiveness. In doing all this, we gave our field the confidence that we can deliver — even though we’ve only recently acquired Savvion.
Oh, and I got a new nickname from my new boss. I’m sure the hair had nothing to do with the fact that I’m now known as ‘Hollywood.’ It’s all about “the show” and the show must go on. I can live with that.