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BLUF: I have been tasked with presenting new features to our user base in an upcoming conference. Are there any suggestions any of you could provide that will help me impress both the customer and my management?

The presentation incorporates a demonstration of the new items that have been added to the software as well as any business changes (new training programs, new tech support changes, etc.). It usually lasts about 2 hours and the audience is comprised of about 225 users.

It is a once a year event and I would like it to be a great success. I have done it one other time and, while I felt it was mediocre, some customers told me it was well done. In either case, I would like to improve.

I listened to the podcasts about presenting and presenting with PowerPoint. Are there any other podcasts I missed?

Thank you in advance for any suggestions.

TomW's picture

I think you've found all the casts on that topics.

I've given a LOT of presentations in my life, some better than others. A few things I've found that help:
- PRACTICE! Even if it's just in front of a mirror, your spouse, or your cat, doing a dry run helps a lot. Get out any pauses, "um", "ah", and other fillers.
- look around the room, making eye contact with different people scattered around the room. It might make you a little nervous at first, but it helps people feel you connected with them. You can practice this at home, focusing on certain points in the room like a window, a TV, and a bookcase, pretending they are people.
- project your voice. If you're not using a microphone, make sure everyone can hear you. If you can speak up, it sounds more confident.

If you have the time, you could drop in on a local Toastmasters meeting, too.

Since this is software and you are presenting to your users, I would be tempted to show the weaker new features first and the unbearably cool ones later, slowly building the level of excitement in the room. I've seen a good "new feature" presenter get applause (assuming a couple features were really great)

ctomasi's picture

[list]
* Practice, practice, practice. Practice in front of a mirror, perhaps a video camera. What your body language and make sure it agrees with your verbal message.
* Put yourself in the customer's place. "What's in it for me?"
* Perhaps "beta test" your presentation on a couple customers and get their input.
[/list:u]

jhack's picture

Two hours is long. A few things to consider:

Break it up. Play a short video in the middle and turn up the lights when it's over. (Lighting changes shake people out of doldrums).

Give them a 5 minute break right the before the big demo.

Be very energetic.

Check out Steve Jobs introducing new products (iPhone, etc) on YouTube. Man, he's good. You can't be Steve, but watch how he works.

Visit the room beforehand, get up on stage, walk around, check out the video and sound systems ahead of time, etc etc. You should have the technical aspects out of the way early.

John

HMac's picture

FistCheese -

Here's a link to a great podcast about demos that I just listened to a couple of weeks ago. "Secret Techniques for Creating Compelling Demos"

http://theinnovativemarketer.blogs.com/ideas/2008/05/the-secret-tech.html

Two thoughts struck me when I read your post (OK, four - but Chuck and Tom already told you to practice, and hack already told you to break up the two hours :lol: ):

Eliminate unecessary parts of the demo (for example, showing people how you log in). When you think about it, it's pretty common to start a demo as if the audience is using the product from scratch - and it's pretty tedious to watch the presenter log in, navigate through welcome screens, etc.

Don't save the interesting features for last. Do the most compelling and most relevant stuff right away. Unless you're a practiced showman, the audience will NOT stay with you through a long "buildup."

Enjoy the podcast.

-Hugh

JThorogood's picture

Thanks for all the great advice.

Luckily, we have a small training room I will be using to polish the presentation.

It never occurred to me to check out other presentations on youtube. That will be fun to see what others do right or wrong.

The debate over the compelling features is one I am having as well. I initially thought to present them first so the customers get the impression that we are developing a great product. If it is presented first, I will get that message across before I lose them. But at the same time, ending the presentation with a feature that really blows them away sounds like fun. This will be an interesting couple of weeks.

-Jeff

HMac's picture

Jeff - you might be confusing business communication with drama. It's unlikely that you have any feature "that really blows them away." Sorry. Unless you're introducing the iPhone, you're probably wise to build a presentation that communicates information crisply, clearly and with relevance to the specific needs of your audience, and not try to wow 'em.

The best presentations are based on real and specific knowledge about the audience. And they're organized around this knowledge.

So make sure any new features you're really highlighting have a basis in the users' actual needs, and they're not just someting dreamed up by engineering or product development.

-Hugh

JThorogood's picture

Good thought. I'll let the Owner and GM use the drama when opening before me.

HMac's picture

I forgot to suggest that you do some audience research as part of building your presentation. Call a sample of the user base. Email a brief survey, or set something up on SurveyMonkey. Review any logs you have or any correspondence you've received about exisitng or new features.

You already know everyhting you need to know about the product. Go to school on learning everything you can about the audience!

Good luck!

-Hugh

JThorogood's picture

I thought I would post an update in case anyone finds this thread and wants to know what was the most beneficial.

First, thanks again for all the advice.

I found that the most important suggestion was to gear the presentation towards what was important to the customer. The "what's in it for me" comment really helped me tailor the presentation to answer that question.

Taking that approach was very different from what we have done in the past. That and presenting the most "important" features first. It allowed the audience to see what they wanted first rather than waiting 2 hours for a grand finale.

Finally, practice. I have done minimal practice in the past but I took this far more seriously. I think this made a huge impact on the presentation. In fact, several customers complimented me on the presentation.

I hope this information helps someone else. It really helped me.

-Jeff

HMac's picture

Congratulations Jeff - and thanks for completing the story.