Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Another Bad Presentation

Last week I was at a Telstra function.

One of the speakers was from Cisco and it was a really, really, really bad presentation. Half an hour of rambling with no point, no start, no middle and no end.

I walked out of the session wondering if anyone at Cisco actually sat through the presentation before they let this guy loose on an unsuspecting public. The presentation was delivered by the guy who claimed he was going to drive Cisco's push into the SMB market with reasonably priced, high performance equipment, blah, blah, blah...

I mean even the Microsoft presentation, long and wordy as it was held my interest far more than this Cisco thing did, it had a focus. The Cisco thing, didn't, it had no focus and I didn't know what was being pitched. It was a bad presentation and there was no other way to look at it.

There was no story to compel me to listen. There was no "here's the problem and now let me show you how we're going to solve it for you".

It was just a bland recitation of fact.

I left the session with no new information and no new insights other than feeling like I'd wasted half an hour.

In reality I blame Telstra for this. Where were their guys checking on the quality of the presentation before having it inflicted on the invited customers?

This is no way to drum up new business.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

...and would you like fries with that?

Everyone who isn’t in IT support thinks their IT support sucks! Everyone in IT support thinks that their users suck!

They’re both right.

A while back I came across a piece by Leon Gettler entitled “Help Desks and Techno-Stress” that looked at the divide between IT support staff and users. I also came across a piece called The unspoken truth about why your IT sucks which is another side to the same argument.

While I don’t disagree with either of these arguments in principle I think that the answer to the problems described in these pieces can be distilled down to the fact that, the expectation gap from either side of the tech support question is where everything falls down.

Users expect retail service and tech support staff deliver professional services - one type of service is based on the customer is always right while the other is based on professional recommendations. They are different.

Go into McDonald’s and ask for a burger and the first thing they’ll ask is “and would you like fries with that?”

If you ask your tax agent to cook the books so that you pay no tax he’ll say “No. I can’t do that”.

Both answers represent good customer service!

You may not like the answer from your tax agent but its the right answer and that’s the difference between retail service and professional service and a tech support desk is providing  professional services. In many cases they are protecting users from themselves.

How often have corporate 1st level support staff heard “if you guys can’t do this then we should be able to go somewhere else to get this done”. That’s retail service expectation. In this case the problem is that the “other” support guy doesn’t know the corporate environment, what are the restrictions, policies and constraints and will create even bigger problems that will have to come back to the corporate support desk to fix.

ICT environments are becoming more and more complex, users are demanding platforms other than Windows, they want to have a choice of mobile handsets and they are more tech-savvy. This increases the workload on the ICT team exponentially and they are having to support an ever expanding list of technology.

There is a cost associated with this expansion - a big one - so your support team needs to find a way to manage this expectation. They only have one weapon in their arsenal and that is to toe the line and keep telling you the honest truth about what’s right and what isn’t.

That means that sometimes they’re going to have to tell you that you can’t have what you want.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Worst. Presentation. Ever.

I have just sat through the most astoundingly, mind bogglingly bad Powerpoint presentation I have ever seen!

It was a novel, not a presentation. Each slide was dense with prose and the presenter read the content to me. It felt like Play School for adults hosted by a talentless drone with the imagination of a cardboard box!

Seriously, it was so bad that after the presentation I asked the guy how he was going to make good the 90 minutes of my life he consumed with this dribble.

Its just not that hard guys. Really!

Watch any presentation by Steve Jobs, they are great and I don’t mean when viewed through an Apple Reality Distortion Field they're great object lessons in good presentation, from content to delivery. No matter what you think of Apple and Jobs, give the man his due, he gives great presentation!

Let me explain some of my rules for what makes a good presentation:

  1. Don’t read your slides to me. I am an adult and I can read - sometimes I don’t even have to move my lips.
  2. If I can understand the content of your presentation just by looking at the slides - its a document.
  3. A good picture is worth a thousand words - a cheesy image makes you look, well, cheesy.
  4. Less is more.
  5. Consistent look and feel is good. A different wipe and effect on every slide is not.
  6. Just because you think you are a good presenter doesn’t make it so.
  7. Good presentations take time, bad ones suck forever!
  8. Engage me.

Now I’m not saying I’m a great presenter but I think I do a good job and I’ve given a few presentations in my life where I haven’t put people to sleep.

A presentation is you making a pitch, don’t give the audience your document in bullet points, engage them with your delivery and explanation. Tell them a story that makes them buy into your vision.

A long time ago Aristotle came up with a brilliant concept that he detailed in Poetics, this concept is the secret to great presentations and I’ll let you in on it. The secret is that every good story has a beginning, middle and end. As a presenter you are telling a story. Your story. The story that you want to tell your audience.

If you don’t buy into your story no one else will. Instinctively you know the difference between The Godfather and Attack of the Killer Tomatos, the difference between a good story and a really bad one. Its no different with a presentation.

Your presentation can either be a story that inspires your audience or one that puts them to sleep.