Show & tell

Loyal readers of my blog will know that I made it a habit to publish a post while attending the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. In case you missed some of these articles or would like to revisit one or more of them, here’s the list to date:

Unfortunately, there’s no MWC Barcelona this year, no crema catalana this week and no special blog post today.

The GSMA, who organizes this yearly mega event, has cancelled MWC 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak. The day before, my company had already announced that they pulled out for the same reason. A wise decision by both parties, since it would have been very difficult – if not impossible – to safeguard the health and well-being of me and my colleagues, as well as of the tens of thousands international visitors.

Image by 3dman_eu (pixabay.com, CC0 1.0)

So, today, I’m writing these words with mixed feelings. I really appreciate my employer’s concern for the health and well-being of its employees and customers. But… I also spent the past months defining and creating an exciting experiential demo, which I would have loved seeing go-live in Barcelona this morning.

Well, there’s also a light on the horizon: while communicating their withdrawal from MWC 2020, my company also announced series of “Nokia Live” events with which we will go directly to our customers and showcase them the industry-leading demos we prepared for the Mobile World Congress.

For obvious environmental, family and cost reasons, however, you can’t fly a hundred demo presenters around the globe for a few months. Live streaming, digital content and virtual presence will certainly provide alternatives to physical travel. But one can also educate local people to deliver the respective demonstrations.

That’s why I’ve already started creating a Show & Tell script for the demo I was supposed to give in Barcelona today. The Show & Tell concept is dead simple and implementation doesn’t need much more effort than doing a dress rehearsal of your demonstration. Run it for your colleagues and ask one of them to record it with his/her smartphone. Or just do it in front of a mirror and use a selfie stick.

The video will translate in a two-column document. One column is to be headed “show this” and the other “tell this”. In the first column you iterate the storyboard of your demo, while in the second one you just write down the corresponding transcript of your filmed narrative.

It’s easy as pie and, believe me, your distant colleagues will truly appreciate your effort. Send them the document together with the video source. They will be able to personalize the story, adapt the demo in function of time and audience, and translate the transcript to their local language.

A report from the zoo

I participated to a business strategy meeting this week. And while taking notes, I realized how many animal idioms we’re actually using in our daily conversations at the office. Here are a few notable ones I picked up from my colleagues’ interventions:

  • Don’t poke the bear. When poked during their hibernation, bears may become quite angry. You shouldn’t poke a bear for your own well-being. As such, poking a bear stands for provoking someone into becoming upset or angry. You may have seen an alternative version, never tickle a sleeping dragon (draco dormiens nunquam titillandus), in Harry Potter as the motto of Hogwarts.
  • Pour blood in the ocean and the sharks will come. Sharks can detect a single drop of blood in the ocean from a mile away. As most of you have probably seen the movie Jaws, you wouldn’t want to attract sharks to share your swimming pool, right? And I’m sure you don’t want to expose your or your company’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities to a competitor either.
  • Like a bull walking into the customer. When someone is like a bull in a china shop, he/she very clumsy and careless in the way that he/she moves or behaves. So, you can imagine the outcome of a salesman walking like a bull into a meeting with a possible customer.
  • Gaining consensus is like herding cats. Cats are not known to be the easiest animal species to manage or control. As such, herding cats is an idiom used to say that trying to organize something, or to control or align a group of people (like students or a company team) can be very difficult. BTW, The Herding Cats is also the name of a fantastic cover band that I saw perform a few times in the past.

It was a good meeting and I’m sure that the mountain didn’t give birth to a mouse. The latter is an expression that we use in Dutch (actually, it has its origin from Horace’s Ars Poetica). Its English equivalent rather sounds like making a mountain out of a molehill.

The Nokia office I work at, when I’m not traveling, is located near the Antwerp Zoo. Next time I am preparing a business meeting or creating a customer presentation, I might pay an inspirational visit to my animal neighbors next door…

PS: there’s another animal idiom (which I kind of invented myself) that I have often used on this blog. If you don’t remember why a business presenter should never feed the chameleons, then have another look at this post:

The sense and nonsense of dry runs

Just as I have done for the past 10 years, I spent the last week of February at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Four long days in a row representing my company, talking to customers, demonstrating exciting new technologies, and telling the same story ad infinitum. To my feeling, at least a few hundred times.

The team started with the preparation of this monster event (see the list of earlier blog posts that I have written about MWC at the bottom of this page) months ago. We invested hours and hours in creating our pitch, elaborating our story, and preparing our demo. We built message houses, crafted storyboards and wrote scenarios. And we went through many dry run sessions.

After having returned from Barcelona, I can only observe and conclude that what I told the booth visitors on day 4 was completely different from the story we prepared for day 1, and from what we had rehearsed so many times. Actually, each time I gave our demo, my narrative sounded more balanced and seemed to be much more appreciated by the audience. So, why didn’t we think of this particular detail or include that specific use case already months ago? Well, because repeating your story in front of a real-life audience is so much different from rehearsing it in front of your direct colleagues or giving a virtual sales briefing via a conference call. Each time I presented the demo – live! – to yet another customer group the messaging became more stable, more fluent and more sophisticated. Yes, I’m the guy on the picture below with the blue Nokia shirt and the (high-tech, though silly looking) brainwave-sensing headband. While delivering my pitch, I discovered what worked and what didn’t. Being able to experience the body language and getting feedback signals from your listeners at a meter’s distance is what really made – and makes – the difference. It’s really not about what you prepared or rehearsed, but about how you deliver your story. And about how your customers react to it. And about the face-to-face Q&A and discussions you have with them afterwards.

So, what’s the use of going through a long preparation and rehearsal process and what’s the sense of doing dry-runs, if after only one day at the Fira you’re delivering a completely different and better demo than the one you arranged for? And is all this preparation effort then really a waste of time?

Certainly not. Any good public speech starts with knowing your audience, defining your pitch, building your storyboard, and creating your presentation. I’ve explained this in my post about the 3 p’s of a professional public presenter. All this upfront activity is useful, needed and necessary. But, at the end of the day the proof of the pudding is in the eating – by the people who came to your booth. And their reactions on our latest Barcelona demo have been great!

Here are the links to other posts I have published during, after or about the Mobile World Congress:

Entertain. Educate. Engage.

In an older article about “five do’s and don’ts for speakers at B2B events,” I briefly touched upon organizers and audiences’ expectations of presenters at public events. I identified them as the 3 E’s: entertain, educate, and engage.

Well, I’m once again at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and as with previous editions I attended, I’m dedicating a blog post to my impressions, learnings, and experience from/at one of the biggest technology shows on earth.

This year I’m at the Nokia booth again, delivering a presentation about the future home entertainment experience. I’m talking about how new technologies, new business models, and evolving consumer behavior are changing the nature of, and the way we consume video content. I’m performing in a quite spectacular setup, that we nicknamed our video cave.

This brings me to the first of the 3E’s:

  • Entertain: while preparing for the event, I have intensely worked together with the creative agency that built the booth and created some exclusive video content for the demo. And IMHO the result is amazing. My narrative – a mix of trend watching, storytelling, and use case examples – is supported by spectacular 180° surround video images that occupy 3 walls and 33 display monitors.

My company is in business, and so am I. As such I, am expected to be more than just a booth entertainer. That’s why my demo also educates and calls for engagement.

  • Educate: I’m talking about our vision on how video, AR, and VR content will be produced, distributed, and consumed in 2025. What it means for service providers and their customers. I’m talking about the “why” and the “how,” and not about the “what” (do you still remember my post about the golden circle?). I’m showing a short video about our vision, and then I explain the role of technology and my company’s products, but I don’t go into the details and neither do I push a hard sales message.

  • Engage: I always try to keep my talk conversational and adapt it to each session’s audience (I’m giving 15-20 presentations each day, and MWC visitors are a mix of international telecom executives, service marketers, and technology experts.)Those are often the best moments of the day, when I just sit down and have a good conversation with people about the things I’m telling and about their daily and future business – while collecting business cards, and taking lead information.

And when I receive positive response from my audience or when our Chinese competitors nod approvingly from behind their camera phones, I feel that I’ve done a good job.

But, of course, spending a whole week at a big event like the Mobile World Congress is so much more than giving presentations and demos. It’s also reconnecting with colleagues and friends you haven’t seen for a year, and enjoying tapas and a good glass of wine with them at night.

Here are the other posts I’ve written about/at the MWC:

The 4th P

Although the title of this post would make a great title for a crime novel, it’s actually a follow-up on the most visited article that I have published on this blog to date. In “The 3 p’s of a professional public presenter” I argued that in this era of content, communication, conversation, and customer experience, a marketer’s capability to create a decent message house, translate it into a captivating story, and use it to engage with a specific audience is probably more essential than mastering Jerome McCarthy’s 4 P’s: price, promotion, product and place.

And then I introduced an alternative “3P” model that summoned business presenters to take control of their pitch, their preparation, and their presentation. Well, I was wrong or, rather, incomplete. The desirable speaker’s mix consists of four P’s – not just three. I realized this when reading a biographical article about Beethoven, in which I found this quote attributed to the German composer:

“To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable.” ― Ludwig van Beethoven

You may now have guessed that the 4th P stands for passion. And though it’s less tangible than the 3 other ones – a skill that can’t be acquired by training and a genuineness that can’t be rehearsed – it’s probably the P with the biggest impact on the outcome of your presentation. Passion is the x-factor that sets you apart from the average speaker, that leaves your audience with an authentic impression, and that creates an incentive for them to engage with you.

(photo: John Belushi as Beethoven)

Just like enthusiasm, passion is contagious. Combined with an appropriate pitch, a thorough preparation, and a well-rehearsed presentation, it provides you with a unique set of chords to compose, conduct, and perform your next master piece.

“From the glow of enthusiasm I let the melody escape. I pursue it. Breathless I catch up with it. It flies again, it disappears, it plunges into a chaos of diverse emotions. I catch it again, I seize it, I embrace it with delight… I multiply it by modulations, and at last I triumph in the first theme. There is the whole symphony.” – Ludwig van Beethoven

 

Smile and the world will smile with you

The success of a presentation often depends upon your interaction with the people in the room. To create a true dialog between a speaker and his/her audience, it’s important that they both feel comfortable with each other’s presence. Presenters who aren’t capable of building this rapport may fail to communicate their message, lose their audience’s trust, or deter the latter from asking questions or engaging.

As such, body language and non-verbal communication are powerful tools for putting people at ease while helping yourself to relax. Use positive gestures… Make eye contact… Smile…

(image by Semcon)

A few weeks ago, I delivered a keynote presentation at Connected Cars Europe. One of the sessions at the event touched upon the relationship between self-driving cars and pedestrians. Of course the speaker covered the obligatory ethical minefield of the driverless car forced to decide whether it would kill a group of elderly people rather than a woman with a stroller.

The presenter also gave an interesting answer to the question on how autonomous vehicles may interact with humans to enhance their safety perception. Pedestrians crossing the road often engage with motorists – driving towards or waiting at the intersection – by making eye contact to make sure that the driver noticed them. But how would they feel when this driver is reading a newspaper (while the car is doing all the work on his behalf) or even when there is no person at all sitting behind the steering wheel?

Research has revealed that almost than 60% of pedestrians don’t trust self-driving cars. That’s why a Swedish company introduced a concept car with a front radiator grille display that… smiles at pedestrians. Watch the video below.

This smiling car is just one possible way for future self-driving vehicles to communicate with people around them and avoid confusion or accidents. And just like the public speaker and his audience, both the car driver (or driverless passenger) and the pedestrian will enjoy the experience, and feel more at ease when crossing the street.

Making the volcano

I once started a presentation workshop with this exercise: “Describe how you would use a volcano as a metaphor for presenting your business plan to investors?”

As I wrote in my “begin the beginning” post, a query or a poll may be a good means for grabbing your audience’s attention. So the question resulted in an active brainstorming session, and the answers from the group included statements such as “it’s about fire and passion”, “an eruption of words”, “a mountain to climb”, “need to assess the risks”, …

Then I came up with my “volcano making kit”, a construction toy with fast drying plaster and paint that I found on the internet. I actually used it as a metaphor myself for introducing a series of tips, tools and best practices for preparing and delivering a business presentation – the kind of topics I frequently write about on this blog.

volcano_making_kit

And also my call for action at the end of the training stayed within the perimeter of the volcano, since I finished with one of my favorite Tom Peters quotes:

Tom_Peters_passion

Simplicity always works

Yesterday I was confronted with a complex and technical topic to be presented to our customers. To be honest, it took me quite some time to fully grasp the full scope of the solution we offered, as well the associated business proposition.

Albert Einstein once said:

 “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself,”

so I decided to take a helicopter view, apply the KISS principle and build a message house. As such, I iterated both the problem and the solution, until I could fit everything into an overarching value statement (roof) and three simple key messages (pillars).

The final result, was –at least in my humble opinion– a good piece of work. A short, sweet and simple presentation, not obscured by technical details, that explained the big picture, the pains and the gains on a handful of slides. I’m not sure if my six-year-old niece will understand it (yet), but there aren’t that many little Einsteins after all.

albert_einstein

When driving back home last night, a composition by Charles Mingus played on my car radio, which made me remember another quote, attributed to this American jazz musician:

“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesome simple, that’s creative.”

Another creative day in the life of a business storyteller had passed. A day on which I look back with a simple feeling of satisfaction.

The joy of presenting naked

In my previous post, I wrote about a situation in which I was confronted with a broken projector, and as such (almost) forced to present “nakedly”. For those who might get wrong thoughts: naked presenting is delivering a presentation without slides (and without hesitation.)

It’s nothing new. The art of storytelling dates from long before PowerPoint and the projector were ever invented. But nowadays, too manypresenters hide themselves behind their slide deck. Although some of the best public speakers I know don’t need (and a few of them don’t use) any visuals to deliver an outstanding talk.

bare_feet

Naked presenting lets you concentrate on your audience and on your message instead of on your Powerpoint-style presentation tools (see also my reasons for not using Prezi.)

For a naked presenter, less is more!

  • When you need to invest less time in graphic material preparation, you can spend more time on building your story, and practicing and rehearsing it.
  • When you’re relying less upon the laptop in front, you have more space to move around the stage and face the people in the back of the room.
  • When you count less on the sexiness of your slides, you may discover the expressive power of your voice and body language.
  • When you give them no slides to read from, people will more attentively listen to your words.
  • When you put less energy in trying to impress your audience (don’t confuse a naked presenter with an exhibitionist!,) you will probably establish a better emotional contact with them.

If –after all these convincing arguments– you’re still too shy to go full monty in front of your customers, you can leave your hat on... and use a flip chart and a few markers to cover your nakedness.

A final note for those in the audience: things may not always be what they seem. It’s a known fact that even Barack Obama uses a teleprompter on the sly.

If you have some spare time, read the revealing Presentation Zen post about presenting naked by Garr Reynolds, as well as these other articles: