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:

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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:

Enthusiasm can be contagious

“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

Maybe you remember an earlier post that I published on this blog, titled: “Playing at a theater near you“. But last week I actually delivered a presentation in a real, authentic, former-GDR movie theater (as shown on the photo below).

intrel14

Although I have given quite a few public talks for quite large audiences in quite nice auditoriums before (I once presented in Henry VIII’s bedroom – without losing my head), this cinema location gave me a very special kick. And although I talked (as usual) about a technology related topic, in this theater environment I felt more visual storyteller than ever.

Sure I am aware that I’m a rather enthusiastic speaker by nature, but this special place probably boosted the passion in my talk even more. It is said that enthusiasm is contagious, so it was not a (very big) surprise to me that the audience shared my mood, and even reported this on their feedback forms.

QED – a cinema is a place for stories, and as a B2B storyteller I am already looking forward to presenting in such an inspiring place soon again!

Read also these blog posts:

Defy the demo devil

When it comes to product selling, a good demonstration may tell more than a thousand slides. But at the same time, an ill-prepared demo may also ruin your whole presentation – as well as your reputation.

People who have done (or participated to) live demonstrations before, know that Murphy’s law always applies and that the Demo Devil is never far away.

murphys_law

But if you stick to a few simple rules, your odds to beat this annoying creature will be bigger than ever. Some tips and tricks to prepare and deliver a successful live demonstration:

  • First of all, don’t try to boil the ocean in one single demo run. Keep it sweet, short and simple. As most of your spectators may not be very familiar with your product (yet), don’t go into the nitty-gritty technical details. Show only a few key features that really matter for your audience. Focus rather on the user experience and the value of your product than on individual features.
  • Prepare and deliver your demonstration the same way as you would do for a presentation. Tell a story. Build a message house. Structure your demo the AIDA way. Get into a dialogue with your audience. Make it a visually pleasant experience.
  • Compose a detailed demo script and freeze it. Never show an unplanned (and often untested) feature! A presentation can survive some last-minute changes, but a demonstration likely won’t. A good practice is to create a two-column “tell this – show this” cheat sheet, and not to deviate from it.
  • Arrive early, and (when possible) test and dry-run  the demo a few minutes – not a few hours! – in advance. Special caution is needed when the success of your demo is relying on an internet connection. Wi-Fi and cellular networks may start behaving badly when too many people are accessing the venue’s communication infrastructure simultaneously (watch this video to see what happened to Steve Jobs and the iPhone 4.)

  • Prepare a few slides to display with the demo, that explain e.g. the value proposition, the physical setup and the interactions you’re showing. Always keep in mind that people came to see something, so keep the narrative short – and the demo experience exciting.
  • Just like for an oral presentation, be ready to take questions from your audience – but don’t feel obliged to illustrate all your answers with an on-the-fly extension of your demo script (see my point above about not doing non-planned things). Don’t let the people leave without a product sheet to handout of your visuals.

 More tips and tricks for doing live demos can be found in these articles:

Playing at a theater near you

In this week’s post I’m writing about what was probably the most impactful, but certainly the most fun business presentation I delivered in my whole career. A genuine example of transmedia storytelling, even before the concept and the term were widely used.

In 2005 –in-between the burst of the internet bubble and the demise of Lehman Brothers– when there was still corporate money to spend on single-customer marketing campaigns, my company (at that time pre-merger Alcatel) organized a solutions showcase for a major UK customer. To generate interest and create an upfront hype, we organized it as a private event near the customer’s London headquarters and promoted it as a Hollywood blockbuster movie: “The Convergence Factor”.

tcf

The Convergence Factor theme was chosen to highlight the effect that the availability of broadband technologies and the convergence of telecom services (fixed and mobile, voice and data, communications and entertainment, …) could have on people’s every day lives. Consequently, the script of the showcase was emphasizing on the business value of these converging technologies, the opportunity to create new applications, and the unprecedented user experience they were enabling – rather than doing a sales pitch on our products or solutions.

A tagline “Life Held Them Prisoner, Until Convergence Set Them Free” complemented the title to suggest drama, and intrigue and engage our target audience. All campaign elements such as direct mails, teaser trailer, web portal, event signage and give-away gadgets were also branded with the Convergence Factor identity.

The presentation itself was delivered as a transmedia mix of three distinctive, on-stage narratives with live demos, interspersed by tailor-made Hollywood-style movie trailers produced by Twist & Shout, a UK-based communications agency.

Instead of doing one single performance in front of a plenary audience, we decided to present intimately to groups of 5 to 10 people, who could freely register for a session depending on their availability.  As such, my colleague and I gave 15 presentations over a period of 5 days, and reached out to an audience of almost 150 customer executives.

Have a look at the trailer and the movies, and try to imagine what the presentation might have been like. I’m sure our customer still remembers…