Writing a good presentation

I had a chance to read some presentation material used for business consulting. They were magnificent, not because they use tons of colorful pictures taken at fabulous office. Here are the important lessons I learned during going through the slides:

* Let the customer realize the common knowledge
As a technical support personnel I frequently have chance to introduce my company’s technology and product line-up to the customers. I sometimes fall in this trap, specially when we have a breakthrough offering: focusing on how excellent or innovative the solution is, talk about that difference for 20 minutes and realize the customers doesn’t seemed to be impressed at all, and as a result I am lost as well, not knowing how to bring their attention back.

What was missing? Was I too fast? Did I use too many jargons? Or was it because the topic wasn’t interesting at all for them? I stopped thinking too much to find out the answer and instead focused on not being too nervous or too much in a hurry while presenting, so that I can read the customer’s expression on time. As long as I have the capacity to absorb what’s going on, I will understand the reason in the long end… And now, I think I got one clue. I skipped too many “obvious” things for us and tried to go directly to the answer. But maybe, the obvious wasn’t obvious for the customers…

I remember Po Bronson, who wrote What should I do with my life? (I will blog about this sometime: one of the most memorable book of 2003) telling why he attended a writing course for years before becoming an independent writer, knowing writing cannot entirely be taught in a classroom.
In order to break the rules, you have to learn the rules.
Making sure everybody is aware that there is a rule, must be done before we attempt to show the way around.

OK, so is it just a matter of changing my attitude? Can I be a good presenter from the next day? And again, I think I know the answer. No. It dawned me that the true reason I skipped explaining those basic topics is, that I COULDN’T. I didn’t understand what the hell they are about. I can say, “This A is very good for doing B, and if you want to go more, we have this option C”. But if any customer asked me this question, I would have frozen.
“What is A?”
I am now glad I they were kind to me.

Why going through those material was so pleasing? Because it was created by people who know what they are doing, for what reason. It’s not written explicitly, but every single word, picture, color is created or chosed according to the unspoken standard. When they show the fresh idea, I know it’s fresh because I have already digested the “old” concept enough.
Merely showing what’s different or what’s new compared to the old is 100 times easier than showing what it is truly about. No wonder I couldn’t convey the message to the customers. Reading the material and memorizing it is one thing. Understanding the material and explain it in my own words, distilling the essense, is quuuuuuuuuuuuite another.

One more lesson.
* Don’t write long comments, don’t assume the customer know what’s explained, but don’t patronize them.
Maybe I know what they are about. The last one is subtle but crucial. It is so easy to treat the unexperienced customer like a dork, making him feel like a dork. How can I avoid this? I guess, rather, I am sure, it is called love.

Thank you, Fujiko san. And now I am starting to understand your remark in the December entry.

Captain Nathan Algren in the Last Samurai practices Japanese swordsmanship for a few months, and he becomes a master. I can laugh it off in parodies, but I find it difficult to just swallow it in this kind of movie, even with understanding that it’s objective is to entertain.

I don’t have time to comment on the contents, might blog the other day.