Presentation Tips

After sitting through four vendor presentations at Storage Decisions yesterday, I felt the urge to blog about it.  They ranged from mediocre to incredibly bad.  I’m certainly not the best presenter in the world, but I do all right, and I do think I’ve got a few tips to pass on.  So here I go.  (Click Read More.)
I won’t say what the vendors names were because there’s no point in punishing them for their mistake.  But if you were at the “Emerging Technology and Solution Provider Showcase” at Storage Decisions San Francisco yesterday, you know the culprits. Just so you don’t think this is all about me, I was sitting among three analysts, and we universally felt the same about all of them.

  1. No font sizes below 18 in PowerPoint.  I saw font size of 12 a lot, 10 quite a bit, and even an 8 once!  Put your powerpoint in presentation mode and move at least 10 feet away from your laptop or desktop. If you can’t read it from there, we can’t read it on the big screen.  And always use the biggest font size you can get away with on the slide.  If you’re forced to use less than 18, you’ve put too much on the slide.
  2. Avoid bad colors.  Don’t do yellow on white, yellow on light green, etc.  You need contrast.  I don’t care if it’s your company’s colors.  Maybe you need new ones.
  3. If you’re going to show your GUI, show it big enough so we can see it.  What’s the point in a 1 inch picture of it?  What do we learn from that?
  4. If you’re five minutes into a 10 minute presentation about what your company does, and you haven’t said the name of your product, something is seriously wrong.  I’m sure your executive team is awesome, and your VCs are awesome, but cover all that in one slide and one minute — or maybe not at all.  I’m sure you talked smart people into giving you money and I’m sure you hired a few smarties as well or you wouldn’t have gotten the money.
  5. For goodness sake, get some training on how to present.  You need to connect to the audience.  Out of the four presentations I saw, only one connected with the audience in any meaningful way.  The other three did more harm than good by being their company’s spokesperson.
  6. Tell a joke or two, but make sure they’re funny and not offensive.  (I heard one presenter — not a vendor — use the phrase “That’s mighty white of you” from the stage.  Wow.) And if you’ve only got 10 minutes — make sure it’s short!

For vendors who use local SEs to present at seminars (like Backup School, Dedupe school, etc), one word: don’t.  With a few exceptions, they’re lacking seriously in the presentation department.  And putting a body up there just to have a body up there can often do more to damage than good for your image. Here’s my thought: make a (hopefully funny) 10 minute movie and play that.  They’ll remember being entertained a lot more than what your product does or doesn’t.

Feel free to chime in with your presentation pet peeves.

----- Signature and Disclaimer -----

Written by W. Curtis Preston (@wcpreston). For those of you unfamiliar with my work, I've specialized in backup & recovery since 1993. I've written the O'Reilly books on backup and have worked with a number of native and commercial tools. I am now Chief Technical Evangelist at Druva, the leading provider of cloud-based data protection and data management tools for endpoints, infrastructure, and cloud applications. These posts reflect my own opinion and are not necessarily the opinion of my employer.

3 thoughts on “Presentation Tips

  1. Aaron Kristoff says:

    No way! “That’s mighty white of you.” The presenter said that to the audience! Ouch! I am sure that captured the attention of the audience but not in the way that their markting department would prefer.

    I think that vendor presentations fail at these type of things in that they rely too much on PowerPoint and not enough on connecting with the individuals in the audience. PowerPoint is a tool for presenting but more vendors use it as a crutch. The presentation should feel like a one on one conversation with each attendee with PowerPoint being secondary. They need to remember that it is the presenter who needs to keep the audience interested in whatever it is they are blabbing about and not the blabble itself.

    And vendors, remember where you are at and who the audience is. I was once at a seminar specifically geared around backup and recovery hardware and software and a vendor was presenting arrays for primary storage. Great topic but that is not what we were there for.

  2. cpjlboss says:

    This was actually an independent industry analyst that said that on stage. I’ll let him go nameless, but let’s say that he’s known for his shock value.

  3. sfoskett says:

    I gagged on the “white of you” comment myself! It was made worse with his next comment, which was sort of a backpedal trying to spin “white” into “WASP” and claiming that only they pay retail. It got a laugh, but I wasn’t as amused…

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