As the visitors filed out of the room, Glenn caught Cynthia's eye. Yep, she was just as disturbed as he was. "Buy you a cup a coffee?" he asked. She nodded, without energy, and looked down. Everyone else started to leave, so Glenn and Cynthia walked wordlessly together to San Jose, the coffee bar on Three West.
They poured two talls and sat down in a booth out of the way around the corner. She opened with "Well, that was a disaster. Why don't we cut out the middleman and just shoot each other in the feet?"
Glenn smiled. It would be funny, if it weren't true. They had just given a demo to top management of what everyone hoped would become their biggest customer, and things hadn't gone well. "What could we have done differently?" Glenn asked.
So over those two cups of coffee, and two more, they made up a list of tips for giving small demos, to avoid a disaster next time.
You could make a tip list, too. Here are some to get you started.Small demos should be
- Avoid swarming
- If the size of your team is about the same as the size of the audience, they can feel overwhelmed, and they're unable to take in your carefully crafted message. In effect, you undermine your own effort. Find a way to limit the number of people in your organization who can attend, without offending anyone or making people feel excluded.
- Don't surround the audience
- Everyone on your team should sit or stand in a single arc that covers no more than a third of the circle around the audience. Surrounding creates a sense of danger — subliminal, but real.
- Have at most two designated speakers
- Let the conversation happen between the audience and the presenter. Occasionally, one other member of the presenter team might have something to add, or might answer a question. But if more than two people from the presenter team speak — not simultaneously of course — the message tends to cloud and you confuse the audience.
- Designate one speaker as primary
- When there are two speakers, contention and confusion is possible. To limit this, define roles. Let one person wear the "business" or "program" hat (B), and the other the "technical" hat (T). B should be primary, and T should defer to B.
- Let each other speak
- B should never interrupt T, and T should never interrupt B. Work out a gesture signal to indicate "stop talking" but don't interrupt each other.
- Support each other
- No matter what your partner says, let it stand. Chances are the audience will never remember it anyway. If you must comment, find a way to make your comment a supportive addition rather than a correction.
Are your presentations — technical or otherwise — all they could be? Audiences at technical presentations, more than most, are at risk of death by dullness. Spare your audiences! Captivate them. Learn how to create and deliver technical presentations with elegance, power and impact. Read Terrific Technical Presentations, a stand-alone Web site filled with tips and techniques for creating powerful performances. Order Now!
These tips are excerpted from Terrific! Technical Presentations, my new ebook, which is filled with tips for people who give technical presentations large and small.
- John Brtis
- Reminds me of an old joke…
- An old cow farmer goes to Sunday service and when it's time to start the preacher enters and sees that the cow farmer is the only person present. Rather flustered about what to do with only one other person in the church the preacher asks the farmer, "How do you think we should handle this?" The farmer drawls back, "Well…all I know is cows, but I know that if I go out to bring hay to the herd and I only find one cow, I still feed that cow." With a now clear understanding of what he needed to do, the preacher launched into a full service, including half a dozen songs, and a particularly well crafted thirty-minute sermon. At the end of this extravaganza, the preacher was saying his goodbyes to the farmer and asked him how he liked it. "Well," said the farmer, "all I know is cows, but if I go out to feed the herd and find only one cow, I don't dump the entire truck load of hay on her."
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- The Good, the Bad, and the Complicated
- In fiction and movies, the world is often simple. There's a protagonist, a goal, and a series of obstacles.
The protagonists and goals are good, and the obstacles are bad. Real life is more complicated.
- Management Debt: I
- Management debt, like technical debt, arises when we choose paths — usually the lowest-cost paths
— that lead to recurring costs that are typically higher than alternatives. Why do we take on
management debt? How can we pay it down?
- How to Foresee the Foreseeable: Preferences
- When people collaborate on complex projects, the most desirable work tends to go to those with highest
status. When people work alone, they tend to spend more time on the parts of the effort they enjoy.
In both cases, preferences rule. Preferences can lead us astray.
- The Limits of Status Reports: II
- We aren't completely free to specify the content or frequency of status reports from the people who
write them. There are limits on both. Here's Part II of an exploration of those limits.
- Wacky Words of Wisdom: V
- Adages, aphorisms, and "words of wisdom" are true often enough that we accept them as universal.
They aren't. Here's Part V of some widely held beliefs that mislead us at work.
See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.
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- One of the attributes of team cultures is something called power distance, which is a measure of the overall comfort people have with inequality in the distribution of power. Power distance can determine how well a team performs when executing high-risk projects. Available here and by RSS on October 23.
- And on October 30: Power Distance and Risk
- Managing or responding to project risks is much easier when team culture encourages people to report problems and question any plans they have reason to doubt. Here are five examples that show how such encouragement helps to manage risk. Available here and by RSS on October 30.
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- The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Leadership
On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. But to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. We'll use the history of this event to explore lessons in leadership and its application to organizational efforts. A fascinating and refreshing look at leadership from the vantage point of history. Read more about this program.
Here's a date for this program:
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio
44017: November 7,
Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute.
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio 44017: November 7, Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.