Saturday, December 28, 2013

Product Story Presentations Are 99 Percent Perspiration

My first job out of college was to work for a federal government information technology research laboratory in New Delhi. It was a low paying yet prestigious post, where your job offer is signed by the President of India. It was nice to get a letter that started like...The President of India is pleased to extend this job get the idea. In my first year there I was involved in the implementation of a video conferencing system for the federal government using our own satellites. Yes. We had all the budget in the world to do what ever we wanted to do as long as it made the government look forward thinking and impressive. That was one of the reasons I took that job.

The company that developed the video conferencing system was from a city called San Jose in the US. The product sales person and a technical architect visited us in New Delhi and conducted a two day workshop about the system and its functionality. Both of them were clear and precise in their presentations and answers. During the break on day two, I walked behind the podium and had a look at their notes. There were using a software called PowerPoint which I had not used before (This was 1991) and they had detailed notes on what exactly to say, including prompts to put their hands up to show the size of the system, for every picture and every screen.

I asked them about it and they told me that the product manager had written the script and had trained them on how to talk about the product and how to use facial and hand gestures to convey the functionality of the product. He said that their product managers take this task very seriously and this scripted story was a key reason for the product's success. I was very impressed with this approach and wondered what it might be like to write a product story that others could tell. I also wondered about where in the world was San Jose, California.

That encounter with the product sales person was a learning experience for me. Since that day I have tried to write a detailed script for my presentations for myself and for others who might use them. Writing such a script is sometimes excruciating. It takes a long time to prepare and think through every screen and the reason for the content there. But it always pays off.

Here is the script I wrote this week for my FKOM story on integration. There is nothing confidential in there. I don't expect any one to read the details from my notes. But it is fun to see the prep process, I think. Nothing is left to chance. Right or wrong - there is a reason for every word and every image. The reasons are captured in the foot notes for others to see and recognize the purpose behind the content.

Post Script: A week after the workshop we ordered a copy of this new software called Microsoft office, even though it was very expensive. I told you we had the money to import what ever we wanted. I was very excited about PowerPoint and Word. It also came with another software called Excel, which I did not use or understand at that time.

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