About Me

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Len focuses on helping small and new businesses succeed through developing appropriate marketing and sales strategies. Len enjoys mentoring, relishes in getting both arms and feet wet in addressing technology, marketing and sales issues. He understands the drivers impacting business results for today and tomorrow including time-to-market, time-to-revenue, marketing, sales channels and social media.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Blood, Sex and Money – Doing Presentations That Inspire, Motivate and Get New Business

If you do presentations using computer generated slides then you need to read this blog before you create one more bullet point.

I had the pleasure of taking in a webinar this week that was entitled “How to Deliver a Presentation Like Steve Jobs.” If you do not know who Steve Jobs is then you can stop reading this article right now. If you do know who he is then you are aware of the cool technology presentations that have been Steve’s forte at every MacWorld event. Whether talking about the latest MacBook or iPhone technology, Mr. Jobs knows how to get his audience excited.

Creating presentations on the computer is a common task. Most of you who have Microsoft Office have worked with PowerPoint creating slide deck after slide deck so that you can wow your customers, impress investors, and explain your company’s products and services to prospects. In OpenOffice you would use the product called Impress. In Google’s on-line application platform the product is called Presentation. Essentially all of these products are similar in functionality. You can choose template backgrounds or create your own custom artwork, choose fonts for headers and bullet points, insert images, shapes, animations, launch video clips.

But this blog isn’t about the functionality of these presentation tools. It is about getting your message across and what Steve Jobs does that makes his presentations so effective that audiences jump to their feet and applaud. Because Steve Jobs doesn’t worry about the functionality. His goal is to inspire, to motivate, to get people to act.

So let’s get started yielding some of the “Steven Job secrets” of great presentations.

1. The first and most important rule of good presentations is not to open your presentation software until you have created your storyboard. You can use drawing paper, post-it notes, a note pad, just DON'T TURN ON THE COMPUTER. First answer the questions:

What’s the story you want to tell?
Who is your audience?
What pain are you trying to remove?

A good presentation is just like a good news article. It answers who, what, when, where, why and how.

2. Every presentation should have a theme. The theme of this blog is its headline because headlines make for arresting themes that garner attention. And when you state your theme keep your message simple and clear and make it 30 points or better. (Oops, I said I wasn't going to talk about formatting and functionality. Well this will be the last time.)

3. Your personal presentation style is more important than the messages displayed in your slides. I am talking about the level of energy you bring to a presentation. Enthusiasm, passion, humour and commitment all play well with an audience. You have to step out of character when you put yourself on stage. You are a performer, so learn to act.

Always provide a roadmap. When Steve Jobs begins a presentation he says something like “I’m going to tell you about three things today,” and then he proceeds to tell you what these three things are. A roadmap gives audiences a sense of where you the presenter are going. They know the beginning, the middle and the end. They are clued in and ready to listen.

5. If you use a lot of numbers, graphs and charts in your presentations, make the numbers meaningful. It is one thing to put a big number on a slide, such as:

400,000 sold in the last month

It is quite another to show the meaning behind that number by showing its relationship to the bigger picture. This can be done in a chart such as pie or histogram that compares previous months' sales to this month or the total market against your market share for the month. A great technique for hardware sales is to equate the volume with linear distances such as we sold 400,000 units this month. If you were to pile them end-on-end that pile would extend from here to the Moon.

6. Bring theatre to your presentation. When Steven Jobs introduced the latest MacBook at MacWorld he had it delivered in a manila inter-office envelope and proceeded to pull it out. In the process he demonstrated just how thin this new computer was. The audience was wowed. You can get a wow factor not just from physical displays. You can show a video. Tell a story. You can conduct an instant poll. The key is to raise the level of involvement and interaction between you and your audience.

7. The single toughest issue for presenters who use slides is to keep their slides simple. ONE IMAGE PER IDEA SHOULD BE THE GOLDEN RULE.




cannot read because to get all that information in we have to

make the fonts smaller and smaller.

It is like reading an eye chart. Don't do it.

And don’t make your audience sit through 40 or 50 slides. As a general rule you should have no more than 10 slides for a 20 minute presentation, and 15 slides for 30 minutes and so on.

When you present please don't read what's on the slide. Too often presenters do this. The reason seems to be all about not knowing the content well enough which speaks to the point two down from this one. For this type of presenter the slide is their script. This is hard on any audience. It is a wonder that people sit through these types of presentations and actually pay attention.

Another golden rule is DON’T TALK OR LIST FEATURES, TALK AND SHOW BENEFITS. If you are like your audience then you know that making a buying decision has as much to do with emotions as it has to do with rational logic. Benefits equate with emotions. How does this product make you feel? What pain is resolved? How will I benefit?

9. REHEARSE, REHEARSE AND REHEARSE AND DO IT ALOUD. Too often presenters walk into a presentation unrehearsed, or having walked through the presentation at their desk, and in silent mode. You can tell those types of presenters and presentations in a minute. What a turn off.

10. Finally, don’t go more than 15 minutes in a presentation without creating some kind of break. That break could be:

Show a video clip
Have a 2nd person join the presentation
Do a a straw poll with the audience
Encourage interaction by posing a question to the audience and getting people to respond.

So now you know Steven Job’s secrets of great presentations and can start working on your own storyboards and presentations that will help you inspire audiences.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Is There Business Value in Social Networks?

As a business person who is trying to find as many ways to create sticky customers you owe it to yourself to ask the above question and investigate the potential that is represented by social networks on the Internet.

You may have heard of one or more of the following: MySpace, Second Life, FaceBook, LinkedIn, Spoke, Sales Spider, Classmates, and Xing.
There are so many of these websites that you need to keep a scorecard. In fact according to Wikipedia the list is well over one hundred in total. What all of these networks have in common is a shared on-line community.

Maybe it's the word "social" that makes us all think that there is no business to be had here. But the truth is, social networks are great places to let those who know you, and those who discover you, learn more about what you do. It's no different than joining a Golf and Country Club to network while enjoying the game.

I'll give you a couple of examples of experiences I have had. I recently joined FaceBook and Xing. I filled in my profile on both without telling things that I felt were too personal to reveal to the virtual world. I posted my website. I posted this blog. I posted a picture of me at the piano with my dog, Maya. I put a caption with it that said, "two things that are important to me other than my work and family, music and my dog."

People who I had never met responded to that picture and caption. Some sent me pictures of their dogs. Some contacted me to talk about their love of the piano. One of them asked to learn more about my business to see if I could be of assistance to them. How neat is that?

I also posted in my profile that I new telecommunications and that I was a history major with a degree in Islamic Studies. That led to another contact from a person who told me that her husband's background was history as well and that she and he lived in the country and were trying to determine what technology to use to get data to their farm house. They were far from any cable provider and were looking at point-to-point or satellite. Could I share my opinion?

I was able to help them make a buying decision. And in that process I also found out that her business was an on-line one and I visited her website. That gave me an opportunity to show her my skill set as a web content specialist and copywriter. Again, how neat is that?

There is another good reason to participating in social networks that can prove invaluable to your web marketing. When you join a network and put your website or blog links in your profile you are making yourself more visible to search engines. That has a huge added benefit when someone is looking for the kinds of services or products you provide.

This week I attended a trade show in Toronto focused on computer networks. One of the speakers talked about this very subject and led an interesting debate with people in the audience. I was surprised at how many young people in the audience with their own businesses were skeptics about the value of social networks. They separated the social networks from their business web presence. All of them belonged to one or more social networks and they all shared lots of personal information on these sites. They did chat, swapped pictures, posted even embarrassing information about themselves, but didn't see the business value of the community in which they were daily players.

One person at the conference made a very interesting observation. When you are in business and on the Internet, those people who may do business with you will Google you. If your social network sites come up and you have inappropriate posting there could be consequences to your business.

So is there value as a business person in joining and using social networks? Absolutely, but here are some take aways from this posting:
  1. You have to go into these networks with a plan. Put information on your profile that will serve you best. A picture of you drunk with a beer in hand is not a smart posting.
  2. You have to keep the information on your social network sites up to date. The more times you make changes the more visible you are to those who have links to you.
  3. You have to link whenever possible your social network sites to your business web presence. The more links you create to your other web locations will yield better search engine results.
You'll soon see the value that social networks can provide as you meet more and more business opportunities through them.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

It's Tough to Get Found On the Web - Some Shortcuts to Try

So now that you have created a website you need to make people aware of your web presence. There are free ways and more expensive ways to do this. Since I am going through that process with my own website I thought I would share with you some of my efforts.

The key is to get results on generic terms. For example I would want my site to appear in a Google or Yahoo search using terms that included words like "small business marketing consulting."

If you think you have it rough try a search on “marketing consulting.” That brings up only 33,400,000 results in Google so you can imagine how easily you can be buried deep in those results. So how do you get into the top 10,000, let alone the top 10. Well without professional and sometimes pricey assistance you don't. Of course you can always buy preferred positioning with a paid for site. In Google that would put your site at the top of the page or on the right-hand side.

But if you are a small business and living on cash flow here are some ideas for improving search results that you can implement for no cost to you other than your time.

  1. Find local search engines and local directories and make sure you are listed. For instance in Toronto where I live you can list on www.toronto.net, or www.ziplocal.com just to name two. You probably have similar local search engines in your area. When you list on these these sites you get more exposure to the Googles and Yahoos of the world because they use sites like these to do quick compilations for generating search results.
  2. Another approach is to ensure that your website has local references in its page titles so that it is optimized for local searches. And make sure that you have lots of local references in page content scattered throughout the site.
  3. In Canada check your InfoCanada (www.infocanada.ca) listing and in the U.S. check InfoUSA (www.infoUSA.com). Make sure your company information is up to date so that search engines when they poll these sites has access to the right information about you. InfoCanada and InfoUSA are affiliated so in visiting one you may gain the benefits of both.
  4. Lots of web experts talk about the importance of blogging in improving search results. It should be filled with content relevant to the business and it should be incorporated into your web site content.
  5. Get listed on other related sites to link back to your site. You can figure out what sites would be most relevant. Don’t use your company name for the link. Use a descriptor to drive the link, for example, “Toronto's best small business marketing consultant.”

Once you have achieved all of these wait a couple of weeks and test your search results on Google and Yahoo. And never stop finding new ways to get your company name in front of your web audience. It will pay dividends.