“Did you also attend fascinating presentations? What would be your advice to get your audience passionate?”
Roland Leners of NetworkMining in response to an earlier blog about boring OSS presentations.
This is a brilliant question, one that I wished I had’ve asked myself when writing the earlier blog. It gets to the root of the topic – how to deliver OSS presentations that have more impact.
We can’t bundle all presentations into a single group as there are different types of OSS presentations. These include keynote / vision sessions, product introductions, sales demonstrations, product demonstrations, etc. They have different audiences and different objectives.
However, I can give some hints that cross into all types of OSS presentations.
Almost every single OSS presentation I’ve observed has been delivered by someone who is passionate about their products, subject matter and the OSS industry as a whole. So clearly that’s not the problem. They are passionate about a million attributes of their solution and want to discuss them all. They’re selling the million features rather than the 3-5 benefits. The human brain can’t retain the million features, but it can retain the 3-5 key takeaways. Hint #1 – Distill the Benefits – Know the customer/audience and distill the message to the benefits that they can’t forget.
The million features that the presenter is so excited about also tend to get splattered across their slides in dozens of bullet-points per page. The audience becomes engaged in the slides rather than the presenter. If the slides are cluttered, the message is too. Hint #2 – The Law of Empty Space – use images and videos, with a select few words to support your presentation, rather than distracting with bullet-points.
To show every feature that a customer might use is simply not feasible. It would take many hours / days. Research has proven that few of us have attention spans that extend beyond 10 minutes so even if there were enough time available, the audience couldn’t take in all the nuances. Hint #3 – The Movie Trailer – create a sub-set of the story that excites the audience into wanting to know more. This may be through generating a handful of end-to-end scenarios (eg alarm to resolution) that are most pertinent to the customer’s situation and walk the audience through the benefit (eg the resolution of the problem), whilst demonstrating some of the features along the way (ie the resolution process).
When the audience is left wanting more, the presenter must be ready to satiate them with more. Let’s face it, how many customers ever sign up to a new OSS project after one presentation anyway? I get a much better understanding of a product by using it rather than having it demonstrated or taught by rote methods (which are often used in OSS training). So as follow-up I’d recommend having a sand-pit environment that the audience can download (eg as a VM) or log into as well as providing support to help them walk through scenarios that they can associate with.
The hands-on environment will also ensure more credibility than a slideware / vapourware prototype.
Apart from having a fascination with OSS in general, I can’t recall a single OSS presentation that compares well against the best presentations from other forums. So rather than using past OSS presentations as a reference point, perhaps take a closer look at Steve Jobs’ iPhone presentation in 2007 for insights.Read the Passionate About OSS Blog for more or Subscribe to the Passionate About OSS Blog by Email