Who are you presenting to?

Over the years I’ve seen many OSS presentations, often in the role of helping a customer make a decision on which OSS option to proceed with. There have been some good presentations and others that didn’t go so well. I’ve even seen the best-fit products dropped out before short-listing because presentations were structured so poorly that customers couldn’t see their merits.

One of the things I’ve noticed in many of these presentations is that they’re often not very well suited to the potential customer’s decision-making process.

Whilst many of these decisions are made by committee, there is usually a small number of key decision makers or influencers, if not only one lead stakeholder. Unfortunately, very few presentations seem to be tailored to them.

For example, most OSS projects have a key sponsor who will be looking for the business benefits. Invariably, presentations will include generalised, vague promises of efficiencies, etc that don’t specifically target the benefits the sponsor is seeking from their investments.

There will usually also be a technical person or group that acts as the kingmaker, deciding which technical solution will best meet their needs. Sometimes this group will be swayed by all the sexy features a product might have, but mostly they just need to see that their most important use cases can be met. This means they have to be presented to in a way that they can interpret to their own context. Their network, their challenges, their environment, etc.

So this question goes to anyone using presentations to persuade in OSS – Do you know who you are really presenting to?

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