Theresa Shafer for SK Murphy has posted five mistakes that CEOs make when giving demos. I assume we're talking startup CEOs here but when I looked at the list I saw much of what is wrong with many press briefings. Most of them are adapted from sales presentations and, it seems, the same structure gets applied when CEOs go out for venture capital.
Is there some kind of dread Dale Carnegie template that gets used to construct all of these presentations? Is it the one entitled: "Bore your prospects to tears"? Because it's the only explanation I can think of.
Basically, all these presentations are done backwards. Point three in the SK Murphy list is the most important one for me:
"'Why I should care about your product' is left to the end of the presentation."
Many briefings are like some ghastly cross between company brochure and time-share sales. Most presentations make you feel like you're being set up for a con. There is slide after slide of selective evidence, all meant to make you think that the thing to be unveiled at the end is the answer.
There are two problems with this. Until I got bored with doing it, I could happily chip away at the setup slides to the extent that some presentations simply ran out of time. And it doesn't help get a story written because all the information is coming in reverse order.
The problem with the time-share pitch is that it is designed to sell. Unless you're selling pens, it's pretty unlikely that the hack is going to buy one. (OK, it's different for gadget makers but the launches I've seen for those have largely been "look, shiny stuff").
At regular intervals in a briefing, I will be thinking: "What's my best possible introduction for a story?" And, most of the time, the answer will be: "I wish I knew."
People really need to think about the thought processes that their intended audience are likely to use. A journalist is, in the case of a briefing, looking for a story. They may well not take away the story you presented but if you start off with what you think the story is, things might at least unfold in the right order.
So, make the claim early. And then provide the background for why this claim might be true. And then you can move onto the background. Why this way round? Because it's a structure that fits the inverted pyramid of news; it fits the thought processes that journalists are most likely to use: what's happened; how it happened; evidence to back it all up.
Readers of news stories do the same thing: they want to know what happened. And, if they are still interested, they stick around to find out about the hows and the whys.
Ideally, I'd ditch the slides and go straight for an interview in which the questions follow this rough sequence and expressed in their most brutal form: what have you done that you think is so great; how is this different to what has gone before; how did you set about doing this; why should people think you have experience here/what's your background?
I suspect it's a structure that will work just as well for VCs and sales prospects in the technology business.