Thursday, May 27, 2010

Great Quote

“It is easier to extract your own molars than to extract information from this system!”

(And imagine the visual image this suggests…!) A colleague offered this comment when talking about trying to find specific patents in the US PTO database – but you can simply fill in the blank with your product/system of choice…

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How Do We Write vs. Read Journal Papers? And What Does This Have To Do With Demos?

[Note: Skip this post if you have never read a scientific, engineering, or other “refereed” journal article…)]

Consider: How do we write journal papers in comparison with how we consume what others write?

Scientists are typically taught a process to draft papers for scientific and other refereed journals. We review the existing research in an arena, focus on a specific problem area and explore the relevant history. After careful thought (hopefully!), we form a hypothesis. We then define an experiment to test our hypothesis, execute the experiment and, if the results are interesting, draft a paper to publish what we’ve learned.

We generally draft the paper following a step-by-step process:

1. Discuss the general problem, the previous work and existing thought.
2. Offer our hypothesis, with some level of support, and introduce our general plan to test our thinking.
3. We outline the experimental plan…
4. We discuss the specifics of the procedure, materials, and conditions.
5. We present the results, often in an initial “rough” set of data followed by “refined” results.
6. We offer a discussion of what we believe we are seeing in the results and…
7. Finally, we offer a conclusion – often followed by recommendations for follow-on experimentation.

Interestingly, the last thing we often draft, forced on us by the journal publishers, is the Abstract.

Now, consider how we read journal papers:

What do we do first? We read the Abstract! Why? To see if the paper is interesting to us. If it is, we often jump directly to the Conclusion section – to find out what was learned. If we are very interested, we then go back and read other parts of the paper…

Sadly, many of us with science or related backgrounds prepare and deliver technical, marketing and sales presentations following the same strategy that we follow to write papers: we develop a long, detailed story that puts the pay-off at the end – forcing the audience to wait 20 minutes, 40 minutes (or longer!) to find out if they are interested.

The key concept of Great Demo! methodology is to “Do the Last Thing First” – and, if the audience is interested, then peel back the layers in accord with the audience’s depth and level of interest. This maps very closely to the way we read (but not write) journal papers!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Demo Skills Assessment - Do It Now

Some people suggest that delivering a terrific demo is an art. While there may be components of creating and presenting demonstrations that are intangible, many other demo skills can be measured. Multiple measurements done over time provide an understanding of strengths and growth opportunities; and, of course, measurements done by yourself may offer differ from those done by others!
[If you already agree that demo skills assessment is a good thing, you might cast your eyes to the bottom of this post where I offer an assessment tool in Excel format for your use.]

I recommend performing an assessment of your current state of practice on a regular basis. A first assessment provides a baseline; subsequent reviews can offer insight into areas of strength or opportunities for improvement:

If you are an Individual Contributor:
  • To provide a qualitative/quantitative set of measurements of your own performance for goal-setting, personal growth and to seek coaching in areas where you can improve
  • In order to compare pre- vs. post-Workshop results, if you plan attend a Great Demo! Workshop
  • In order to compare pre- vs. post-event results, if you plan to attend other related skills training (presentation skills, sales skills, etc.)

 If you are a Team Leader:  
  • To provide a qualitative/quantitative set of measurements for managing performance, goal-setting and coaching of your team
  • In order to compare pre- vs. post-Workshop results, if you plan to provide your team with a Great Demo! Workshop
  • In order to compare pre- vs. post-event results, if you plan to provide your team with other related skills training (presentation skills, sales skills, etc.)
In some organizations, assessments are done on a regular basis (quarterly, for example) and are often tied to quarterly or annual goals and objectives. There are (at least) 5 assessment perspectives worth considering:
  • The individual’s view of his/her own performance
  • His/her manager’s perspective
  • Another member of the selling team’s viewpoint
  • A customer’s assessment (it is tough to get unvarnished opinions from customers, but terrific when you can!)
  • A relatively disinterested 3rd party deeply skilled in assessing demo skills performance across a broad range of demos types, sales situations, and delivery mechanisms (e.g., me).
You are welcome use my existing Demo Skills Assessment to help “kick-start” your own assessment process. It provides a range of skills and topics rated on a 10 point scale, on either an individual or team basis, in Excel format. Contact me at if you’d like to receive a copy. You are also welcome to edit the Assessment as desired for your own specific situation.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Memory Embedding – And Its Impact on Demos

What are a few of your oldest memories? Interestingly, many people describe swimming at the beach or swimming lessons when they were very young children as some of their oldest and yet most strongly retained memories. Why is this?

It has been suggested that the strength of long-term memory is at least partly due to the degree of “embedding” that is done by our brains. Embedding includes repetition of the memory and the number of senses that were involved in the original event, plus the emotional impact of the event. For a swimming experience as a young child, then, it isn’t surprising that the memory can be strong. Consider the senses involved for child at a swimming class in a pool:

  • Sound: The sounds of splashing water, other kids yelling, the instructor’s directions…
  • Sight: The vision of the pool and water, especially the distorted effect of what is seen under water…
  • Touch: The feel of the pool water, churning, bubbles…
  • Taste: The taste and texture of the pool water…
  • Smell: The smell of chlorine and sun-block lotion….
Add to that other emotional components that might also be in play: the sense of accomplishment of your first lap across the pool; the desire to show your mother/father how well you can do; the fear of sinking… The sum is quite a compelling range of input which may all serve to embed that memory strongly.

An early visit to the beach may yield even stronger memories and embedding:

  • Sound: Waves breaking on the beach, sea-gull calls, kids yelling…
  • Sight: The ocean above water, the murky green underwater, breaking waves and foam, sand, birds…
  • Touch: The cold water swirling up your legs, waist, shoulders; a wave breaking over you; foam around your legs; the hot sun overhead; the sand under your feet and the weird stuff you feel (shells, kelp…)…
  • Taste: Salt sea-water, the grit of sand in your mouth…
  • Smell: Sea-shore smells of ocean, decaying sea-weed and kelp, sun-block lotions…

Again, add to these senses the other emotional components: the accomplishment of your first forays into the surf; the fear of sinking, sharks, and other scary sea things…! It is not surprising that many people describe similar scenes as some of their strongest early memories.

What does the mean for software demos? It suggests that the more embedding that occurs during the demo, the more likely the audience will remember the demo. Most demos impact only two senses: sight and sound. The use of physical props and multiple pathways to embed ideas (stories, analogies, examples) – as well as emotional embedding (things that are perceived as fun, fearful, or fantastic) may help increase the strength of the retained memory of your demo.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Remote Demos: Turn Off Cell Phone (fer cryin’ out loud…!)

I’ve heard this happen 3 times in the past 2 weeks, so I guess it needs to be said: Remember to turn off your cell phone before beginning a Remote Demo…!