Don’t insult your audience at a technical conference by presenting a sales pitch
February 9, 2015 Comments Off on Don’t insult your audience at a technical conference by presenting a sales pitch
I’ve been going to technology conferences for a long time, and have seen – and delivered – tons of presentations over the years. I have particularly high expectations at events with the following characteristics: 1) I had to pay for my attendance, and 2) the breakout sessions are billed as technical in nature.
In the past few years, I’ve observed a disturbing trend of conference speakers providing what is essentially a jazzed-up sales presentation to a technical audience. Often times, a vendor (such as a technology provider or consultancy) will trot out a person with a technical title, and then saddle them with a sales pitch. I feel bad for the poor presenter, because they’re going to be in for a rough time.
The best-run conferences will actively discourage this, to the point of rejecting a presentation that’s too sales-y. But unfortunately, most organizers aren’t so diligent. In fact, the vast majority of presentations don’t get evaluated: conferences can find it difficult merely to round up a full roster of speakers, much less thoroughly review what they propose to talk about.
Here are some examples of detrimental speaker behavior:
- Spending 3/4 of the time talking about their brilliant CEO, prestigious investors, dedicated partners, and loyal customers
- Detailing their sales process
- Reading, verbatim, from industry reviews, customer case studies, and other marketing material
- Endless details about market growth and customer acquisition
- Describing their product or solution in glowing language: everything was, is, and will be perfect
This is a very imprudent approach, for lots of reasons. First, the audience at an event like this will be sophisticated, and often cynical. It’s unwise to try and fool them. The rise of social media means that the attendees won’t hesitate to publicly slam the company, speaker, market, and conference organizer if they feel that their time was wasted. These angry protestations often occur while the speaker is in front of the room – a great example of real-time negative feedback. And finally, no one likes to feel like they got fleeced, especially when you consider what it costs to attend a conference these days.
The good news here is that by staying truthful and focused on technical topics, you’ll end up with a better set of sales prospects than if you simply hammer them over the head with marketing messaging. Chances are, your technical solution – even if held together with duct tape – is still interesting to the audience.
Coming up soon, I’ll be writing a series of blog posts about what should be covered at a technology conference. For now, here are some brief guidelines:
- Keep the fluff to a minimum: no more than 20% of the allotted presentation time
- Be honest about the product or service that you delivered to the market
- Describe lessons learned – both good and bad
- Use lots of pictures to illustrate how it worked
- And above all: don’t read slides to the audience!
If you’d like to see more posts related to technical sales and sales engineering, click here.