Presenters and Presentations

May 27, 2014

A while ago, Bloomberg BusinessWeek ran a piece title “Why Bezos Bought The Post”[1]. It contains a lesson for presenting your competitive intelligence findings. Brad Stone, the author, observed that

“[a] decade ago, frustrated with the pace of meetings at his company [Amazon], Bezos banished PowerPoint and proclaimed that all future Amazon meetings would begin with the presenter passing out a narrative document that outlined the topic being discussed. The first papers were endless, spanning dozens of pages, so Bezos decreed a six-page limit. Many of his colleagues still thought this managing-by-writing approach would fade. It didn’t.“

So?

The lessons here are several:

First, PowerPoint is not the only way to convey information at a business meeting. In fact, there are those that argue, in my words not theirs, PowerPoint serves less to communicate than to conceal[2]. So, master other ways. Or at least practice what you want to say, relying on PowerPoint only as a reminder – to you of what you want to say and to the attendees of what you have said.

Second, present your case the way that senior management wants, simply because they may pay less attention to your message if they are not comfortable with the way it is delivered. If that means PowerPoint, it means PowerPoint.

Third, whatever means you employ, master the subject before your presentation. At the actual meeting, you may not be able to present what you want, when you want, and/or in the order you want. The form of your presentation is a tool; the content is the key. A corollary to this is that you should avoid presenting where the presentation and the work behind it were largely (or exclusively) done by someone else.

Fourth, shorter is almost always better than longer. Longer presentations may be more detailed, but that risks losing attention – as well as actual attendees.

[1] By Brad Stone, August 8, 2013, http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-08-08/why-jeff-bezos-bought-the-em-washington-post-em.

[2] For more on that, see Edward R. Tufte, Beautiful Evidence, Graphics Press, LLC, 2006, p. 181: “Our comparison of various presentation tools in action indicate that PowerPoint is intellectually outperformed by alternative tools.”


How do you measure success?

August 6, 2013

As you do your own competitive intelligence or utilize CI provided by others, you will eventually run into the question, “So what’s the bottom line here? How much is the CI worth?”

      Commercial aside: I could just refer you to our book, Bottom Line Competitive Intelligence, but I want to talk about it from your point of view, not mine.

There are two ways to look at this problem. The first is to try to measure things in terms of dollars, which is to answer the question “What is the dollar return from the CI?” The second is to look at what was actually done with the CI.

How do we measure the monetary value of competitive intelligence? There really two sides to that. One is to determine how much more money you made that you would not have made without it or, conversely, how much less money you avoided losing that you would’ve lost without it. The problem is that most decisions have many inputs, so crediting one input with a decision’s entire success or failure is just not right. So you try to assign a percentage to it.

Say you were 60% sure your decision would succeed, whatever that decision is.  Your decision, if right, could produce $1 million in new profits. If you could increase the likelihood of success by 10% by using CI, you could assign a value of $100,000 to the CI. The same kind of calculation works in terms of reducing the costs of failure, although most people prefer not to make those calculations. Why? Because they do not like to be “negative”.

The alternative is to see if and how the CI was used and then determine whether or not the decision-making process was improved. Simply put, if the decision-making process was not improved, or if the CI was ignored, then the CI was worth nothing. If it was improved, then the CI was valuable.

For people who believe that you must measure everything, consider the recent observation by the head of Yahoo: “Just because we have a ruler doesn’t mean we have to measure everything[1].”


[1] Brad Stone, “Can Marissa Mayer Save Yahoo?”, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, August 5-11, 2013.