I suspect this is the number one complaint people have about conference talks. Not the lack of vegetarian meals, not the early sessions, but rather sessions billed as educational that turn out to be sales pitches.
What happens when a talk is a sales pitch? People tune out of your talk and in to something else like complaining about you on Twitter, choosing the next talk to go to, finding out what’s for lunch, or checking the sports scores. In my case, I tweet about brownies.
The fortunate thing is that this problem is REALLY easy to avoid.
- Never say the name of your company or your brands. Audience members have the conference program in front of them. We can read about you and your company there. Besides, if you say things that are truly educational and intriguing, people will open that program to your page and circle your name a bunch of times. They’ll probably even wait to speak to you after you’re finished talking.
- Don’t provide an explanation of your company even for context. Company context is irrelevant in about 99.99999% of cases. Even if it’s a really cool video. I’ve yet to see one instance where a company video improved my understanding of the talk.
- Never say ‘we’ or ‘our.’ I KNOW who you are talking about. I KNOW the things you say represent you and your company. Instead of saying “We believe that mobile surveys are the most disruptive methodology you will see this year,” try saying “Mobile surveys are the most disruptive methodology you will see this year.” Besides, this phrasing offers a bigger and more memorable punch. And no, mobile surveys are not the next big thing.
- Don’t describe YOUR tools. We don’t care about YOUR tools. Your audience is there to learn about new theories and processes and tools beyond the bubble of your company. Teach them the generic ideas, which just so happen to be reflected in your tools and your business model. As you demonstrate your impressive knowledge about the broader industry, the audience will decide that you are worth talking to and they will whip open that agenda and circle your name to follow up with later.
- Don’t answer questions about your product or company. Listen to questions and focus them towards industry knowledge so that everyone in the room will learn something from your answer. For example, you can say, “I’d be happy to talk about our pricing or features during the break but I agree with you that privacy should be designed into every piece of software from the beginning, not as an after thought.”
- Put a compelling sales pitch in your bio. And by sales pitch, I mean offer an interesting and relevant bio that contains specific details about your offerings not dreams, buzzwords, and nondescript nonsense.
- Put your logo on every slide (if you’re allowed to). Put your contact information on the first and last slide so that strong silent types can reach out to you privately afterwards. Put your twitter name on every slide and encourage people to tweet. I shouldn’t have to say those things but I recently went to a conference where NUMEROUS speakers did not put their name on their presentation. I’m positive most of them lost out on potential follow-ups.
- Finish exactly on time. When you’re late, conference organizers get upset, audience members get ansty, the speakers after you get annoyed, and you create a lot of bad karma. Respectful speakers generate follow ups.
- Deliver fabulous content full of actionable recommendations that people can implement immediately. Fill your talk with to-do lists and checklists and reference materials. Offer additional white papers and case studies to those who want more information. The best sales pitch is awesome content. Hands down.
It’s one of my favourite scenes from Crocodile Dundee. Our hero, Dundee, is confronted by mugger wielding a switchblade. Dundee smiles at him and, with a great accent, pulls out his own ridiculously terrifying knife.
Though knives are rarely involved, this is a predicament I face all the time in a slightly different context. I am fortunate that many people submit a great variety of articles to Vue magazine of which I am the Editor in Chief. These articles cover every topic from qual to quant, from big data to little data, from neuroscience to storytelling. One thing many authors have trouble with is why I rejected their article when they think they didn’t write a sales pitch.
“But I only mentioned our brand name three times.”
“But our logo is only shown twice!”
These, of course, are obvious cues for me and hopefully for you. But let me give you a few more examples of cases where the distinction isn’t so obvious. And if you could pardon my sales pitch in the process, I’d appreciate it.
Sales Pitch: We at Peanut Labs realized the need for easier access to research sample which is why we built Samplify, a self-serve automated sampling tool.
Educational: Researchers need easier access to research sample. There are a number of self-serve automated systems that do this. Some of the basic features of these tools include…
Sales Pitch: We partnered with CharitableOrganization to run a segmentation study about people who donate, and discovered six unique segments.
Educational: A segmentation study for CharitableOrganization revealed that there are six unique segments of people who donate. [side note – I am all for naming charities. They deserve all the press we can give them.]
What you’ll notice in both of these cases is that you can indeed write about the results of an entire case study without name dropping yourself AND without losing a single important detail.
The next time you write an article, do a word count of your brand name. Then do a word count of “we.” Can you reword most of them without losing any details? I’m sure you can.
Insert your sales pitch here in the boilerplate with your company name, email, and Twitter address. That’s what this part is for.
THE MR INSPIRATION DEN: Watch our sponsors and exhibitors go head to head in the MR Inspiration Den. They have 60 seconds to dazzle the judges and gain their vote to make it to the next stage…… Who will be the winner?
Judges – David McCaughan, Pravin Shekar, (one more person, missed the name)
- Chris from SSI – PowerPoint slides listing basic products, services, employees. C
- Mark from Bilendi – PowerPoint slides of basic products, services. One cute slide with his face pointing to data sources. Finished exactly on time. C
- Val from Toluna – Reading a bit from notes. Powerpoint slides, standard products, services. Over time. C-
- Craig from C&C marketing – Very much reading his notes. Standard products and services. Forgot to show his slides. D
- Terry from Confirmit – Tiny font on his ppt slides. Spoke about issues not products. Over time. (Lost the C+ due to over time) C
- Steve from MarketCube – Tried a little french and failed MISERABLY. Spoke of issues, speed, quality, fairness. Over time. C-
- Rudy from Dapresy – Told a story, spoke of issues. Spoke in a person to person style. Spoke of products in terms of how useful they are. Over time. B-
- Pascal from Klee Group – Tried to tell a story, spoke of using not just services, read his notes. Over time. C-
- Alistair from onDevice – Told a story with a few words about the products. C
- Rolfe from RealityMine – Showed video of the product, explained how data is used. Over time C
- Dimitri from CoolTool – PPT slides listing services, introduced new products and their pricing, Order now! Got a little chuckle from the audience. B-
- Tony from SampleAnswers – Read his notes. Defined a sample and sampling. Got several chuckles from the audience. Over time. B WINNER
My apologies for the harsh grades. I was REALLY hoping for some creative presentations but everyone simply read their notes or described their products. Boy, us researchers need to learn to be more creative. Get a ukulele people! 🙂
- Peanut Labs Ask-Me-Anything with special guest Jim Bryson (web.peanutlabs.com)
- Seeking Inspiration in Silence: Conducting research without asking questions
- Brain tricks and insights without interviews #ESOMAR #MRX
- How old do you feel and should brands care? #ESOMAR #MRX
- The Bakery Review: A Daily Blog of the Macarons of Nice, France
- The Gender Bias Rears its Face #ESOMAR #MRX
- Ten 60 Second Elevator Pitches #ESOCong #MRX (lovestats.wordpress.com)
My presentation is the last thing between you and break/lunch/cocktails/dinner. I hear this at least twice in every conference. Guaranteed. It makes me think your presentation is going to boring and maybe I should just leave for the break now. Should I? It’s just not funny anymore.
I’m really sorry but I won’t be as awesome as the last presenter. This usually happens after a presenter who showed cool videos or played fun music or who was really animated on stage. It rarely happens after a presentation that was full of helpful and practical tips. I don’t know about you but I’d rather be the person who was practical. I’m not particularly impressed by fluff. Give me substance. Even if you’re boring as heck.
I know nothing about this technology, so you’ll have ask my IT guy if you have any questions. Wonderful. I’m supposed to take you seriously when you’re talking about something you don’t understand? Why don’t I just go talk to your sales person instead. Where’s the brownie? Know what you could say instead. “My colleague would love to explain that in more detail.” See? You don’t sound stupid that way.
I don’t understand all these numbers, ask my data guy. This is nothing to be proud of. If you don’t understand the numbers on your slides, you shouldn’t be presenting them. Take a class, attend some webinars, read some textbooks. Numerical illiteracy is nothing to be proud of. You CAN learn. I did. (Check out @ResearchRocks. Awesome training with a kind and patient person.)
To conclude, don’t criticize yourself on stage. Be confident, project intelligence, and the audience will respond.
“Where’s the brownie” is what I tweet when presenters are doing a sales pitch or have no content. If you’re a presenter, avoid the brownie! 🙂
Live blogging from the #CASRO tech conference in Chicago. Any errors or bad jokes are my own.
Ascribe: Dean Kotchka, Chief Product Officer
- manage unstructured text
- better to be lucky than good, luck is when preparation meets opportunity
- homeworkforce.net was the original name of the company – outsourcing coding work to people around the country
- needed software to make coders more productive
- originally turned down by top MR firms but the firms were interested in their software, not their services
- the software itself caused disruption
- process 300 million comments this year, globally
- now can code audio, video, images
- have automated coding models, text analytics, sentiment and constructs
- aiming for facial coding, image similarity, auto translation, context sensitive brand identification
Cross-Tab Marketing Services: Stephan Mayer, Vice President, Operations & Client Services
- troublesome data file searches, error prone retrieval, weak or wrong linkages, short shelf live of data
- put all historical data on one platform
- search semantically for data, filter, create custom reports
InContext Solutions: Rich Scamehorn, Chief Research Officer
- bring virtual reality to consumers over the internet
- could be CPG or restaurants, electronics, stadium, airport
- attempt is to put people in the real context of real world at individual level
- insights into how it might be in the real world
- [ah, airport does have people all over the place including lines]
- starts with screening as you would for a survey or any other study, when qualify then go through virtual shopping
- can use home computer and mouse and keyboard, give people as ‘mission’ like go buy a specific product and then they have control to walk through the environment on their own, they can pick up a product by clicking on it, full 3D viewing and zooming of product [also very cool, this I would like to try]
- clients can mess around with the content or placement of a sign, done through drag and drop interface, build a pallet display
- collaborate and iterate with team or retailers and test it
- want to extend to other business decisions – decision trees, what do they do if a product isn’t there? buy a different product? go somewhere else?
- want to integrate third party data as well
TrueSample: Mark Menig, General Manager
- around since 2008
- multi-panel membership is quite high
- 11% of survey responses come from people who are on just one panel
- 20% of survey responses come from people who are on 10 or more panels
- machine fingerprinting can help control duplicate respondents especially when accessing multiple panels for responders
- duplicates represent a high proportion of poor quality markers
- now imagine the problem where one person is on multiple panels AND they use a laptop, a work computer, a mobile phone and a tablet. they can no longer be seen as one person. they are four people now.
- TrueMatch is aimed at multi-device duplicates
Vennli: Dan Farrell, Vice President, Customer Success and Sales
- Vennlie – SAS application to collect and interpret insights
- Venn diagram of customer, company, and competition
- madlib format of statement which flows through to a survey
- designate choice factors that customers used among offerings – price, quality, features, prestige, accessibility
- survey has 4 sections – screener, rating, ownership and intent, demographics
- client uploads their CRM list using salesforce or whatever they use, can use sampling strategy over time if need be
- ask clients to take the same survey based on how they think their clients will respond, to identify disconnects [fabulous idea]
- assign items to various portions of a venn diagram of customer, company, competition
A wise person recently shared with me what the four types of conference speakers. It really resonated with me as I attend a lot of conferences and see so many examples of each one. Here are my thoughts about each type.
- Industry trend crystal gazers: These speakers are typically keynote speakers. They take a broad look at the industry and illustrate the trends they see with slides full of pretty images. They leave the audience feeling excited and regenerated, but there is often little for the audience to bring home and act on.
- Business development and product/services sales. Sometimes, I wonder if these speakers don’t realize they are actually presenting a sales pitch. Or, perhaps they think the audience doesn’t realize it is a sales pitch. Either way, these speakers can be very frustrating for the audience who has come to learn and be inspired not bring out a cheque book. They are most likely to generate less than positive tweets.
- Boring brand managers. Audiences love to hear from brand managers. Even though they aren’t nearly as innovative as they’d like to think, we are desperate to learn what they want, what they need, how they’re trying to change their business. Let’s be honest, when brand managers speak, the vendor audience is taking notes on every flick of the hair hoping that something they learn will give them the edge in their next sales pitch.
- Content gurus. This is the group I aspire to be in. These speakers are all about content – teaching, coercing, convincing. These speakers give you knowledge that you can take home and put into action immediately. The speaker may not be fabulously entertaining and the presentation style may not be sexy or beautiful, but when you get home, you’ll know exactly how to do better research and get better results. This is where furious note taking among audience members takes place.
Which type do you fall into?
… Live blogging from the 2013 ESOMAR Congress in Istanbul Turkey. Any errors are my own, any comments or terrible jokes in  are my own…
- Dimitri from Cool Tool: Cloud based research platform, real time sharing, sell and buy any service online – 50 seconds. Grade: C (average)
- Sarah from Toluna: Introducing Sample Xpress. Cheater!!! They used a video so there was no timing challenge. And their video went over time! BOOO! 🙂 Grade: F
- Thomas from C&C: US data collection service started over 25 years ago, Qual and quant services, including mall, added portable tobii eye tracking Grade C
- Tomo from Borders: Japan panel provider, booth has a friendly crew so visit them, he left 10 seconds for questions Grade D
- Steve from MarketCube: last minute research project and the “orange” isn’t answering any questions. The orange is peeled and an apple emerges from the peel. Couple seconds over time. Grade B
- Pravin from Esomar: Asks audience to snap fingers. Asks people from various countries to stand up. Over time! Grade C+
- Isaac from 20/20: WHAT IF qual was limited by distance time or language? WHAT IF? We help you solve your online qual problems. Under time.Grade C+
- Tony from Sample Answers Limited: RDD specialists, B2B services, specialists in LATAM and Caribbean. Over time. Grade C
- Alistair from Ondevice: Mobile panel company, growth markets, 3 years old, 10 million surveys in 57 companies, pioneers of survey chunking on mobile, splitting surveys into 2 chunks Grade: C+
- Pete from SSI: Devices have converged, not just design or inclusivity or sampling, it’s about everything. Over time. Grade C-
I was hoping for someone to WOW us and so left room in the A’s and B’s. I’m betting those will show up in the longer sessions. 🙂
Annie’s Winner: MarketCube!
- Touring and Tasting Istanbul in 12 Minutes #ESOCong #MRX (lovestats.wordpress.com)
- Manufacturing False Precision in Surveys #MRX (lovestats.wordpress.com)
I’ve done my fair share of webinar, workshop, and conference presentations. I’ve talked to groups of ten, a hundred, and three hundred people and there is usually an audience member with a point to prove. They’re skeptic of the topic, eager to prove they’re smarter than everyone else, or just keen to listen to their own voice.
They ask questions designed to identify flaws in methodology or logic, and force me to respond with answers like “You’re right, that is a problem” or “True, we should have done a better job with that,” or “Right, sentiment analysis will never be perfect.” But you know, those kinds of questions don’t scare me. Every research project that was ever conducted was rife with logic and methodology errors and I’m glad that researchers are picking up on them. That’s how the cycle of research works. Find a problem this time, fix the problem the next time.
Then there are questions from people who are keen about the work that has been presented and want to learn more about it. They’ve seen the tables and graphs that I’ve prepared. They’ve listened to the pros and cons of the methodology. They’ve seen the real life examples of misleading and poorly done research. With all of that information, they understand the good and bad of what they’re potentially getting into and they’re intrigued. Intrigued enough to ask that dreaded question.
Now first, you have to recognize that I am a researcher to the core. I deliberately chose to take every single research methods and statistics and psychometrics class in school, even going so far as to get special permission to take classes that were outside of my curriculum. Research methods was and is all I care about.
My problem is this. Every conference submission form and every followup email from conference organizers says you must educate and not promote and I wholeheartedly agree with those rules. I don’t want a sales pitch at a conference. I want to learn something new.
But then that horrible question gets asked. It comes in one of two forms. 1) “What software are you using to do this?” and 2) “How much is your software?” Anyone who’s seen me present can attest to my reaction to those questions. They immediately catch me off guard and I stumble through answers like an idiot. Answering these questions makes me feel like I am promoting and selling. Indeed, I feel that simply speaking in front of a crowd is a sales pitch.
Even worse, as soon as I’m asked to talk brands and money, I fear that people will distrust my research objectivity. I fear that people will disregard my passion for quality and honesty and see not the sense, but the cents. That, my research friends, is truly terrifying. But perhaps I’m over thinking things. Perhaps those questions are just nice compliments, confirmations that I’ve done the job I was supposed to do. Perhaps it really was a sales pitch, a sales pitch done the right way. But I still hate getting that question.
Giving a conference presentation isn’t as easy as it might seem. You have to speak loudly, clearly, intelligently, and say something that is interesting. You also have to avoid… the dreaded sales pitch. As soon as I notice that a conference presentation has turned from educational to salesucational, a few things start to happen. My live blog posts get shorter and shorter until I just delete them, and my tweets gradually turn from content rich to dessert rich.
Surprisingly, not everyone knows what constitutes salesucational. So here are some indicators.
More than 2 minutes are spent describing the company behind the presentation. In some cases, you may need to describe what your company does so that the audience can understand your talk. However, you can usually get away without doing so. You can say things like “This project used social media listening research to collect data from the internet and analyze the sentiment and content.” You don’t need to say “COMPANY NAME specializes in TRADEMARKED PRODUCT NAME, a unique and unparalleled product that can’t be purchased anywhere else.”
The company name is mentioned more than once. Actually, you can deliver an entire presentation without mentioning the company name a single time. You don’t need to say “Here at COMPANY NAME, we believe strongly in validity.” You can say things like “I believe strongly in validity.” You don’t need to say “COMPANY NAME employed the highest standards of quality in this project.” You can say things like “The highest standards of quality were used in this project.” Even better, just tell me what the standards were.
The slides have trademark and copyright symbols. There is an easy solution here. Any time one of those marks appears, delete it and the word it is used with. Remember, the presentation is not about Conversition, Ipsos, or ICOM. It’s about the methodology employed in the research study.
The presenter offers to discuss their product with you after the presentation. Conference presentations are not discussions of products. They are discussions of methodologies and theories. It is fair game for presenters to offer to chat with audience members about techniques for ensuring quality and validity after the presentation, but there is no reason for a presenter to suggest to audience members that they discuss a branded project after the presentation.
Now you may ask, why present if no one knows what company I represent? Simple. Your name and your company name will be on the first slide, the last slide, or both of your presentation. Your audience is capable of remembering that information IF your presentation deserves it. Further, if your presentation is good enough, useful enough, impactful enough, people will search for you in the brochure even if they forgot the name from your slides.
If you are still unsure, there is a very simple rule to follow. Never mention any trademark names, company names, or product names. Your best sales pitch is an excellent quality presentation.