Greg Ferro - Work to Live

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Advice To Tech Field Day Sponsors

Companies have often asked me for advice when presenting a Field Day. This is a collection of advice, feedback and suggestions that I would offer should you have asked. 

Please note that this is a collection of bullet points and ideas. Its not an essay or a comprehensive overview, just opinions collected over a privileged 8 years of participation, mostly in the Network Field Day event.

Understand Your Audience

There are four distinct audiences to reach during a Tech Field Day presentation. Consider ALL of these audiences. 

  1. The people in the room who are influencers 
  2. The people in the room who are decision makers and key influencers for their employers
  3. The people on social media and the livestream. 
  4. Published Youtube / Vimeo event video (long tail)

Some tips on this:

  1. You may find it confusing to address multiple audiences at the same time. I suggest focussing your content decisions on social media/influencer and event video. A really good session can engage the remote audience and amplify your presentation beyond the room.
  2. The people in the room can amplify during and after the event. Think about how to engage them so that excitement will result and generate post event results. Do something interesting to get your content at the top of mind. Give me a reason to write about you (boring is as boring does)
  3. Video views and engagement will drive leads and calls for months and years after the event. Unlike a conference or webinar, video and podcasts have a lasting impact with customers if they can find them. Work on cool titles for each session so people can find them and watch them (SEO-fu needed)
  4. Watching video watching requires full focus of the watcher - what are you doing to be interesting, engaging and exciting ? Honestly, most of you are boring, repetitive and ... well, obvious. 


Amplification: You want the audience in the room to go nuts on social media about you and company. Consider planning a ‘bug deal’ once every 30 mins. We can’t push social media repeatedly for fear of losing the audience so you need to have something exciting. 

You can’t accurately plan this but you can try to get a reaction “can’t believe what I just saw at  from VendorA…awesome!

Stay on track: Don’t let the people in the room take you off track. Stick with your time plan and get through the content. TFD editing can fix some of this in editing so don’t get bent out of shape about it. The post-event content is MORE important.

Cautionary Notes

Because social media experts measure the wrong things:

  1. Understand that people with large social media presence will share less. Oversharing or pointless content will drive away active (& most valuable) followers. Consider this, ten shared tweets to 500 followers is 90% less effective than a single shared tweet to 5000 followers because of engagement. 
  2. Do not overreact. Having fireworks and fancy presentations can result in negative outcomes. Don't force it, be natural and have good speaker/presenters on your team.


Tips on storytelling. My tips on planning your presentation.

  1. Vision: In technology,  people often think in terms of vision and 10 year strategy. We don't buy IT products from Amazon, we are taught that your product will be complicated, hard to buy, hard to understand. Tell me why its great, obvious, simple and easier to get my attention. Be careful with corporate/company vision. Stick with product vision thats relevant to me. Save the corporate vision for the sales call. (Don't tell me that you will save networking, tell me HOW you can save networking. )
  2. Tell me how it integrates with my existing assets How do they get from where they are to where you want. What the issues that prevent me from adopting your product. If you have are promoting a platform, prove that your value is greater than the negative effect of lock-in.
  3. The magic sauce. Present high level understanding of how your technology works (the magic sauce). Don't get into the details, if we are interested in the details then that can happen in a sales call. That will drive the lead gen. Don't answer every question, create something for inbound queries. If you tech is unusual, different or advanced 
  4. Don't talk about innovation, game-changing, market leading, and other cliches. Thats childish chatter used by mindless sales grunts, VCs, bankers & executives for self-motivation. Its not for you to judge your product, thats what customers do. Don't make the mistake of confusing retail/consumer sales methodology of selling soap powder (tell em, tell em, tell em) when talking to engineers and professionals. Make it serious, make it detailed, present on a single message.
  5. Talk Use Cases Talk about practical scenarios that have worked. Explain why your product fits, where it works. Practical use cases let us imagine the product as part of our sustem (Mistake: Let a customer present who doesn't talk about the use case for their business)
  6. Expose Weaknesses If you have a weakness, tell us. If your product doesn't do something, tell me why not. We expect to see some weakness in your product. We will be able to see a limited use case, or detect exaggerated performance/capacity claims. Showing weakness means you are confident that your product does fit somewhere. We tend to look for weakness until we find one. This isn't Saturday morning cartoons where everything has a nice ending after 30 mins.
  7. Some people in the audience aren't going to get it. Thats ok. 

Story Mechanics

A good novel has multiple stories happening at once. A primary story arc is the engine for movement and motivation, the underlying message. Each chapter has a self-contained story. Several chapters may also have minor story arcs. 

A 2 hour presentation delivered in 15-20min chapters should do the same. 

A primary goal of TFD is the published video. NO ONE WATCHES YOUTUBE FOR MORE THAN TEN MINUTES. Do not present a single story for 2 hours. People get bored, distracted by social media or their colleagues interrupt them.

Give people a reason to keep watching your video. Make me want to watch the next one. 

Design your presentation with a primary story. Then decide on secondary story arcs (messages) . Then work out what to say in 15 minute intervals.  

  1. The Main Story Map out a story line to cover the time, lock down the primary message and make sure that is repeated in every session. 
  2. The goal to ask questions and answer most of them. Leaving questions unanswered means that customer can contact you and you can qualify the lead. 
  3. Consider exposing the warts and gotchas– you get tons of credibility by talking about something that DOESN’T work as much as something that does. It lowers their defenses and makes them feel like this isn’t just a marketing pitch. 
  4. Show the vision and then carry that vision throughout the presentations. Don’t just give a simple vision piece up front and then never come back to it. Use a recurring story point to reinforce the key 
    1. Recurring Story Point: Create a fictional character and tell their story and use case. 
    2. Reminder : remind me of the vision and purpose of the product regularly. 
    3. Re-solve Problem: Solve, and re-solve the problem as we learn more about your product. 
  5. Cross Link Tell the audience about the other videos you are recording. Drive engagement. Think "video hyperlink" to drive more engagement with speciality area. 
  6. 15 mins per section  Take the whole day, then break down the big components, then break it down again. This translates better to how things appear on video and how much people can consume
  7. Titles Drive Views. Having cool titles will drive video views post-event. Think about SEO and keywords that people can search so that Google will present the videos on youtube. 

Mechanics No-Nos

  1. Not Self Contained Don't boil the ocean in 15 minutes. Going deep means less topics. Deep drives engagement, shallow more likely leads to boredom.
  2. Too Many Presenters: Too many presenters is confusing. Human cognition wants 'familiar' to reassure them its safe. Rotate presenters for freshness but don't have a different person every section. Another way to say this ‘don’t change storytellers in the middle of the story’. 
  3. Death by Powerpoint : Powerpoint slides don’t communicate or provide context. They don’t talk or feel nice. Don’t kill your audience with Powerpoint slides. 
  4. Heavy Sales Pitching : The audience is technical and do not value heavy marketing and sales content. Save that for face-to-face customer meetings. 

Narrative Methods.

Here are some narrative methods that come to mind when constructing your story arcs for the sessions. There is a wide array of choices to structure your story narrative.

Feature Slam 

Too many features, bright shiny technology, platform play ?  Then consider the Feature Slam. 

One product, hundreds of features, great technology, too much to talk about. 

Delivering a ‘feature slam’ story that shows great feature after feature is tough but works for certain types of technologies. 

The Day Zero to Two Experience

Style your presentation using a typical sales cycle – from the upfront pitch, to where you start after you buy, to what it looks like when you are using it, and ongoing operations. Take the audience on the customer as if they were there. 

Three part storyline : 1) Why am I buying it 2) How do I deploy it 3) Whats It Look Like When I Am Using It. 

The Story Teller

Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Building narrative that tells a deep, insightful story about something that the company has. 

I do not recommend this. Slow start tends to lose attention, and takes a lot of time. Remember, video means telling stories in 15 minute intervals not ‘read me to sleep’. 

Why Does the Internet Need a Programmable Forwarding Plane with Nick McKeown - YouTube

Success: Arista EOS with Ken Duda - [] - 20 minutes on software quality. 

Mechanics and Machines

If your product / technology is major technology transition then you may want to talk about the deep mechanics that makes this technology possible. 

Example: A Deeper Dive Into Barefoot Networks Technology with Dan Lenoski - YouTube

Whiteboard and Demo

People in IT identify with whiteboards where designs and discussions can freely, dynamically happen. Its harks to lecture halls, teachers and education. 

This requires a presenter who can make this happen with drawing skills and able to use the method. 

Success: Understanding the Cisco ACI Policy Model - YouTube with 39000 views. 

Its difficult to video a whiteboard and this is not recommended. Use brand new pens so that the cameras can pick up the writing.

The Business Units. 

Big companies have multiple business units sharing the cost of the two hour session. This isn’t a problem provided THEY RUN ON TIME. Do not let the first session run overtime AT ALL. Be ruthless. 

The Founder

We often see new companies and the founder wants to talk about their product. Seme founders are not the right people to present. Think carefully about limiting their session time. Yes, company founders are usually dull speakers. 

Touch Turn Talk

Deliver the corporate deck. Touch the screen, turn the audience and talk to them - the 20 year old method of corporate presentations. Hold your hands like so, and never turn your back on the your the audience. 

This doesn’t work well for social media. Its does work for sales calls. Do not confuse these things. 

I do not recommend doing this. 

Presentation Mechanics

Some tips on delivering your presentations.

  1. Say your name and role in the company. Thats it. Nothing else. No one wants to hear your resume (unless you were an Astronaut) or someone famous. You are not the purpose for session, focus on the story. The audience doesn't care about you, they care about the technology/product/solution. Personally, I don't care who you are I just want to hear about your product/solution. 
  2. Company Brief: The people in the room don't care about your company. You might care but its boring. Do the company brief in the middle once the story is started. Engineers only care about the company details after you have a product that interests us. I don't care about your funding, investors, board members until you have my attention. 
  3. Get a fresh projector bulb: The light coming from a projector makes it easier to see. Projector bulbs have a life of a few hundred hours before they degrade and emit less lumens. You are supposed to replace them regularly.
  4. Avoid sitting down The audience in the room can't see you when sit down and make it easier to disengage. Its necessary to sit down to do a live demo but it would be better to have a lectern to lift the computer up.  Eye contact with the audience is desirable. 
  5. Speak UP so that people in the room can hear you. People will tell you when you are too loud. They can and will ignore you if you are too quiet. The video team can fix the audio levels. 
  6. Be Passionate put the right people in front of the camera. Many people lose their passion in front of a powerful audience. 
  7. Live Demo Double if you feel that live demo is best, then have TWO people, one person to talk the demo and another person to press buttons. Get a repartee going between them to drive attention.  
  8. Check the Background the background can distract, deflect or interrupt the person watching the post-event video. Study the next movie or show you watch and consider how the background reinforces your perception of the story. e.g. its common to stand in front of a whiteboard like a classroom - its that the right "movie set" for a strategy discussion. Your average corporate boardroom is poor background for video (nice vertical blinds!)
  9. Don’t stand in the light of the projector.  You’ll only end up looking like a Smurf on video because the camera cannot see your face due to over-exposure.

Demo Opinions

Demos can be powerful, shocking and visually rich. Mostly they are boring and pointless. 

  1. Visual Richness: Focus on the video stream and consider what you demonstrate in a visual context. Its rare to have a platform to show the physical product, the GUI, the slick interface, the simplicity of actions. 
  2. Avoid Live Demos:  Its perfectly fine to record a video and stop talk start talk through it. Prepare ahead and execute clean on the day. Reduce your workload to prepare. Your ability to setup your product is assumed. Offer to provide the video after the event via Youtube or direct download (or on a landing page)
  3. ZOOM IN/Embiggen - Your audience needs to SEE the screen. Just because you can see it on your computer doesn't mean that anyone else can.
  4. A live demo with a great presenter can be mind blowing. The ability to dive down rabbit holes, answer odd questions and highlight an unexpected feature is hugely valuable. Hard to pull off unless you have presenter with real flair and technology strength (most don't). Know your weaknesses.
  5. Don’t assume too much – something as simple as a pre-recorded demo (nothing live!) that shows setting up a network with full m-seg in a few clicks is something they may have never seen.

Post Events Activities

  1. Embed Videos On Your Site : Write blog posts and embed the videos on your company blog. Drive views and engagements in the same way that you would a whitepaper or podcast. What do you want to tell people about your product ? 
  2. Social Media Add the session video to posts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc to drive engagement with your brand. Trickle it out over several weeks to pump the SEO algorithms on those sites. Link back and forward to other post to drive maximum engagement. 
  3. Ad Buys Consider buying Facebook Ads or LinkedIn Ads to drive extra engagement with this content. A few hundred dollars can get hundreds of views, with some luck, they can go viral and reach a large audience. 
  4. Track Attendees the people in the room are likely  publish podcasts and blog posts about your session. Find those articles and repeat them to your audience. Media & analysts follow influencers closely and will read them in addition to sales prospects.  It does and will change their perception and further magnify the impact of the event.