I'm really happy to say that the client was thrilled with our work at this show. First-time clients are never quite sure what to expect from a presenter, and the repeated raves and near-capacity audiences at our presentations definitely gave the clients the validation (and return on their investment) that they were looking for. Yes, a presenter is worth everything you invest in her--and sometimes twice or ten times more!
Everyone at INX was so incrediby nice--Renee, Bryce, Susan, Kyle, and everyone else. Thank you for welcoming us to your company and trusting Duane and myself with your corporate message. It was our pleasure to convey it with enthusiasm and precision. Thanks also to the folks at the Drucker Group, Scott and Richard, who were always ready with a smile and a camera. You tried something different at this show, with these "mini-seminars," and you got some success and valuable feedback in return.
And now, I'm going to take a long, hot bath and attack the follow-up call list tomorrow.
Today's Graph Expo went swimmingly! It seems that the client has come around and is getting to see why presenters are so valuable! Duane, my very talented fellow presenter, did an excellent job despite some technical difficulties (the visuals for one of his presentations are being changed again, definitely for the better!) and managed to pack folks in at each of his presentations.
And at least five INX staffers came up to me to tell me that they'd never had people stay until the end of the presentations before (with 20-minute scripts--gee, I wonder WHY?) and also had rarely had so many people stay and ask questions before. Translation: they were getting good, solid leads as a direct result of our presentations! In truth, the picture to the left is what the booth looked like after every presentation--packed full of people asking for product details, with every rep and sales person busy with a hot prospect. A very good sight to see!
Pardon me while I bask in the glory of being damn good at what I do. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
No, wait, not yet. More validation: after presenting a talk on Six Sigma, a quality improvement program, a gentleman in the front row pulled me aside to ask me how long I'd been a Six Sigma Representative. YES! I'm credible! Yay!
OK, NOW I'm done basking.
At any rate, it looks like the client is more than satisfied, and this show is going to be (in their words) "the biggest show yet" for them. In a down economy, that's pretty remarkable. I'm incredibly happy for them and wish them all the best of continued success!
The very good news today is that the client doesn't seem to be as upset with me as I'd feared. The better news is that all this last-minute miscommunication has given me a great idea--I'm creating a "Need to Know" packet of info for first-time presentation clients. It's an idea I've shamelessly stolen from the incredibly successful realtor Terri Murphy. She used to give her first-time homebuyers a packet with information on everything from how to change your gas service to how to teach your kids to pack their own rooms--and it was a great idea!
So I've already created a few documents tonight--"What You Should Expect from a Good Presenter," and "What You Can Do to Assure a Great Show." And I've got lots of tips on avoiding sore feet and the 3:00 sleepies. :-) Pretty cool, huh?
Anyway, for those who haven't seen McCormick Place the day before a show, it usually looks something like this. Yes, huge cherry-pickers lumber through the aisles, bubble wrap, packing tape, and carpet remnants are everywhere, and all the booth carpets are protected by plastic during set-up. It's really quite amazing that a huge concrete room can be tranformed into such a remarkable marketplace in a few short days.
The rehearsal (I guess this would be the bad news part) was truly grueling. Most rehearsals run two or three hours; this one took SEVEN. What the client didn't realize is that they hadn't provided us with final scripts, so everything was slightly off. And their visuals weren't quite final, either, so we actually spent a few hours today re-writing some of Duane's script to jibe with the video. And speaking of Duane--he was amazing! A true professional, always polite and (more importantly) always calm, even in the midst of such a long day. And not only that, he's a bang-up presenter, too--I couldn't have picked a better candidate to help out this first-time client!
As I was ruefully commenting to an associate earlier today, "You know, right now, I've been spending a lot of time complaining about my client. But last year at this time, I was complaining about my lack of clients."
It has helped to put things in perspective--true, it is possible that after this weekend, I will have encountered my very first dissatisfied client. Not quite the same benchmark as the first dollar, first glowing testimonial, but a benchmark for business nonetheless, right? It occurred to me that I should feel quite proud at this moment--this is a sign that the business is growing and experiencing all the things that normal, healthy businesses run across!
I do have to admit that I am still hoping that the show goes swimmingly for this client. I just want them to have a great show, and for mostly selfless reasons even. :-) True, this would not give me as much "I-told-you-so" power, but the whole reason I'm in this business is to make the client's trade show experience phenomenally better and more effective.
So, while the scripts are still an incredible 15-19 minutes long, perhaps their audience really will endure the lengthy presentations in order to get more thorough information. Maybe they won't mind sitting for 20-30 minutes if they can walk away feeling like they've been to a seminar and not a marketing presentation. I'm a bit curious to see how all this turns out, really.
And, in the end, I do hope that we can salvage these presentations and make the show a success for the client.
For those who think that I use this blog only to share the positive effects of productive marketing and success stories of satisfied clients, today you're going to see the unpleasant underside of running a business.
Today (and for a good portion of this week) I've spent most of my time and energy trying to come to a compromise with a new client. Now I do understand that this client has never used a presenter before, so it was my job to provide some free consulting in what to expect and how best to use a presenter.
And now it seems that, despite my best efforts to make this weekend's show a win-win situation for the client and myself, no compromise will be reached. The client wants a presenter to do triple the number of agreed-upon (and contracted) scripts at double the agreed-upon (and contracted) length and is surprised when I wouldn't agree to that. All efforts at compromise seem to have failed; the client still wants all the scripts at their original length and seems unwilling to pay the additional fee or to cut the script lengths (or have me edit them).
So, I'm going to take a moment to see what I've learned from all this.
First: Insist on going over every detail of the contract with the clients before they sign it. Make them read the fine print.
Second: Spend even more time educating a first-time client on what goes into the preparation of an effective presentation. I'm thinking that including relevant articles on presentation length (such as the one I wrote yesterday) and the effectiveness vs. time issue would be helpful.
Third: Insist on hard script dates. Make them stick to the dates specified in the contract--this is for their own good, so that length and content issues can be dealt with in plenty of time. Again, all to ensure a profitable and effective presentation.
Fourth: Use a fellow presenter or agent to negotiate the contract, just to make sure all questions are asked and answered. It's difficult to negotiate a contract when you're also the marketing and salesperson and presenter--let someone impartial do the nitty-gritty work.
Fifth: If you have to give up some work, give it up. Both you and the client will be happier in the long run.
If anyone else has negotiation advice, please sound in! I'd love to hear it!
As I've been struggling with a new client quite a bit this week, the subject of the next article for the newsletter has come to me. And it is.... (drum roll... OK, not, since it's not that exciting) Your Presentation: How Long Is Too Long?
What would you think? How much time would you think you'd need to explain or demonstrate your best product or service to a small group of prospects?
Your thoughts are probably going something like this now: "Well, it would take hours, really... but I bet I could put together a bang-up, super-condensed 30-minute presentation that would really wow them." And then, "You know, at a trade show, people want to be on their way--15-20 minutes would barely give them a taste, but it would do it." Or possibly, "Most presentations I've seen are only a few minutes long, but I can do so much more, and my product is so much more involved than that. I'd need at least 15 minutes to show the basic features."
And you would be... well, wrong. While it's true that you probably have a good 30 minutes of solid material, you've failed to do one thing: consider your AUDIENCE. If you've ever taken a speech class, you know that for every speaking or communicative situation, there are three factors to consider: subject matter, situation, and audience. YOU may be prepared to talk for 30 minutes, but is your audience prepared to listen for 30 minutes?
See, I've been spending a lot of time this week explaining that the human attention span is about seven minutes long, thanks to commercials and TV and the like. Yes, it's become rather gnat-like, but that's just the way it is. Anything you say after seven minutes WON'T BE REMEMBERED. Most likely it won't even be heard, as people start looking at their watches and thinking about what they need to do next, which call they really should have returned by now, and what is going on just down the hall.
A common misconception is that more is better. Clients tend to think that their products are so complicated and have so many features that they need a 10- or 15- or even 20-minute presentation to explain it all. And this may be true, but what good does that do if your audience stops listening after 7 minutes? What is important to realize is that the primary purpose of a presentation, even a technical demonstration, is NOT to inform.
Let me say that again: the primary purpose of a presentation and/or technical demonstration is NOT to inform. It must be informative, yes, but the primary purpose is to PERSUADE. Actually, I usually prefer the term "titillate." :-) Yes, it's a bit sexy, isn't it? But that's the idea--you give them just enough information that the first thing they do is run to the sales rep to find out more. You don't need to tell them everything--you just need to persuade them to get motivated enough to start asking questions. Titillate. Tease, if you will.
How do you know that your talk is persuasive? Here's a tip: imagine your mother or father or some family member that doesn't get what you do (I'm sure you have one) and might even tend to be a bit critical. Read through your script, and after every paragraph imagine your family member/friend asking you impatiently, "So what's in it for me?"
Then cut your script in half. It will run 7-8 minutes, I promise. And not a single eye will be drifting down to the wrist wearing the watch. :-)
Just a quick note, as I dash off to the last meeting of our Chicago Success Team... today was a really nice, refreshing Day o' Freelancing! It made me feel incredibly lucky to have the flexible schedule that I have.
I woke up at a reasonable hour, logged on to check email, lingered over my coffee as I skimmed a few online news sites, then began making calls around 10:00. The most important (and therefore first) call on the list was to a client at whose show I'm presenting in two weeks. They've just emailed me the scripts, which I read and timed yesterday... and they're WAY too long. Not only did I only agree in my contract to 10-minute scripts (there are extra charges for 10, 15 or 20-minute scripts), but one script is almost 20 minutes, which means a 30-minute presentation time. And I've NEVER seen a show attendee stay more than 8-9 minutes at a presentation.
So we talk and email and make some headway. Around 11:00, I change into casual attire for a commercial audition and head downtown. The audition goes well (and best of all, quickly!), allowing me plenty of time to change into my black dress and heels for the modeling job this afternoon.
... which, as it turns out was cancelled with pay. Bad news: I got a wide array of catcalls on the way to the job, including "How much?" and "Gee, now I know what I want for Christmas." Good news: It's 70 degrees and sunny, and I have the afternoon free in downtown Chicago! I had lunch with one of the other models and then watched Marshall Field's Vertical Fashion Show--quite a spectacle!
And all this reminds me of just how much I love this city!
Yes, quite a day. I'm quite blessed.
One of the great things about last week's vacation was that I had the choice of skipping the grueling hikes and enjoying a luxury that few busy adults get to indulge in: READING. I read the very thick novel, Kushiel's Chosen, on the transatlantic flight and over the first few days of the vacation, and then switched to Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash after that. Snow Crash came highly recommended, and I wasn't disappointed. While I don't read a lot of sci-fi and am far from being a sci-fi geek, this particular novel was especially interesting to me because of its dives into ancient Sumerian linguistics and the science/theory/fantasy of language acquisition.
Now the last novel that I read was the long and winding nineteenth-century French classic, Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. And I have to say this, despite my years of toil as a graduate student of French literature from that very century: Dumas is a hack. The man's characters are flat as pancakes, and his plots are hackneyed, even from a nineteenth-century point of view. And his writing style has little flair, rendering his novels as generic as cheap medications you buy over the Internet. Of the two semi-historical novels I read over the last week, Kushiel's Chosen was by far better developed--her characters were compelling and her descriptions, while they did cling to a certain consistent style, were still quite beautiful and effective at showing detail and mood to the readers.
So there; I've said it. The chick with the Master's degree in 19th-century literature thinks Dumas is overrated and devoid of any real literary talent. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.
Wow! After a week plus in Austria (and a day or two in Germany), I have to say that I'm ecstatic to be back in the states! Despite views like this one (from our first day of hiking from Reith to Alpbach in the Alps) and the chance to take beautiful abstacts like this one, after a while I was REALLY hankerin' for Internet access, my cell phone, a bathtub and people who understand what "vegetarian" means and don't feel the need to eat deep-fried pork at every meal.
Still, the scenery was absolutely breathtaking, and my brother Danny and I did get to steal away to Salzburg for a day to satisfy our urges for monuments, street vendors, stately gardens, museums and the other trappings of city life. This was definitely my favorite day of the whole trip! We had gorgeous weather and got to see everything from a torture chamber to the Domkirche (which we promptely dubbed "the Big-Ass Church" because of its overwhelming size) and my personal favorite, the bizarre and twisted Dwarf Garden just outside the palace. Flip through the photo album for the full pictures if you're curious.