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Intelligent pitching for techies

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How to present a tech topic to a non-tech audience. My "Intelligent Pitching" approach asks the presenter to consider what is on his or her audience's mind and speak to those concerns.

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Intelligent pitching for techies

  1. 1. Use “Intelligent Pitching” to Explain a Technical Problem to a non- Technical Audience A Better Approach to Presentations Dan Gordon dan@valhallapartners.com @dangordontech
  2. 2. What Do I Know About Pitching? • I go through lots of presentations – 10,000 for me since becoming a VC? • Never had a presenter ask what’s on my mind • Most presenters – Talk “at” me – Don’t talk “to” me
  3. 3. Intelligent Pitching • One of the three great lessons I learned about writing and communication in general – Know the mind of your audience • Not just for entrepreneurs and investors – Everyone pitches – You either sell or you work for someone who sells
  4. 4. The Virtuous Circle of Intelligent Pitching What do you want them to think next? Persuade them What are They Thinking? Know Your audience Cast Your Spell Assess Your Impact
  5. 5. A Quick Case Study “We need more engineering resource to lower technical debt by re-factoring the code”
  6. 6. Know Your Audience 1: They Don’t Know • They don’t know what technical debt is • They don’t know what re-factoring is • They don’t really know what code is • They believe that techies do what we do by magic. – To be fair, we believe the same of them • They don’t like being dependent on us What Refactoring means to You What Refactoring means to Them
  7. 7. Know Your Audience 2: They Don’t Care (Much) • It’s easier for them picture making money than to picture saving money • And it’s hard for them to picture how re-factoring will even save money • They know full well that just because you re-factor the code doesn’t mean you’re going to cut staff
  8. 8. Know Your Audience 3: Refactoring is Low on Their Tower of Wishes and Woe • Everyone has a “tower of wishes and woe” • Most intense, most pressing concerns at the top • Least intense, least pressing concerns at the bottom • If a solution isn’t tied to something on the Tower, it won’t matter My Daughter’s Braces Pleasing my Boss Not Looking Like an Idiot Am I a good person? Increasing Revenues Saving Costs World Peace Free Tibet
  9. 9. Cast Your Spell 1: Show That You Know What They’re Thinking What You Want Them to Think What You Say/Show “I’m not a 3-card Monte card sharp” “Software Development is not magic, but there are best practices that reliably give better results” “Re-factoring will give you benefits that matter to you” “Re-factoring will allow us to incorporate new features that wouldn’t fit in the schedule otherwise” “No cost cuts, but very likely productivity gains” “Re-factoring will improve morale and therefore productivity on the tech team”
  10. 10. Cast Your Spell 2: Attach to the Highest Wish(es) You Can • Convincing them that you can “save costs” (Wish #6) is no good if you may make them “look like an idiot” (Woe #3) • Attachment cannot be superficial – “This will make you look good to your boss” is a turnoff remark, not a turn-on My Daughter’s Braces Pleasing my Boss Not Looking Like an Idiot Am I a good person? Increasing Revenues Saving Costs World Peace Free Tibet
  11. 11. Cast Your Spell 3: Go Beyond Logic • Persuasion is (at least) equal parts emotion and reason • Emotion is not lying • Techniques: – Use Story – Use Detail – Use more than words – Understand what images and metaphors will reach them • Tower of Wishes and Woes
  12. 12. What the “Refactoring” Slide Might Say We need to schedule time for Preventive Maintenance • Just because software is invisible doesn’t mean it’s magic • Re-factoring the software regularly will make new features easier to implement • Re-factoring improves team morale and productivity
  13. 13. Assess Your Impact 1: What’s Wrong with Interruptions? • Nothing! • The opposite of interest is boredom, not questions • Always answer questions • Never stick to the pitch
  14. 14. Assess Your Impact 2: How to Tell When You’re Losing Your Audience • Absence of questions • Playing with tech toys • Body language – Crossed arms, etc. – Lack of eye contact • Fidgeting
  15. 15. …And What To Do About It • Let someone else from your team take over – Good advice generally, btw • Ask them what questions are on their mind as they hear what you’ve said so far – A little better than “any questions” at the end of each slide • Have some props that are not PowerPoint – Gadgets – Mobile app where they have to download the app – Financials that are not on a slide (so they can see them) • Ask for a bio break! – Looks odd, but better than putting them to sleep
  16. 16. Assess Your Impact 3: Always do a post-mortem • Have someone from your team watch the audience and take notes – What did they like? – What did they hate? – What went over their heads? • Iterate the pitch and make it better next time
  17. 17. Dan Gordon dan@valhallapartners.com @dangordontech THANK YOU – QUESTIONS?

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