Software Product Managers – “What is in it for the audience”?

My presentation at BPMA was well received last night. I asked the audience to walk away remembering three things from my presentation. Here they are:

1) You are the presentation: The audience has showed up to listen to you. You have the message and hence you are the presentation. If the audience can figure out your message by looking at the slides, you as well email them the slides and cancel your presentation. You could save yourselves and your audience a whole lot of time and torture.

Before you do anything, figure out your message – what three things do you want your audience to remember (just like I am doing here) to take the action you want them to take.

Once you have your message, ask yourself – will use of slides help me convey my message better? There is nothing that says every presentation has to use PowerPoint. PowerPoint is just a tool and it is up to you to determine whether you need it.

So next time someone tells you – “I cannot attend your presentation, can you send it to me” – tell them No. Tell them you can send them your slides, but if they need the presentation, they need You.

There is nothing that says that the slide deck you have to email folks has to be the same as the one you use for your presentation. In fact, I would say they have to be different. The one you send out can be full of text so that they can read it at their leisure and get the message in the absence of your voice.

2) Make powerpoint your GPS and not your competition: Now if you conclude that you do need slides, ensure that the purpose of the slides are to help guide you deliver the message. I think about PowerPoint as my GPS. A GPS system does not do the driving for me not does it take control of my car – its sole purpose is to guide me from point A to point B. When I am driving from my home to my office, I turn it off because I don’t need it – it is actually a distraction. Think about Powerpoint in the same way – if you don’t need it, don’t use it. If you need it, make sure it is only a visual aid. Don’t fill up your slides with text, fancy graphics and text animations, because it will distract the audience and they will read the slides rather than listen to you. Your audience can read faster than you can talk. After all, you are the presentation.

If you absolutely need to put text on a slide, remember – min 28 size font and use the 4×4 principle – maximum 4 bullets per slide, maximum 4 words per bullet.

3) Why does the audience care? – It is all about the audience. You are presenting to them because you want them to take the action in your favor. Find out what the audience wants to hear. Try emailing them before hand to ask them, if you have a blog ask your readers, and if nothing works, ask some of your friends or colleagues. Ask them what they would like to hear if they were going to attend your talk. This is no different from what product managers do to research market needs.

For example, if you are pitching to a VC, what message do you want to deliver to them so that they can take action – have them write you a big check?, find you the right executive talent? guide you in making some decisions?. If you are going in front of your executive management to pitch a new product proposal or a new pricing proposal, do you have the right message to make them approve your proposal?

All of this is common sense – but who was it that said “Common sense is not that common?”

I hope that I have been able to influence the attendees to use less of PowerPoint and talk more because every PowerPoint slide that is deleted will truly make this world a better place.

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3 thoughts on “Software Product Managers – “What is in it for the audience”?”

  1. Quote trivia: “Common sense is not so common” is from Voltaire and is one of the most appropriate quotes for a product manager to remember.

    -Ken Barrette

  2. Hi Gopal,

    Thanks for sharing your experience and insight on presentation skills with the Boston Product Management Association at our meeting last week. Asking Tom Kennedy to attend and offer some comments was a nice surprise and a very effective way to share your own process for continuous improvement. I posted links to some additional resources on presentation skills, along with a link to this blog entry on the .

    Enjoy the rest of the summer. I’m sure I’ll see you at another BPMA event in the fall.

    Best Regards,

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