At KMWorld last week in Washington DC I sat through some of the most boring and uninformative vendor presentations I have ever experienced.  I would like to offer ten tips to the commercial vendors that are still in business by KMWorld next year about how to make effective use of a captive audience.

  1. If you have a 45 minute slot then speak for no more than 35 minutes (15 slides max) because if the product is any good prospective customers will have some questions.
  2. At KMWorld there were some 15 minute slots. It takes a lot of skill to get a message across. If you want guidance watch Jeremy Bentley (SmartLogic) in action.  
  3. Think about what your audience wants to know. As an illustration KMWorld delegates are in the information business so detailed presentations about scalability and elasticity are not of interest.
  4. A few show-of-hand questions at the start will show your audience that you do care about users and will help you meet their expectations.
  5. Rarely is there a better approach to a presentation than telling the audience what you are going to talk about, then talking about it, and finally summarising what you have said.
  6. Always bring along a current customer and ask them to talk about how long it took to implement the solution, the benefits they gained and some of the problems that working with you they quickly solved. If you don’t have a current customer prepared to do this at your expense then just how good is your software?
  7. If you are at enterprise search conference and ask a client in web e-commerce to talk about how good your product is then the inference will be that you don’t have any enterprise clients.
  8. Even if you don’t want to reveal prices (because you are discounting like mad to keep out open-source options) at least talk about licensing models.
  9. Since most delegates already have at least one search application if might be useful to indicate whether your solution is a replacement (ouch!) or complementary (how?) 
  10.  Make sure your exhibition stand team know in advance what you are going to tell the delegates.

Vendor presentations are always going to be a feature of shows like KMWorld. However delegates come not just to see new products but to judge whether they want to work with your company. They are also considering whether they want to invite you in to give a presentation to their colleagues. The presentations I heard this year were in general the best possible case for using open-source software.

Martin White