August 6, 2008
Companies spend significant sums of money to participate in industry events, often for the chance to secure a speaking slot. And speaking at such events can indeed be a great opportunity. It isn't easy for IT execs to take time out of their busy schedules to attend events so when they do, they are eager to learn as much as they can. That makes for an audience anxious and willing to listen.
What they want to hear, however, is meaningful content that educates them on your particular technology,
Those that hit the mark typically follow the rather simple instructions that we provide to all sponsors to help them craft a message that will resonate. At IT Roadmap, most sponsor speaking slots run 15 minutes, with as many as four sponsors speaking one after another. Given that, it's important for sponsors to differentiate their presentations while succinctly getting across their key points.
The guidelines we've come up with can easily apply to most any speaking engagement. In a nutshell, to educate attendees on their technologies, we encourage sponsors to accomplish three things:
- Provide an overview that describes the technology, discusses your major differentiators and highlights the benefits to users.
- Present one or more case studies to show how the technology has gone to work helping customers in real-life situations.
- Provide a summary with critical points and actionable "takeaway" items for attendees to do or think about once they get back to the office.
When discussing your technology, stick to the facts and forget the hyperbole. Discussing your technology honestly will help you gain the attention of potential customers for whom it's a good fit, and save you the time of dealing with those for whom it isn't. And providing a good, honest, technical discussion - maybe even getting into the weeds a bit, depending on the exact audience - will help attendees quickly learn the ins and outs of a product, and probably increase the chances that you'll have good traffic at your event booth.
Case studies are probably the best way to illustrate the benefits of your technology. Providing specific examples, with customers you can name, is most effective because it carries more credibility. Failing that, case studies based on real customers who must remain anonymous can work well, too. In either case, the important thing is to simply and clearly illustrate the problem the customer was having, how your product or service helped them solve it, and the end result in terms of the benefits the customer is experiencing. Try to include actual numbers with respect to feeds and speeds, before and after costs and ROI. And don't be afraid to talk about challenging implementation issues you've had. IT pros know that few implementations are without snags. If you're honest about the challenges you've faced with particular customers, and what you've learned from those experiences, you'll once again gain credibility.
The "takeaway" items you provide in the summary can take several forms. It may be as simple as pointing attendees to a Web site where they can get more information, such as data sheets or a white paper that explains your technology more fully. Lists of questions that customers should ask prospective vendors as they source products are also effective, if they raise valid points to consider. You may also point to trusted industry sources where attendees can get more info on the topic, such as product tests or comparisons.
Following these simple guidelines, you can create presentations that will help you realize the full value of your investments in industry events by piquing the interest of attendees in your product - and encouraging them to take the next step to learn more. In the end, that's all you're really after - a promising lead.