Thursday, September 30, 2010

30 presentations in 90 minutes: A visit to BNI Gamla Ullevi

I visited a BNI team, BNI Gamla Ullevi on Wednesday the 29th. I was invited by Per Johansson of the Skooter advertising agency. Gamla Ullevi (Old Ullevi - there is also a New Ullevi) is a sports arena in central Gothenburg.

BNI Gamla Ullevi has 27 members. The team meets for lunch every Wednesday. If you visit on a day when all members are there, you'll hear 27 one minute presentations and two six minute presentations from team members. In addition, guests, like me, get 30 seconds to present themselves and their company. I did not count the exact number, but I think I heard about 30 business presentations at the meeting.

This may sound like a lot, but BNI teams are very well organized. (Self-organized, I might add, in case you are interested in Agile software development or management.) Meetings take 90 minutes. It is a tight schedule, but I have never seen a BNI meeting that feels hurried. The trick is to keep everything flowing smoothly.

If you observe carefully, practice, and experiment a bit, a BNI team is not just a place to get business referrals, it is also a great place to hone your presentation skills.

There is more happening at a BNI meeting than business presentations. However, I'll focus on the presentations this time around. BNI Gamla Ullevi does have some good presenters.

Jakob Ståhle is a professional magician and entertainer.
All armies prefer high ground to low and sunny places to dark.

-The Art of War, Sun Tzu
Jakob Ståhle, a professional magician and entertainer, made his 60 seconds memorable. It looked like Jakob had taken Sun Tzu to heart. He literally gained the high ground by stepping up on a chair, showed a folder with pictures taken during performances, and read aloud from a very favorable review. High ground and sunny all the way through.

There are several key points worth noting: Jakob showed examples of his work, he provided independent verification saying that he is very good at it, he made the presentation memorable by being a bit different.

A key feature of 60 second presentations at BNI is searching. The presenter tells the team about a person he is interested in getting a business referral to, and why that person might be interested in talking to the presenter. Obviously, good searches require a bit of preparation. I won't go into that in this post. I'll save it for a post on the BNI World Trade Center web site instead. The BNI WTC site is under development, but it will be up and running in a week or two.

Fiorenzo Bertolozzi brought a massage chair and showed how it works.
BNI Lilla Ullevi, like my own BNI team, BNI World Trade Center, has two six minute presentations at each meeting. Fiorenzo Bertolozzi from Lilla Hälsobutiken put those minutes to good use. He had brought a prop: a massage chair. With a bit of help from a friend in the team, he demonstrated how it works, and talked about massage.

Fiorenzo did use presentation slides, but it was his very engaged presentation style and use of props that caught my attention.

I talked a bit with Fiorenzo afterwards, and he told me he had spent a lot of time rehearsing. This is an important point. Rehearsal is necessary. A good presenter must know the material well enough to make it seem effortless and natural to talk about it.

Jan Berndtsson from Trust Security did the other 6 minute presentation. Jan did not use slides at all, but it was an effective presentation. Jan talked about burglar alarms, and he focused on three features that are important to users.

The first was simplicity. As you may have experienced, switching alarms on or off can be a bit more complicated than necessary. Jan talked about how the procedure can be simplified, and how his company's product does just that.

The second key feature was reliability. The alarm can communicate over the mobile phone network if the phone lines are cut.

The third feature he talked about was fast response time. The main benefit of having an alarm is that it may deter burglars from breaking in in the first place, but if they do, fast response is of course important.

Note how the main points of Jan's presentation stuck in my, usually teflon-coated, memory? If Jan had used presentation slides with bullet lists describing every feature of every product and service his company provides, I would not have remembered a thing. By keeping it simple, focusing on one product and three features important to customers, Jan made his message stick.

Jakob, Fiorenzo and Jan used different styles of presentation, but they all got their messages across very effectively. All three kept the audience focused on what they were saying, they kept their messages simple, and they talked about things the audience can relate to.

This picture was taken at BNI WTC while I held the 60 second version of the presentation I held at BNI Gamla Ullevi. I did not use a prop at Gamla Ullevi though. 
As I mentioned, guests get 30 seconds to present themselves. What can you do in 30 seconds? My presentation went something like this:
Hello! My name is Henrik Mårtensson, I am a management consultant, writer, and presenter. For example, I talk about business, and how a train accident back in 1848 had consequences that contributed to companies crashing during the financial crisis of 2008. And, about how the worlds best fighter pilot, ever, had an idea that is important to how BNI does business today.
So, I picked a topic I know my audience and I have in common. All BNI members hold presentations. I created a bit of tension by describing the end points of a 160 year old chain of events, and nothing in between. I also related an interesting, highly romanticized topic, fighter pilots, with BNI. What is the simplest way to resolve the tension? To invite me to hold a talk.

Of course, when you claim there are links between things that are very separate in nature, or in time, like I do in my 60 and 30 second teaser presentations, you must be prepared to back it up with strong evidence in the main presentation. At the end of the main presentation, the tension must be resolved. Ideally, in such a way that the audience is still hungry for more.

I invited a couple of people to visit BNI World Trade Center. I am going to write more about that over at the BNI WTC web site as soon as it is officially up and running.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Passionate about presentations

From a presentation teaser I held this morning. Note the absence of presentation software. I showed an example of long term effects of cause-and-effect chains: A train crash in 1848 has had repercussions that made companies unnecessarily vulnerable to the financial crisis and recession in 2008. I show the complete cause and effect chain in the full talk.
I am going into the presentation business. (Just so you know: I am not leaving the management consultant business, just adding a related and much needed service.) I hold at least one presentation every week, and I hear at least 16-18 presentations per week, sometimes twice that.

Some of the presentations I see are very good, but many are not. The ability to make a good business presentation is important. I have seen companies with superior sales offers getting blown out of the competition because of poor presentations. I have seen strategy presentations which could not be understood by anyone, including the presenter.

In one survey, fear of presenting ranked higher than fear of dying. (Please don't hold me to the accuracy of this. I can't remember the source at the moment.) I do hope this is an exaggeration, but judging from reactions I see, it might not be.

And yet, Garr Reynolds, one of the worlds best presenters, hit it right on the nail when he said that most people can present. Everyone is interesting to someone. Think about it: You have friends. You may have a significant other. To get either, you must be able to present yourself, one way or another. It usually does not involve PowerPointless, but that is beside the, err, point.

You are the presenter. The presentation software is just the support. At least, it is supposed to be the support. Far too often, the presentation software is a big part of what is keeping you from presenting well.

I am running a bit short of time. Got to go and present myself, so, no presentation advice this time around, but there will be. See you soon!

Visiting the Gothenburg Book Fair with Erik Lundh

Erik Lundh at the Gothenburg Book Fair 2010.
 I visited the 2010 Gothenburg Book Fair last Sunday. It was partly because of the books. I really, really, like books.

Mostly, it was to meet Erik Lundh. Erik is a well known agile coach. When Erik told me he, his family, and a friend of his were coming to the fair, it tipped the scale in favor of a visit.

While Erik and I were talking, which we did a lot of, I mentioned a problem I had with finding a good hook for a presentation I am working on. Erik offered to help. I accepted, and he dug into my brains to see if there was usable story in there somewhere.

There was, though we had to do a lot of hands on sifting to find it. Afterwards I scooped up the wrangled remains of my brains from the table, put it back where it belongs and screwed the lid back on.

The funny thing is that once my writer's block, well, presenter's block, had been removed, several other ideas that had been fluttering about in my head, searching for a context to live in, suddenly found a home.

I think the presentation will work out very well. Too early to give you any details, but watch this blog for more.

Oh, yes, Erik asked me if I could autograph his copy of my business strategy book Tempo!, which I of course did. It was a close call, because it nearly brought back my writer's block. I felt very un-authorlike.  I even tried to weasel out by claiming my handwriting is so poor it would reduce the value of the book. As you can see, I finally did pull myself together and write.

I wonder if any other authors find it as difficult to write dedications and autographs as I do. The problem is that I want to do it just right. I want to hit the right feeling with just a sentence or very short paragraph, and that is difficult.

I think the autograph writing business went well in the end. I probably didn't devalue the book too much.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Stephen Kovacs on understanding the nature of Agile

I got a very thoughtful email from Stephen Kovacs on how to develop a deep understanding of Agile and Lean. I asked him if he would allow me to publish it. He did, so here it is:

This may just be throwing a half baked idea out. That said.... I was looking around on the net for some discussion of "lean", since people seemed to be talking about it as an alternative to Agile, and my sense of Lean was not an alternative. Perhaps a less structured version of Agile? (it seems to me Agile has become an umbrella under which Lean and others congregate).
I looked at a link to Wiki about Lean development, and from there to several links down into underlying theories (psychology, etc etc).. I keep coming up with the same thing: that Agile is an effort to pull together more humanistic theories of motivation and, perhaps, communication, into a working model.
And I keep coming to the same conclusion. The more effort put into creating the model (the rules?) , the more explicit the working model, the further away people seem to get from understanding and using the concepts.
This circles back to your description of systems. I wonder though if it also points to a weakness in a straight systems approach. Ie, is describing a system technically also another way to provide more detail about the model, where you lose understanding buried in the details?
For example. If you look at theories of motivation (intrinsic vs extrinsic)..... there a decent (I think) summary of those in wiki here . If as you read through these you start highlighting elements that seem obvious within Agile.... I think there's an aha moment in the effort. There's clearly a strong leaning (pun intended) towards a Maslow, even Rogers, approach. Maybe combined with some social interaction theory.
If you look at Measurements.... for example here and scroll down to Definitions and Theories.... the concept of story points etc., seem to be based, to a high degree, on "Representational Theory"... perhaps using representational theory to get to Information theory (??). Ie, accept the uncertainty of measurements, use ranges and relativity in what you're measuring, to evolve a more accurate measurement (estimate)
Imperfect, not fully refined, examples. But in my mind these are the things that Agile, Lean, etc all seem to scream out. But people dont seem to "get" that?
I dont see how people can implement Agile successfully until they understand that. Going through the motions of the detail will always run into problems. Perhaps will always fail ?? because no two projects, no two companies, no two teams of people, will be exactly the same. The variables in the differences will respond to the underlying theories, but not necessarily implementation "rules".
Ie how can so many people spend so much time talking about specific rules, or practice, without understanding those underlying theories. Or, at least at some point, going "aha, all this "stuff" we've been talking about all relates to these theories"..... then issues like arguing for months and years over "face to face" become true Waste (in the Lean terminology)... as an example.
I have to wonder if the weakness in applying Agile, in many instances, is the result of the mind set of the people trying to implement it. That is, the developer's, or the technicians, mind set ? If many of these discussions, even books about different methodologies, are 1) missing the point entirely because the people writing them have the same mind set or 2) trying to describe the concepts in a way that mind set hears it , rather than shifting that mind set so it can understand the concepts.
#2 is not ideally said but I'm thinking back to simplistic psychotherapy concepts like : dont just look at what the world does to you, look at how you cause the world to do things to you. Ie, change, or add, to your perspective.
So maybe looking at systems helps people suspend their specific mind set to see another perspective. hmm.... interesting, if I run with the ideas, I keep ending up with a conflict between what I think of as a technical, vs humanistic, approach to things. Hard science vs intuition. Pavlov vs Rogers/Maslow. Quant vs Chaos theory. (holding head)
I agree with Stephen. Focusing too much on the details of Agile, the practices, can easily make us loose sight of the purpose of those practices. We can also loose the connection with the underlying attitudes that are fundamental to Agile. This has happened before, with TQM, with Lean, with SPC, and many other methodologies. The practices get separated from their paradigm, and retrofitted into the old paradigm. It may work, after a fashion, but most of the benefits are lost.

What about you? Do you agree? If not, why? If you do, is there a way out? What can we do to educe an understanding of the Agile paradigm?