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.


Misner said...

Hello Henrik. Thanks for your comments about BNI. They are appreciated.

All the best.

Dr. Ivan Misner

Per Johansson said...

Hi Henrik. Nice to read about our meeting and your comment about the presentations. They all prove that Powerpoint is not the universal answer for a good presentation. It's the performer who makes it.