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Presenting an idea

I have just organised a meeting with two librarians to garnish an expert opinion on my program. Actually I emailed the faculty of Engineering librarian with a brief overview of my program and three screenshots, and she was interested enough to show the faculty of business librarian and both would like to meet with me this Friday.

This is an exciting step, as both of these people will be well skilled in the field of 'referencing', and faculty requirements.

The reason I set up the meeting is because the project is close to being finished, and finished enough to be able to present and garnish an expert opinion on its quality. The worst thing that could happen would be to have lecturers saying "and by the way, that RefMate program floating around is not acceptable.". The librarians will be able to give me an expert opinion on whether the output of this program is up to scratch.

I have never given a presentation like this before.
I have never even met these two ladies.

Has anyone else done this sort of thing, could you give me tips on what I should do, not do etc. It will be a very interactive presentation, but I need to make sure I have my bases covered.

Aussie Chick
Tuesday, March 9, 2004

I give heaps of these sorts of presentations.

Watch expectations. 

If you expect to give a smooth powerpoint style presentation and it ends up being an interactive discussion then you will feel like it failed.

It they expect it to be a smooth powerpoint sales presentation and its an informal discussion they will feel disapointed...  etc etc

Start of with stating the purpose of the presentation.

Write down key points in note form.  Not only so you dont lose the information but it demonstrates you actually value what they are saying.

A little homework goes a long way.  What software do they currently use ? What do they spend their time doing ?

Mostly be relaxed and have a positive attitude, never argue just restate with a different emphasis.

Here is perhaps the ultimate communication principle that an amazing number of people dont know :

When somone says something with passion you disagree with, if you simply state the the opposing view they will feel ignored. 

People dont mind being disagreed with but they cannot stand being ignored. 

Answer : restate what they said, slowley, expand on it, so they can see you understand their point, THEN state the opposing view.

"Look people wont use it because librarians are locked into the university wide system."

(you simply negate)

"It can automatically organise X Y and Z and so actually provides a better solution" 

(they feel ignored)

"LOOK, Thats fantastic, it could make me coffee and we still wouldnt use it"

(better approach)

"Ok, so Librarians in Universities and big commerical organisations also I guess, are usually locked into some organisation wide information system.."

"yes !"

"and being able to interact with it is sort of non-negotiable.. i mean even if they loved my system they would have to have all the information available in both systems, enter the information twice !" 

(now he is on side because he was listened to...)

"Ok, well that is obviously a major issue and I have attempted to address it at least partially by...

Now you have a constructive meeting participant again.

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

When I set out to build a presentation like this, I usually try to map out a set of conditions I want to meet along the way, rather than starting out with the content I want to show.  For example, depending on your audience, you might want to have the first part of your presentation focused on getting your audience to trust you so that they will be more open to absorbing the information you plan to present.  This represents a condition: "Audience trusts me."  Similarly, you might write down "Audience understands topic X" for one of the intermediate goals.  After you set this part down, then you can decide how to use your content to achieve the stated objective.  This makes it much easier to use your content effectively.  Rather than showing content, you want to convey information.

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

"If you expect to give a smooth powerpoint style presentation and it ends up being an interactive discussion then you will feel like it failed."

OTOH, if you're presenting to two potential users and you actually give a smooth powerpoint style presentation with no interrruptions, you *have* failed.

Your goal should be to get them interested and involved.


Tuesday, March 9, 2004

From your post I am not entirely certain what you think the purpose of the presentation is.  Is it a sales presentation masquerading as a requirements gathering session?  Is it a requirements gathering session?  Are you just looking for some potential end-users to say "this is great"?  What is the agenda? 

name withheld out of cowardice
Tuesday, March 9, 2004

One of the most valuable benefits of one-on-one sales is MARKET RESEARCH.

Even if the demo doesn't produce a sale or any direct benefits, you will have gotten valuable  information about your target audience.

So... LISTEN to them. Take notes.

When our company was quite young (1997 or so), I tracked down a PHD who'd done a bunch of studies on our type of software  (clinical software for hospitals/patients' therapy).

We ended up meeting him at a conference and sat down for a short conversation. It went so well that we talked until about 10 pm (7 hours or so).

Later my wife (my partner in the company, she's a clinician) commented that he was probably quite flattered that I actually TOOK NOTES on things that he said.

He was even more impressed when we met him at the next conference and had implemented a lot of his ideas.

The real Entrepreneur
Tuesday, March 9, 2004

BTW, great article about the above principle:

Making every sales call market research.

BTW, did you contact these sorts of people when the project was in the "design" phase?

The real Entrepreneur
Tuesday, March 9, 2004


What are your goals with this meeting?  What are their goals?  For a successful meeting/presentation, you, as the presenter, should know both your own goals and theirs.

They've demonstrated an interest in the program.  So, a likely guess is they are going to be interested in an answer to the question, "Is this thing useful and does it work right".  Though they may have one or more hidden agendas as well.

You're interested in much the same thing.  So start with the goal: trying to evaluate the usefullness of RefMate.  You want to present what it does, from the perspective of the prospective user.  You should have information you want to present, as well as questions you want to get answers to.  They will also likely come in with questions.

Don't feel that you need to have an answer for every question or problem they pose.  Your software is not released yet -- and you can state this up front, that it is not finalized and part of your intention with the meeting is to find ways to make it better.  So if they pose a question or problem that you don't have an answer for, simply say, "Wow, that's an interesting question.  I don't have an answer for you right now.  Can we talk about this a little more?"

Good luck and let us know how it goes.  I for one have followed with interest your series of posts/questions here, and I hope RefMate succeeds.  You've obviously put a lot of effort into it and I hope to see your work pay off for you.

Should be working
Tuesday, March 9, 2004

You should probably also look into what your software has to offer over established bibliographic software such as and all the others out there on Google.

Is your software more feature-complete? Is it cheaper? Is it easier to use? Is it aimed at a specific market segment not well served by these other packages?

C Rose
Tuesday, March 9, 2004

name withheld out of cowardice:

The point of this presentation is sort of all of the above.
It is not a sales presentation, I am not trying to sell to these two ladies, I am wanting there opinion on the product, there opinion on how other members of a faculty would react to this product, there opinion about whether I have made any fundamental boo boos that someone with years of experience working with styles would know.

This meeting also gives me an opportunity to become more familiar with the internal workings of the university faculty and particularly library, if I am to sell this at a university I need to have the support of the librarians, these are the people who will be recommending the product. While I am not after there recommendation at the moment, I am wanting to garnish there thoughts on the concept, ie 'would they be willing to recommend this product when completed?'.

In the long run, if I can get the university librarians to say this is a good product and be willing to put brochures beside there 'how to do referencing' section of leaflets, then I will have a much better chance of getting the university newsagent/bookstore to sell copies of this program for me.

This interview is a chance to gain a deeper knowledge of the internal workings of the university, what an expert thinks about the quality of this program, and whether an expert thinks that the other members of the faculty would willing to have there undergraduate students use this product.

Aussie Chick
Tuesday, March 9, 2004

NB I have read everyones comments, and although I haven't said much, I am listening hard.

Aussie Chick
Tuesday, March 9, 2004

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