Building a product presentation is a lot like writing a book…

That word either sent a shiver of dread down your spine or you’re a product manager.

Building “decks” seems to be something most product people can’t avoid. Not because you’re like me and you “think” in PowerPoint, but because you spend your days trying to take complex ideas and plans and get a lot of people to buy in. If you want to learn how to do this better, there are tons of advice out there, so I’m not going to focus on that today.

Instead, I want to talk about the reason why you might find PowerPoint a useful tool … the idea that you need to sell your idea. Product presentations are different than a lot of other types of presentations. These are not “an inform” or “data sharing” vehicles. Instead, a product presentation should be an emotional journey that leaves your audience invested in the problem of your market and the value of your solution. Because of that, I’ve found that thinking like an author helps me create that environment.

Be a Storyteller

Sure, you’ve spent months on this product. You and your designers have reams of customer research and you’ve tested the crap out of it. Your engineers are stoked because they’ve implemented the newest, coolest, most elegant technologies known to humankind.

You should all be proud of your work and excited to share it with the world. With that said, don’t assume people will know what you’re talking about or that they will even care.

Using the “story model”, you can get them engaged and create that emotional connection you want.

The traditional story arc

You can take this same structure and overlay all the components of your product discovery and strategy.

As you can see, you hit all the important topics you would have normally covered, but with this structure, you help bring the audience along and address the important “What’s In It For Me?” question in everyone’s mind.

Obviously, this isn’t only useful for building a product presentation, the same way that PowerPoint is the only way you would share your product’s value, but I found it helps kick start the whole thought process for going to market.

Change, Change, Change …

Apologies to Aretha Franklin for twisting her song “Chain of Fools”, but I can’t think about the last couple of months without hearing the chorus as “Change, Change, Change, Chain of Fools…”.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to get to this site and do any writing. After a summer of daily baseball games for my son (I put 10,000 miles on the car this summer) and an amazing vacation on a horse ranch outside of Laramie, WY – my wife and I both decided to start new jobs on the same day. Not like we actually planned it that way, but it made a very exciting Labor Day for the whole family. The sum of it resulted in me having to do what product people do … ruthlessly prioritize my time. And so here we are, months of not writing.

I left the Bullseye in August after an amazing 4 years. While it didn’t turn out to be the right place for me moving forward, it was an amazing learning experience. Trying to implement change at the scale of a company the size of Target was a challenge that has reset my definition of “hard” for the rest of my life. I’m really proud of the work my team did and I met some amazingly smart people so I have nothing but positive things to say about Target and the product efforts going on there. With that said, David Hussman‘s words when we first met – “Dude, you must feel like a stranger in a strange land.” always felt true. Eventually, I decided it was time to go “home” and find a new opportunity back at a traditional software company. Thus, the “change, change, change”.

So, fast forward one month into my new gig and I couldn’t be happier. I really do feel like I’m back home and I’m definitely drinking from the firehouse these days. Since I’m still learning the company, the market, our customers, our technology, etc, it’s really easy to feel a little stupid. After all, as the head of Product, aren’t I supposed to be the one who can answer those questions? I have to keep reminding myself, that yes, eventually that has to become true, right now my job is to learn as much as I can.

So, instead of focusing on what I don’t know, I’m instead really excited by the fact that I’ll never have a clearer perspective on our business and our market as I do now. I’m asking all the “Why” questions now because I really don’t have any bias or assumptions that inevitably come into play over time. I call this “Weaponizing my Ignorance” and I’m loving the quantity of learning I’m experiencing every day.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m back and I’m looking forward to getting back to writing here on a more regular basis.