We have all been there, sitting in that conference room, trying to tune out the monotonous voice of the “presenter with unlimited slides.” The lucky ones came up with an excuse at the last minute like, “Sorry, my kids just texted me and apparently my basement is flooding,” or “I did not realize I have a scheduling conflict, I will join you after the presentation, could you please email me the slides?” The fortunate ones have blackberries, iPhones or a PDA to surf the web during the presentation, maybe even catch up with friends on IM while occasionally looking up and nodding at the slide-monger. The unlucky ones did not have an excuse, nor do they have a PDA, so they are left with feigning interest in the presentation while making a mental list of grocery items they need to pick up on the way home. Just when you are about to die that slow death by PowerPoint, we hear those blissful words, “This is my last slide,” and everyone scrambles to look up as if they were always paying strict attention. Sound familiar? We have all been there.
One of my customers asked me recently to attend a meeting with a third-party software vendor. This company was proposing a software product that would complement our existing ACD offering. I was asked to attend this meeting to identify the architectural impact this product would have on my customer’s overall solution. I was surprised to see that the vendor’s engineering representatives were conducting a customized architecture & technical impact discussion via PowerPoint. It’s the right strategy, but the wrong tool, and we can all guess how that presentation went.
Don’t get me wrong, I like PowerPoint. It is very effective for short fact-based presentations. However, architecture and technical discussions, especially those tailored to a customer’s individual environment, should always be conducted on the white board. Here’s why:
Interactive – “The Board” is organically interactive. Nothing engages a customer more than a white board to help describe their architecture. From the get-go, you’ll have their attention, and the discussion will be specific to their environment.
Flexible – It allows the presenter to drive the discussion in any direction based on real-time customer feedback. No more, “Oh no! My slides have nothing to do with that topic, that’s another presentation”
Responsive – “The Board” addresses a customer’s immediate needs. You can avoid saying, “Your burning question will be answered on slide 168, so let’s quickly get thru these next 100 slides”. Ok I am exaggerating the numbers but you get my point. After all, aren’t we there to provide a solution?
Simple – Layering the modular architecture blocks from scratch allows the customer to understand the functionality of each component as well as their relation to each other. This allows the customer to quickly understand the solution as a whole. You know you’ve done your job when they start coming up with architecture solutions based on the information you just provided them.
Architecture discussions should always take place on the white board. Do you disagree? Let me know. I have some bullet points I’d like to swivel in your direction.