Briefing IT Industry Analysts, tips for (bigger) vendors

Some folks on my team asked for tips on briefing analysts. Here’s the presentation I put together for it in full on bullet-glory style! Like a good analyst, I showed up 10 minutes late to the call and went about 15 minutes over. Role-playing they calls it.

Check out the slides, and if you want to see a more general overview of working with analysts, see my talk from last year on dealing with analysts for startups, it’s recorded!

Pro-tip: whenever you come up with a snappy marketing line, see what the opposite of it sounds like. Does that opposite state ever occur, is it “normal”? If not, then you might just have kind of said nothing.

To pick on this image (I’m sure they were well intentioned), does anyone create software to disempower people? (Let’s set aside viruses and NSA spying – even that software is written to empower the “bad guys” and spies, though, right?). No: computers, if functioning properly, are always there to empower people. That is, until the computers (or aliens) take over.

So, what you’d want to know is how the software empowers people.

I often call this the “computers are awesome!” anti-pattern in tech marketing. One might shorten and modernize it as “Because computers!”

What makes a good podcast?

  1. Create a universe within your show
    Your universe should include a theme song, phrases you like to use, segments, anything recurring. Differentiate your show. This signals your values and has the benefit of giving your audience a fun way to communicate with you and with each other. The best shows do this organically. This whole idea is how we got “Baba Booey.”

Other than finding your voice (my last tip on podcasting), that’s the most important part, long term.

What makes a good podcast?

Tips for starting a podcast

2 hours of drinking Scotch, caught in MP3

You wouldn’t know it from my low amount (though awesome) activity in the podcast area at the moment, but I used to do a lot of podcasting, soup-to-nuts. Someone asked me recently for tips on starting a podcast. Here they are:

I used to have great podcasting tips, now I just have a few:

(1.) Get a feedburner URL for it. Obviously, submit this to iTunes. This will track subscribers.

(2.) Use libsyn.com or something that tracks downloads. Then along with #1, you’re done with tracking.

(3.) Use Google Hangouts to record – you can download the MP4 and extract the MP3 and put in your feed. It works well. You get the side benefit of a live broadcast and a video recording.

(4.) If you want to be super fancy, have people record on their local machine and then sync the tracks up. I don’t like this as it’s prone to error (“oops, I forgot to click record”) and there’s audio syncing issues that are annoying.

(5.) Setup an entirely new website for the podcast, don’t intermix it with an existing property.

(6.) SoundCloud actually looks pretty useful but I’ve never used it. My co-host, Chris Dancy, on CCOS says it’s great and he usually knows what he’s talking about

(7.) Don’t go crazy with mics at first, a good headset will be just fine. I use a Plantronics 478 headset and it’s just fine. I have a Yeti mic, but getting it all setup is more hassle than it’s usually worth. All the awesome equipment in the world will be meaningless if your content is shit, or worse, boring.

(8.) Do a little bit of prep (at the very list, have 3-5 things you want to talk about to start with), and then post some show notes after the show on the podcast blog – embed them in the MP3 too!

(9.) Come up with a format to follow (go over the week’s news, pick one issue to interview someone on, your memories of childhood, etc.), but also allow for lots of loose, ad hoc talk.

This last point is key: the main thing you want is interesting content that’s entertaining and useful. How do you do that? Sticking to a format gives you the discipline to have something to say (you don’t want to open up each show with, “So, what do you want to talk bout this week?”), but you don’t want to just “read the news.”

The thing you can do in a podcast that you can’t do in text (things like 451 reports, blogs, etc.) is really express, at length, what you think and explain how you came to that conclusion; you can also discuss/argue with your co-hosts and guests. That is, you can really go deep and wide on a topic in a way that (for example, our 451 reports) don’t allow for (people want our report to be quick, not so deep they take an hour to consume). Through this, you hope to give your listeners new insights and new things to think about, at best: new perspectives and methods of thinking about the world/topic/tech. That’s what I like podcasts for, at least.

And, the final tip:

(10.) As always: break any, and all “rules” above if you know what the fuck you’re doing and don’t let me kill your vibe or harsh your style. Once you figure out what your podcasting style is, ignore all advice about what you should do different. Podcast are about personalities, not “facts.” You can subscribe to people reading the newspaper to you if you want to your ear-candy to be devoid of humanity, and just get facts. As another example, sometimes you just want to record over 2 hours of you and a friend drinking Scotch; that episode in DrunkAndRetired.com gets the most verbal comments when I come across listeners (along with other infamous episodes).

At the moment, here’s a good sampling of podcasts that I think are well executed and embody the above:

  • The Accidental Tech Podcast – a strict format but with a very open-ended second half, good host interplay, and an overall clean approach
  • The Critical Path (or any show on 5by5.tv, actually) – well crafted and great content. Notice how Horace not only tells you his conclusions, but uses the format to fully contextualize how he came to those conclusions and often will speak to general principles of analytical and strategic thinking. If you listen the whole series as if it were a bunch of lectures training you on how to think strategically, you’ll learn almost everything you need to know to do analyst work, strategy, and about half of what you need for M&A.
  • [The Political Gabfest] – (http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/gabfest.html) I just started listening to this one, it has that good balance for strict format and open ended talk.
  • Rodrick on the Line – this a is a good example of rule #10, but mixed with the end goal. There’s really no format, very little prep, but in each show (if you like this kind of, well, culture and world outlook/philosophy) you’re both entertained and get a fresh way of looking at life, from the trivial to the grandiose. And it’s funny…if you like that kind of humor.

Good luck!

(And you should subscribe to the most awesome podcast in the universe, Connected Culture and Oblique Strategies. Or, if you want one that’s just better than half the stuff out there, try DrunkAndRetired.com.)

Each member of my team has an inspiration schedule, a time when they know they are more likely to be creative. During those times, there are no meetings, distractions or interruptions. This is their time to increase their working memory, to build, to design and to solve problems.

The Shoe Dilemma

Loafers

What kind of shoes should you wear when you’re traveling? Most frequent travels like slip-on shoes, sandals, or something else that’s easy to put on and take off. I’ve begun to question that theory, though I still operate under it.

The Defining Moment of Frequent Travel

There’s one, small moment in every trip that defines what you can take with you: the security gate. As mentioned in reference to the 3 oz liquid limit here, there’s something absurd about the whole security gate deal at the airport. Of course, one never really knows how well something is working; it’s much easier to know how well it’s breaking. But, let’s set aside the usual TSA griping for people who do it better. As ever, our job here is to simply help make frequent travel easier, not boil the oceans.

Ever since that guy tried to blow up a plane with his shoe, in the States we’ve had to remove our shoes when going through the security gate. You have to X-ray them, you see.

Slipping Off

Now, your goal at the security gate is to get through as fast as possible. Not only because you don’t want to spend time there, but because the longer you take the longer everyone else behind you has to wait. Being courteous is the rule for me when it comes to travel: most everyone else is either clueless or being a dick at airports, which aren’t two roles I relish playing.

To speed up your security gating then, you’ll probably want shoes without laces. “Slip-on shoes.” This way, you can quickly take them off and quickly put them on. Also, this minimizes the amount of time you have to walk around in socks, which is sort of the ultimate symbol of what we’ve let ourselves become at the airport, not to mention “dirty” for people who worry about that kind of thing.

I’ve had two pairs of these slip-on shoes: a casual-fancy pair of Doc Martin’s and a dark brown pair of Steve Madden shoes. It’s easy to find good looking slip on shoes that you can wear through the rest of your trip. They’re actually good for at-home use too: they’re so quick to put on and take off! (Who has time for laces?!)

Shoeless Luxury

Additionally, there are some who enjoy taking their shoes off on the plane. Indeed, if you sit in business class on American Airlines (and above, I guess), they give you a little bag to put your shoes in and a pair of socks to wear.

Personally, I’m a little wary of people taking off their shoes. I’m at the top of that list. I can see how it’d be great, but one often can’t smell their own stink, so how am I to do if my unsheathed feet are stinking up the aisle? Nonetheless, taking off your shoes on the plane is a sort of easy luxury for many, and I don’t hold it against them.

Can you Run in Slip-ons?

Of course, if you’re going to be going to the gym while you’re travel (a recent practice of mine that I highly recommend), you’ll need another pair of shoes, some sneakers. Packing sneakers in a carry-on bag is a bit tough, though certainly possible. And you might also be tempted to wear your lace-up sneakers while traveling and put the slimmer, slip-on shoes in your bag.

Of course, it’s easy enough to setup your lace-on shoe to be a slip-on one: you just keep the laces loose enough. This works well with Converse and skate-shoes, maybe not so much “real” tennis shoes.

My fashion consultant wears a uniform and latex gloves!

All of these considerations aside, I’ve been thinking of late: I don’t want to drive my shoe choice by the dictates of the security line. In reality, most shoes I wear, even with laces, I tend to fix up so I can slip them on and off rather than lace them up each time. But there’s other options, like boots. Boots are not easy to just slip on and slip off, you sort of have to be sitting to remove and put them back on.

At the moment, I’m perfectly happy with my slip-on shoes – like I said above, I wear them all the time, traveling or no. But next time I look around for shoes, I don’t think I’ll let travel considerations enter my mind. It’s too weird – maybe too disempowering in a rich-and-privlegaged way – to think that any of my decisions is driven by such a small moment in time as the security gate.

That Sound is Your Problem

Porch Toasting at Piedmont

When you live in apartments and other “we’re in college” housing, you grow to ignore weird sounds you hear. It might be a radio, pot-bellied pigs, or something otherwise not your concern as a renter.

But, when you move to a house, especially a free-standing one (not attached to any other building), any sound you hear is coming from your house. It may not be a problem, but it calls for investigation.

It took me a long time to get used to this when I moved from apartments and the co-op to a house, but it’s paid off, like when that pipe broke under the house.