I know that a lot of our partners and internal SE’s have had some questions regarding just exactly what it takes to get certified. It isn’t rocket science, and having the ability to confidently present a solution in a fluent, and smooth fashion is critical to not only your personal success, but the success of your team and your company. As someone who assists with scoring presentations, I would like to offer a few bits of advice.
#1 – Come prepared and know your product! You need to know the product inside and out, and be fully prepared for questions that customers will have… with the right answers! I’ve heard a lot of answers to simple questions over my years, and nothing will hollow out your customers confidence in your product quicker than giving them an answer that is incorrect, and they KNOW it is incorrect. You’re presenting to smart people, give them credit and know that they will smell any BS you serve up. If you don’t know the answer, eloquently state that you will need to find the answer the customer is looking for.
#2 – Know your audience! Knowing your audience is imperative to solid communication. The phrase ‘Apples to Apples’ exists for a reason. If you’re role-playing for a certification demonstration, you’ll need to come up with your own back story about who you are presenting to, and whomever your audience ends up being, use language that is within their Lexicon. Set the stage correctly. You probably wouldn’t want to talk about the finer points of universal forwarders and deployment servers with a business owner, but you would with a system administrator. Alternatively, It might be more important to talk about how to scale a solution and the fact that Splunk always maintains a copy of raw data.
#3 – Know your story, it is far more important than your power point or demonstration! When it comes to software presentations, whoever tells the best story wins. In fact, you shouldn’t need a deck at all. It is your job to easily explain how a company or a person can go from point A to point B, why they would want to do that, and what you can do to help. The story and explanation should be supported by your deck, not the other way around. If you are simply ‘reading’ from your deck, you don’t know your product, and your audience won’t believe your story. Instead of saying ‘there is no back end database’, explain WHY there is no database and why that is important.
#4 – Know your deck! The flow from each portion of your story should match your deck, and it should be seamless. What you are presenting should also be intuitively grasped, and support the narrative you are delivering. There is nothing more jarring than interrupting your flow and stating something along the lines of ‘What this slide is trying to say…’ or jumping from slide to slide trying to regain your balance.
#5 – Execute! Be crisp. If you know the story you are telling, and you use the supplemental material well, your story will flow naturally. Guide your audience through what they are seeing and hearing, ask questions, engage with them. When you use an illustration of ‘machine data’, don’t make assumptions that everything is self evident. Take the time to walk your audience through what they are seeing, not just reading it to them. You should also practice your pitch enough that there are minimal unintentional pauses. Be mindful of ‘filler’ words such as ‘ummm’ or ‘right?’ If you punctuate your story with a smattering of ‘ums’, you will detract from your message and come across as a novice, no matter how well you know the material.
#6 – Make it your own! Once you know the Splunk story, make it yours. Your presentation should be crafted well enough that you hit all of the major points, but you’re not reading from a script. Use your own personal experiences, your enthusiasm and confidence will shine through.
#7 – Practice, Practice, Practice! The only way to get better at anything is to spend time doing it. Record yourself, present the solution to people that are completely new to it, practice with your roommates, your partner, your dog, whatever it takes. The more familiar you are with the material, the more familiar the audience will be.