3 Lessons from a Global Product Launch
I just got back from working a global launch for Samsung in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress. They hired me to coach two of their presenters who rolled out their latest phones and technology. The launch, which included Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as surprise guest speaker, turned out to be the most successful they have ever done (undoubtedly due to my participation 🙂 And the lessons I took away can help any presenter at any level.
To give you an idea of the scale of this event, there were 5,000 seats and everyone had a wired virtual reality headset on the chair and another as a gift below. To do this, they had to bring in 112 km. of cable, then build a fake floor, which took 13 shipping containers of plywood, sent over from the UK. The stage was a massive cube in the center of the room, and all four sides were giant video screens that lifted up to reveal the speaking platform inside. There were 850 people working on the show, many of them around the clock, from Korea, the UK, the US and Spain.
It was incredible, unlike any launch the world has seen. The whole show lasted less than an hour. Of the five speakers, I coached two of them for several days prior to the event, and one of them briefly at the event. When he asked, I even gave Zuckerberg one piece of advice, which his support staff immediately disagreed with and assured him he was doing everything perfectly. One thing I have learned about coaching is that people have to open themselves up to be coachable. What a unique privilege to work with top executives at Samsung who were open to coaching, and because of that, saw lots of positive development in their presenting.
It reminds me of the quote:
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
The stakes were high, the budget was like a rock concert and the audience was big and tempestuous. After several weeks of preparation, days of coaching and one amazing performance, here are the top three things I learned:
1. Be conversational–even in front of 5,000 people.
Speakers often think that the bigger the audience, the more they have to change their style, or perform. They go from “conversation mode” to “presentation mode.” The result is often a dry, forced, unnatural delivery.
In practice, I encouraged my speakers to speak their parts, which they had to do verbatim from the teleprompters, as if they were telling it to me over lunch. As an audience member, you relate to people who are being genuine and real, whose styles are more like enlarged conversation. This let their authentic, natural personalities shine through.
2. Be present with the message.
It’s easy to get so distracted with the stage, teleprompters, audience, nerves… that you lose touch with what you are saying. I encouraged my speakers to let the words affect them. Think about what you are saying. Let your natural passion and enthusiasm for the products and features come out.
Put another way, our attention is divided into three areas when we talk: Content, Delivery and Audience. The better prepared we are, the easier it is for us to be in the moment and be aware on all fronts. Which leads us to the biggest take-away of all…
3. Be prepared!
This was an extremely challenging speaking situation. The script changed every day, including the day of the launch! The stage was surrounded by audience on all sides, effectively making four stages instead of one. There were 8 teleprompters. And the room was full of media, ready to pounce on the smallest misstep.
The speakers had to be practiced enough to work with the general theme of the content, but had to do this in a way that was not rigid. This is a very difficult skill to hone.
And yet my speakers were true professionals. They practiced repeatedly at home, on the plane, in their hotel rooms and in our practice room, where we had the exact dimensions of the stage taped off on the floor. They did it out loud, on video, on the main stage, in front of others. We honed the content and tweaked their movements, voices, expressions and gestures.
They knew their parts and delivery so well that when the show started, they were ready. And they nailed it.
Most of us will never get to share the stage with Zuck or be in front of 5,000 people. But we all get to present and lead. And by being ourselves, being prepared and being present, we can all nail our next presentations.
If you want to watch the full show, check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwsWgD5iMQA
P.S. If you’d like to know which two speakers I coached, email me at Robert@grahamcomm.net.