Google Gets It Right In Just Two Steps

This blog was originally published on Forbes as Google Gets It Right In Just Two Steps on Wednesday, May 17, 2017.

I’m often invited to give a presentation about how to give a presentation. When I conclude, I open the floor to questions and the most frequent question audiences ask is, “What is the most common mistake presenters make?” My response is always the same: “They sell features and not benefits.”

The answer invariably produces a wave of knowing nods, clear acknowledgement of the pervasiveness of the problem. Then I add, “Just like salespeople who sell features instead of benefits”—which produces another, stronger, wave of knowing nods.

The failure to offer benefits, being so universally common in both sales and presentations, requires constant prompting by sales managers and presentation coaches in their respective constituencies. But Google, particularly in its efforts to penetrate the school market, needs no such prompting, they get it right.

In this past weekend’s edition of the New York Times, their front page story recounted how Google turned an almost failed product into a stunning success. The product in question is Google’s Chromebook laptops about which another Times story in 2013 reported, “Chromebook sales are so small that NPD Group, a research firm that tracks sales numbers for electronics, declined to disclose them…retail distribution for these notebooks is poor, and the bigger PC manufacturers like Dell and Hewlett-Packard are not making them.”

Now flash forward to the present, “Chromebooks…account for more than half the mobile devices shipped to schools [and] more than half the nation’s primary- and secondary-school students—more than 30 million children—use Google education apps like Gmail and Docs.”

Google produced this dramatic turnaround in just five years by bypassing school district officials and offering their low-cost laptops and free classroom apps directly to teachers and administrators. In doing so, the company leveraged the two essential elements of persuasion: understand the audience and provide the correct benefits.

Presenters overlook these vital factors because they are focused on opposite pole of each element: under pressure from the demands of daily business, they attempt to make a one-size fits all presentation rather than custom fit for each audience; and, in their urgency to tell their stories to audiences with ever-increasingly short-attention spans, they spend their limited time talking about themselves.

Follow in Google’s footsteps: tailor your presentation for your audience and give them benefits, not features.

This blog was originally published on Forbes as Google Gets It Right In Just Two Steps on Wednesday, May 17, 2017.