Gartner Blog Network


The Art of the Analyst Briefing (How to Engage and Reduce Skepticism)

by Hank Barnes  |  May 20, 2014  |  6 Comments

For technology firms, analyst briefings remain an important part of the communications and PR/AR strategy.  Keeping your key analysts–the ones that advise your customers– up to date on your company and products is not really an optional effort.

I get briefed quite a bit in my role at Gartner (but not as much as other analysts, since I don’t typical advise buyers on specific technologies) and am usually disappointed by the effort.  I also review analyst briefing decks for clients to help them refine their material before they present them–whether that be to Gartner or any other analyst firm (or independent analyst).  Usually, those initial discussions yield a need for a lot of changes.

Why is this?  I think it is a combination of nervousness, or even fear, and overthinking.  Let me expand.

Analysts are influential.  Having a successful briefing is important, so many people want to make sure that it is perfect before they do a briefing.  That is an admirable goal, but I find that when stress is high, quality often decreases.  Similarly, it is rare when a single briefing will win over the hearts and minds of analysts.  They will want to dive deeper, talk to customers, ask others for their take.

Your goal should not be perfection–it should be to establish that initial interest in wanting more.   Claims of perfection drive skepticism and doubt.  You don’t want to be viewed as a snake oil salesman.

snake_oil_salesman_masked

Additionally, there is no shortage of advice on how to do an good analyst briefing.    In fact, there is so much information that you can be quickly overwhelmed as you try to figure out how you are going to cram all that information into a 35-45 minute session (leaving time for intros at the beginning and questions at the end).

You can find some of that advice from Gartner analysts on the bottom of the briefing request page on Gartner.com, where any company can request the opportunity to brief Gartner analysts.  A quick Google search reveals pages and pages of similar options on other analyst firm sites or from individual analysts.   My colleague, Todd Berkowitz, also recently shared some of his perspectives.

These tips all provide great advice on some of the mechanics of briefings and suggestions for what type of information to communicate, but something may be missing.

The Art of the Briefing.

What do I mean? If  you are preparing for a briefing in the near future and not comfortable about the prospect, I’d advise you take a look at some of the tips on Gartner.com, from Todd, and other sources.

Then pause and take a deep breath.  Now, you are ready to think about the Art of the Briefing.

Step 1 – Align Goals
The first thing to do is be clear about your goal for the briefing.   That goal should set the tone for the rest of the content.   But you can’t stop there.  You need to think about whether your goal is aligned with the goal of the analysts you will be briefing.   If not, and you can not quickly get agreement or understanding of your goal by the analysts you are going to present to, then you might as well not do the briefing.

Without goal alignment (ideal) or understanding, your chances of success are pretty low.    A goal could be to educate, to update, or even to build a baseline understanding for future discussions.  But in all cases, you want to convey that you are someone that an analyst can trust and respect.

Step 2 – Tell a Story
There is a lot of content that analysts suggest for briefings.   You need to take that into consideration, but it needs to fit the story you are going to tell.  Some things should be obvious, for example, telling about how wonderful your products are without customer stories will be viewed with skepticism.  But the rest of the your content should be dictated by the information your need to communicate to achieve your goal.  Stuff that doesn’t support that can either be omitted or made available in backup for reference after the briefing.

As with any marketing story, the format is the same

  1. Capture Attention Early
    1. Lead with a Outcome (in-context) – Your first slide (after the title) needs to be an attention grabber.  I call it the “If you remember only one thing from this briefing, it should be this” opening.   Presentations that start with a typical agenda slide are a sure bet to lose some level of attention.  Be different.
    2. Reinforce with a Customer Story – Some people question this idea and if you can’t get comfortable with it, don’t do it.  But if you immediately provide some evidence using a great customer story, you’ll get analysts thinking “wow, this is different, I’ll pay attention”
  2. Now transition to the rest of the deck.  You can have an agenda slide, a goals slide, etc…but quickly set the stage for the rest of the story.
  3. Explain the Situation (market needs) and impact (opportunity).  This is the “Before you arrive on the scene slide”  What is going on in your market area-trends, needs, competition, etc.– and where is it falling short.  From there, be sure to talk about the impact or pain that this is causing–that is what creates the opportunity.
  4. Move to the Resolution – This is about how your product, service, and/or company is addressing those needs and pains.   Contrast yourself here with competing approaches to establish situational differentiation.  This is the core of the story that you want analysts to remember.  It should build on your opening and provide depth and validation for that.  If you are doing a demo, make sure the demo is inline with the story and not a feature dump.
  5. Reinforce Results and Outcomes – Use more customer stories to share how things are better after you’ve been involved.   Supplement, if necessary, with added credibility and trust evidence – You may not need this, if it is weaved into the story, but here you want to share other reasons why you are highly relevant to the analyst–today and in the future.
  6. Summarize and propose next steps – A presentation with next steps is like an unfinished book.  You are briefing for a reason.  Remind the analyst of that goal and identify next steps to either build on that goal or move to the next one.

Step 3 – Optimize the Materials

The last step is to review the deck and figure out how to remove much of the text (I’m betting it is there) so that the focus of the briefing will be on you not reading your slides.  You can put the text in the notes section or in a backup section, but you want the focus to be on your story.

The leave behind material is important—-as decks do get reviewed after that fact and shared, but don’t let that cause you to ruin your story with too many words that causes analysts to read your slides and ignore your voice.

Step 4 – Test for Authenticity

I am not a big practice presenter (I probably should do it more), but you should try giving it at least once before you brief.  The main goal is to determine if the  presentation is authentic.   If it is not, then go back to the drawing board.

Remember, this is a story based on your business—a business that you are involved with every single day.  It should feel very natural and comfortable to have this discussion.    That is why the story is so important.  Getting wrapped up in the mechanics of “expected information” can make you seem very, very, very, very (you get my point) boring.

Stories captivate, data–independent of the stories and context bores, and long lists are simply ignored, except as a future reference point..  Authentic stories are very easy to tell.  Mix in great data and examples as proof point and you have a really powerful story.  Fabricated stories aren’t—and it is easy to tell when that is happening.  Don’t make stuff up.  Don’t tell stuff you don’t believe.  Its not that complicated.

 

There you have it–my addition to the world of analyst briefing tips.   One nice thing about these ideas are that you can pretty much use them for any situation where a persuasive, informative presentation is needed.  Whether it is to support a sales effort or to gain internal support for a project or idea, these three steps can help increase your likelihood of success.

Let me know what you think.

 

Category: go-to-market  

Tags: analyst-briefing  analyst-relations  presentations  storytelling  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
4+ years at Gartner
29 years IT Industry

Hank Barnes provides research and advisory services on go-to-market strategies for technology providers. He focuses on issues related to positioning, storytelling, the technology customer life cycle, and customer experience. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on The Art of the Analyst Briefing (How to Engage and Reduce Skepticism)


  1. Vince Smith says:

    This is very helpful. I always start from the premise that you have 60 seconds to make the case, and after that 3 minutes to secure the interest of attendees for the rest of the briefing. Assume you DO have to make the case, regardless of the audience, and be authentic! Its OK to say “we’re working on that” or ” actually that’s not going very well” as it solicits really helpful feedback…

  2. Just had my first Vendor Briefing with Gartner yesterday! It was nerve wracking to dive in and do that pitch – we know it’s important to make that first impression and then get in the game for follow-up, etc.

    Great list of things to think about….please have your team add it to VB prep page, it’s going to be relevant to everyone doing this.

    rob

  3. Hank Barnes says:

    Note to all readers: I just updated this post after an twitter exchange with Donnie Berkholz (@dberkholz) annd Jon Reed (@jonerp).

    They both pointed out that data, when used in the right context to add validation to stories, is incredibly powerful. In fact, stories without data, in the high tech world are often not believable.

    That being said, data for data’s sake is boring (as I wrote originally). Long lists are reference points that are usually immediately forgotten.

    So, data bores, when not used in the context of a story. Data within stories is powerful. And stories without some data are often viewed with a great deal of skepticism.

    Use data to make your stories believable and to reinforce key points.

  4. […] be highlighting in this blog. This week Hank Barnes of Gartner published an excellent post on ‘The Art of the Analyst Briefing (How to Engage and Reduce Skepticism). Hank details the challenges of briefing analysts and presents a 4 step approach, which […]

  5. Sounds really obvious in retrospect, doesn’t it? Analysts were people before they became analysts (many of them still are :-). Wouldn’t we all rather hear a story than see an agenda slide?

    Wish I had read this 8 or 9 years ago before my first analyst briefing.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments or opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors only, and do not necessarily represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management. Readers may copy and redistribute blog postings on other blogs, or otherwise for private, non-commercial or journalistic purposes, with attribution to Gartner. This content may not be used for any other purposes in any other formats or media. The content on this blog is provided on an "as-is" basis. Gartner shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever arising out of the content or use of this blog.