Avoid Death by PowerPoint: The Anatomy of a Great Analyst Briefing

Credit: Gareth Saunders
Credit: Gareth Saunders
Credit: Gareth Saunders

At this time of year many vendors go into overdrive as GartnerForrester, IDC and other industry analyst firms update their vendor landscape analysis reports. A lot of analysts, and analyst relations professionals, have their own take on what constitutes a great deck, but ex-Forrester analyst Chenxi Wang recently wrote a great blog post on how to design a deck for an analyst briefing.

Of course, vendors never mean to give bad briefings, but many do end up shooting themselves in the foot by either trying to ‘sell’ to the analyst as they would to a customer, or by packing in too much content. Analysts typically recommend between five to ten slides, but we all know that corporate decks rarely stay within that range and can quickly become 20, 30 or even 40 slides deep.

Ultimately, as with any communications activity, you’re telling a story—in this case for someone who is very busy handling multiple inquiries and briefings each day. Brevity, relevance and impact matter hugely. So how do you make a story that appeals to a busy analyst? Here are three bits of advice I’d encourage everyone to follow when briefing an analyst:

  • It’s Not About You: For an analyst, the primary purpose of being briefed by a vendor is to gain insight into how that vendor might be able to resolve a challenge that their clients face, and (on a smaller scale) to source intelligence on market trends for their research. One good trick here is to put yourself in the analyst’s shoes and interrogate each of your slides as a third-party viewer would.
  • Dialogue Not Monologue: Analysts are experts and they can be frustrated if vendors do not take heed of their advice. Check that they’re still awake every few slides by asking thoughtful questions! Seriously though, be sure to engage with their feedback when they choose to give it. If they disagree with you, don’t argue; discuss. Dig deeper on why they have that point of view. And always remember that a hero’s journey is a cycle, with challenges to overcome.
  • Think Holistically: Get your key ‘takeaways’ in early. Focus their attention straight off the bat. Frame content in terms of business problems, and how you think customers can best solve that problem. Nothing kills a narrative—or analyst interest—faster than uninhibited technicality, jargon and detail. To be sure, analysts will sometimes want to dive into technical specifics, but you should start high up and then let their questioning guide you.

What’s your favorite technique when briefing analysts? Feel free to contact me with opinions and questions at tclark@blancandotus.com or tweet at me at @TrisClarkARGuy.