World Plone Day, and a better start for a Plone introductory talk

The Seattle Plone Gathering‘s World Plone Day event seemed to be successful. They had about 40 people, which, from what I could see, was a capacity crowd.

I brought five people from my company, and also forwarded the invitation to Joe, who attended and gave it a +1. Afterward, he, Jesse Snyder, and I had dinner at The Triple Door.

Both talks were good, and there was a decent amount of audience Q&A. Jon Stahl’s introduction-to-Plone talk was well received, but I thought it started off a bit too cerebral. It was based on Constance Wilde‘s World Plone Day Slide Deck. It hit all the right points, and of course Jon has a sure command of the subject matter. But the deck began ticking off facts with its second slide: Plone won an award, is OSS, is covered by the GPL, has a 501c(3) foundation, is XHTML and CSS standards compliant, supports OpenID, had only N security problems in the past two years, etc…

IMHO, this presentation opening could be better.

  • Other frameworks and CMS (what’s the plural of CMS?) make similar or identical claims, and a listener can’t readily compare them in situ.
  • A neophyte’s primary concern is, “Does Plone have the capabilities and quality for my site?” Like the old saws, “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM,” and, “Nobody ever got fired for buying an HP printer,” a neophyte wants to know if they could run into an iceberg by selecting Plone. (Maybe not fired, but get jammed up six months down the road because Plone didn’t cut the mustard.) They want to hear that Plone’s used on bigger, more active, and/or flashier sites than their site — because that definitively answers the, “Can it handle my site?” question. A factual recitation simply doesn’t reassure on these points.
  • Effective evangelism starts with an emotional connection. (Not insane or irrational. But, emotional.) The beginning should grab the listener by the collar and say, “This is Plone. This is what Plone does.”

I think striking visuals and commanding numbers would be a much more effective start. Viz:

“Welcome. I’m going to talk about Plone. Those of you who have never used Plone may be wondering, What sites use Plone? and, How capable is Plone as a CMS?”

First slide: Akamai’s home page.

“Akamai is a well-known global service provider for accelerating web content. Last year’s revenues were $nnn. They get about yyy page views per month. [If this number isn’t readily available, it can be estimated from services like Compete.] They use Plone.”

Next slide: NCAR Earth Observing Laboratory

“This is the site for the Earth Observing Laboratory. They develop and deploy advanced scientific observing facilities. Their site uses DHTML and Flash to blahblahblah. They use Plone.”

Next slide: Brasil

“The sites for the Brazilian Parliament, the Brazilian President, and the Brazilian Government Web Portal collectively get about xxx visitors and yyy page views a month. These are official government sites that are used by an entire, large country. These all use Plone.”

Next slide: Novell

“Novell is a leading enterprise infrastructure software company. They get about xxx page views each month. They use Plone.”

Next slide: DISCOVER magazine

“DISCOVER magazine’s site gets about xxx page views each month. It contains every article of every issue since 1992. And, they’re categorized, related, and searchable in real time. This site allows DISCOVER to use blogging, podcasting, photo galleries, and video technologies. They use Plone.

“Now let me show you the features of Plone that make it so capable…”

(I’m riffing this off the top of my head. Someone can make a better version by wordsmithing this, and researching which sites to showcase. You’d want to demonstrate site size, features, and layout flexibility.)

This approach would bring the audience along more effectively, and juice up their interest level. It nails the “Is Plone good enough for my site?” type questions right at the start. After that, the deck can dive into the technical issues of W3C compliance, GPL, security, etc.

6 thoughts on “World Plone Day, and a better start for a Plone introductory talk

  1. I also used the slide deck that Constance put together and felt as an initial attempt it was received pretty well. I do agree I was feeling like I was just spitting out statistics that my audience could have found anywhere, it at least got a discussion going. Slides that seemed to be the most interesting were the comparison to Sharepoint (though I think we need a bit more on that slide to make it even more compelling) and all the books being published (or available).

    The most successful part of our presentation (here in San Jose) was the actual demonstration of Plone 3 itself. This particular act sold my audience on Plone. Plone 3 is a beautiful thing and if you have someone with enough experience with the front end to really show it off, no one will walk away dissatisfied.

    You make a very solid point and please, please join us in planning for World Plone Day 2009!

  2. Hi John,

    You make some excellent points! I used the same deck too and I would like to say that Constance did a great job on the information but it was up to individual presenters to customize and add their own material.

    Certainly the idea of having more of a story and emotional connection is great and something I will keep in mind for future Plone presentations.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this feedback. You be interested to join the plone-evangelism mailing list if you haven’t already!

  3. Great feedback indeed! Thank you! If I’d had more time I would have loved to have pulled together something like this. I really encourage you to put together some slides along these lines and share them with the evangelism list — we definitely need more sklled hands on deck here!

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