The art of an interesting analyst briefing

07Apr08

I often tell the story in my AR training sessions that the best briefing I have ever had was with a client that had (in his own words) ‘a rubbish legacy product’. I had the joyous task of taking him on an analyst tour round several of the top analyst houses – the end result of this was incredible… the analysts loved him and what he had to say.

There was no dark art magic involved here but simply that my spokesperson followed all the golden rules in how to engage with an analyst in a briefing. After Jeremiah pointed me to the picture above I thought I would share with you my top 10 tips on the art of an interesting briefing (also known as how to avoid making an analyst fall asleep).

My thanks to Nathan Gilliatt, Jon Collins, Jonathan Yarmis, Phil Fersht, Dale Vile and Michael Coté for their contributions to this via Twitter.

  1. Enthusiasm – no matter how tired you are, how many times you have done the same spiel, or whether you plainly don’t agree with what you have to say… be enthusiastic. It’s contagious – if you are enthusiastic, the analysts will pick up on this and be enthused too. If you are not, it is obvious and don’t be surprised if the analysts starts replying to emails in your briefing.
  2. Keep it short – even if you have been allotted a full hour for your briefing – don’t use all this time unless you need to. If you can cover what you want to say in 30 minutes then don’t feel you have to use the full 60.
  3. Know your analyst – make sure what you have to say is relevant. Pitch your meeting at the right level in terms of their existing knowledge (don’t give them a 101 lecture on the industry they cover) and their current research agenda. In other words, if the analyst wants to talk about widgets don’t talk about grommets! Do a bit of research – understand what they have recently written about (refer to it and flatter their ego), what interests them and whether they are techies or not. One of the dark art tricks is to mirror their mannerisms (if they use white boards and diagrams frequently to illustrate their thinking – so do you).
  4. Set an agenda – make sure everyone knows what you intend to talk about. This will enable the analyst to be prepared for the briefing and stop you going off topic.
  5. Numbers and NDA – analysts love using numbers – in fact they welcome with open arms any data points that give credibility to a claim. Too many times they hear the common statement that these details can’t be given. As a vendor challenge this assumption and give whatever numbers you can to back-up your key points even if it is under NDA. However, on the other side Dale Vile complains when vendors and agencies try and trick analysts to get the numbers up – “don’t big-up a briefing”.
  6. Conversation not a lecture – briefings are meant to be a two-way dialogue. I always say that you have two ears and one mouth and they should be used in that proportion. I have managed to gain some incredible bits of intelligence by listening to the analyst and asking pertinent questions – use this time wisely. Analysts understand that you have a point to get across but they would prefer not to be lectured to. Phil twits this nicely and explains that he gets extremely annoyed at vendors who read off a script and don’t bother to to a round of introductions.
  7. Good use of PowerPoint – really this should state ‘avoid PowerPoint’. Too often vendors replace what they are going to say with a ppt deck. This has killed the art of a briefing as conversations are not linear like PowerPoints but ebb and flow depending on how the dialogue goes. Vendors should be aware of this and only use slides to back up a point and not to replace what you have to say. By all means, have a deck that you can give to the analyst so they don’t have to make copious notes but do not spend one hour going through 80 slides. Robin Bloor has a good post on the use of ppt and how to make them effective.
  8. Roles and Responsibilities – usually there are two people in each briefing (one to speak and one to make notes). However, in order to make the briefing as good as possible I recommend that the people in the meeting have several roles. These include the message giver (who explains the key points); the story teller (who provides anecdotes which are far easier to remember); the inquisitor (who asks questions); the geek (not always necessary but can explain the bits and bytes) and finally the note taker (who captures all the nuggets of information – from intelligence, questions asked to follow-up points). Obviously this may require some homework (having the anecdotes and questions handy) but the results will be worth it.
  9. Follow-up – often vendors feel they need to answer every question. However, sometimes there simply isn’t enough time or they don’t know the answer. In this case, follow-up – I am always looking for an excuse to continue the dialogue and follow-ups are a great way of doing this.
  10. Disagreements – quite often the analyst will have a  contrary view to the vendor. If this is the case do not get into a heated argument. Instead respond using facts, figures and anecdotes to explain your point of view. If this doesn’t work, it may rarely be OK to escalate the issue but often it is best purely to agree to disagree.

For other pointers I would recommend reading:



2 Responses to “The art of an interesting analyst briefing”

  1. Great post Jonny. I am holding an AR Seminar in Israel on April 28th and would like to use some of your tips. Will ask post on my blog.

  2. Meant:

    Great post Jonny. I am holding an AR Seminar in Israel on April 28th and would like to use some of your tips. Will also post on my blog


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