How Should AR Provide Soft Copies of Briefing Content?

I had a couple of quick exchanges today with some analyst colleagues talking about what method we like to take notes during briefings. We all have our own way of storing them, sometimes a company repository, or a personal OneNote archive. I’ve always used a folder for each vendor within which I store content that can be searched with Google Desktop or some other search mechanism.

By far, my favorite way to take notes is inside Powerpoint files that the vendor gives me. I can keep the slides onscreen and make comments relevant to the picture in front of me. If I have to have a separate window for a text editor, I have to go back and forth, and I can’t easily connect the comments to what is being shown.

Some AR people tell me they use PDFs because they don’t want the content re-used, especially if it might be changed or taken out of context. A fair point, but why tell analysts things if not to have it re-told? There are rules we all follow about NDAs and such, and if we don’t – well, you won’t keep talking for long. John Rymer of Forrester offered a good alternative – annotated PDFs. The content can’t be changed, but you can take notes. Fair enough.

So: a poll.
AR: Which method do you use? And why?
Analysts: Which do you prefer? And why?
Please share, and use comments for color, as always. I’ll report on results when we have a reasonable number.

[EDIT: Poll was removed April 24, 2009. If you have comments please do add them to the comments. See later posts for discussion of results.]

Published by Merv Adrian

Independent information technology market analyst and consultant, 40 years of industry experience, covering software in and around the data management space.

27 thoughts on “How Should AR Provide Soft Copies of Briefing Content?

  1. We always provide PPT for our analyst briefings. The only time we convert to PDF is when we send a speaker presentation used at an Analyst event out to the session attendees (who are primarily clients/prospects, not analysts). Thanks for prompting this discussion – it would be interesting to know what the majority of analysts prefer, so that we as AR people can provide accordingly.

  2. I mildly prefer PPTs. (I’m fine with OpenOffice but don’t think that’s very practical in the general case.) I don’t take notes in presentations but I do like to reuse content now and then — subject to NDAs of course. But it doesn’t really bother me to use PDFs. I figure I can always ask for a slide I really want to reuse–or just do a screen snip.

  3. I advise internal clients to provide powerpoint slides a day in advance. This allows analysts to better prepare for the briefing (isn’t the point to get useful feedback?).

    I know some internal clients worry about content being mis-distributed but I haven’t had any reason to distrust the analysts I have developed relationships with and distributing pdfs communicates distrust IMO.

    One other thought… getting analysts to leverage your marketing messages seems like a positive result, no? Conversely, isn’t the worst possible result having an analyst shove your briefing content in a drawer (real or virtual), never to be seen or discussed again?

  4. Hey Merv, I probably shouldn’t admit to this, but I take screen shots of almost every Web-ex or Go-To-Meeting session I end up in since so many vendors never bother to send along the slides. Its much easier to do it myself than keep fighting AR to get me the soft copy later (I have no preference for PPT or PDF, just as long as I can reference it later).

    If you’ve taken the time to build complex architecture and marketecture slides give analysts a chance to really digest them!

  5. Hi Merv, I prefer to send PPTs but sometimes send PDFs if the PPT file is too for the firm’s firewall or gateway or whatever it is that returns huge files to me as undeliverable!

  6. Powerpoint was really useful for me when I was an analyst. You can go into the outline view and cut and paste the heading into Word, then type up your notes often reusing their headings if they were factual. A great outcome for most vendors.

    So what vendor would not what that to happen? I remember covering PeopleSoft, and their rapid changes meant that sometimes the new marketing VP might not have even heard of the centrepiece of his predecesor’s slides.

    That hints at the real advantage; if the analyst gets the slides then so does the AR manager, and that helps spokespeople to be more coherent over time.

  7. Sometimes use PDFs, other times PPT. One good thing about PDF that you don’t mention, is that it is readable on a wide variety of platforms (Mac, Linux, Windows) and is fairly backward-compatible with older versions of Acrobat reader.

    Not to mention that Acrobat is pretty ubiquitous – most people have the free Adobe Reader – while some folks choose to forego Office for open-source or other alternatives that may or may not be compatible.

    Then, for those who DO use Office, you have the issue of the older Office 2003 .ppt/.xls/.doc and the Office 2007 .pptx/.xlsx/.docx files. If you don’t have the translators installed, it’s a pain. So in general, PDF provides a smoother way to go with less hassle and more compatibility. And this means that everyone has more of their half-hour or hour to devote to substance, not logistics.

    Cheers, Gerry

  8. wrt to what Rick Brusuelas said (Hi Rick!), I AM fanatical about clearly labeling the source of vendor content if I reuse it in a presentation. And obviously a lot of vendors put a huge amount of intellectual horsepower into creating some slide content that often encapsulates a point of an aspect of the market pretty well. So, yes, it would seem if getting an analyst to reuse and credit such a slide–because they agree with its perspective–seems like a win. I do this from time to time but I may not bother if the vendor makes it too hard for me.

  9. PPT is the only way for me. My biggest suggestion is try to keep it under 10 slides. Running through 30 in a 45 minute session is daunting at best.

  10. Merv – I prefer ppts and like Oliver I do screen shots of Webex/Livemeeting if I don’t get copies. Of course, what often happens is I take screen shots and write notes, and then the vendor sends a copy anyway after the session. But I like notes separate in a word doc in folder for that vendor anyway. No real reason why I dont use the notes in ppt; I just dont.

  11. May I suggest additional poll questions?
    1. How many analysts prefer Web conferences set up strictly to show slides? [I find these largely a waste of electricity.]
    2. How many analysts prefer briefings that include demos? [I’m starting to really like these.]

    Keep ’em coming!

  12. Following up on John Rymer’s question about webex or LiveMeeting-delivered briefings… as an AR manager I hated delivering them, and I strongly suspect analysts hate receiving them. If there is a live demo there is a benefit, or if the presenter needs to detour to a different slide in a separate deck, but in my experience the usual vendor reasons for these are distrust (like sending pdfs, not good to communicate distrust to the very people you wish to influence to your thinking), or lack of readiness (slides being created/edited up to the time of the briefing). Then of course there are the extra work to set up, and the possibility the analyst is dialing in from a slow line, etc. Reckon its pretty clear I advise against them…

  13. I’ve always preferred to provide PowerPoint but have sometimes met with internal resistance when people feared unauthorized reuse. Of course I would then explain that PDFs are editable with the right tools as well so using that format doesn’t “protect” anything anyway.

    One advantage of sticking with PowerPoint is that it can help AR’s case to keep the slide deck small since the file size can get large quickly. I insist on all presentation decks be provided to me in PPT format so I can edit them, if necessary, before sending them on to the analysts.

    When providing a lot of data, like after an analyst day, I usually convert PPTs to PDFs for speed and space reasons, but offer to provide original PPTs for anyone who requests them.

    One advantage of converting PPTs to PDFs is the ability to eliminate speaker notes. All too often there are speaker notes in PPTs “left over” from reused presentations and no easy way to strip them out if keeping things in PPT format. Or the speaker notes might truly be points we’ve added for the executive during preparation.

    I have been able to reduce the number of slides or bullets per slide by moving data into speaker notes. Many execs depend on slides to “remember” key points and this offers a way to give them the reminder they need without jamming it all onto a slide. In these cases, I’d leave the speaker notes intact.

  14. I prefer PPT to PDF as I find that a more productive medium in which to work. There are also occasions where, with permission, I may want to use a screenshot – PPT makes it easier to do that (win-win for the briefing organziation and us).

    What I CANNOT stand is the briefing organziation taking me through PPT slides slide by deathly slide. I learned to read as a very young age. It is FAR more efficient to receive slides in advance and use the briefing time (which I limit to 30 minutes) for discussion. Demos of apps or tools are good. Finally, forget WebEx/LiveMeeting. They routinely waste 5-7 minutes getting set-up.

  15. As an analyst, I prefer PowerPoint; and I prefer getting it. Usually, I’m not given the PowerPoint before the briefing and then when I request it, I’m usually told, “Yep, we’ll get it to you.” Half the time (and I keep stats on this, since I find it so aggravating), I’m not sent the PowerPoint.

    So at this point, since almost all of my briefings are online, I take notes in Word and do a series of screenshots, which I then put into PowerPoint. That way I have the presentation and demo screen shots for later reference and I’m not dependent on begging for the PowerPoint from incompetent AR people.

  16. I put the useful screenshots in the Word doc where I’m taking notes. Sometimes I find myself doing this even when I have the .ppt file (for no reason). Then I don’t even bother to request the .ppt file, since I already have the slides I want and, as Guy says, they often don’t come anyway, when requested. I would still rather have the actual .ppt though, in advance, but that doesn’t happen much.

    1. Thanks for that – very interesting. It was also interesting that nobody mentioned OneNote. I have seen analysts use it because of its ability to easily mix multiple media. Guess none of them have been following this thread…

  17. Powerpoint allows you to easily put note in thought the suggestion with annotated pdf’s also works.

    I find it quite thoughtful when vendors send the presentation in advance. It allows you to account for unexpected events such as bad wifi in airports or local power failures, depending what country you may be in.

  18. re: OneNote. I’ve tried it. It didn’t add a whole lot for me and I was really bothered by being locked into a proprietary format. I’ve also tried Evernote and Freemind (mind mapping) but in the end I come back to just a plain old text editor. I can’t paste in slides (which is why I’m generally indifferent about PPT vs. PDF) but I can just type “Slide 6 is a great overview of tiddlywink market” or something along those lines. (We keep briefing notes and presentations in an online ticket system so don’t really have an issue with the materials getting separated.)

    1. Thanks, Nancy. This came up in a lot of analyst comments – and your focus is right on: make it easy for them. Helps them get it right, too, when they don’t “translate” and change in the process.

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