Seminar Interviews for Customizing Presentations

The purpose of these interviews is to develop a meaningful GENERAL understanding of the organization’s strategic situation and to get SPECIFIC examples that I can use during the presentation to make the various topics relevant to the audience. Before giving a seminar, I usually talk with from three to six people from the organization. I speak to two groups: organization management and the target audience members. For example, for a sales meeting, I may talk to the sales manager, company CEO, and then two or three sales people. The first of these interviews, usually starting with management, take about an hour or more. After I master the terminology of the business and identify the chief issues, interviews go quicker, from 30-45 minutes. so this requires mastering the way a specific group speaks about itself, its products, its customers, and its area of expertise. When anyone during an interview uses an “organizational term,” that is, a term unique to their group of people, I make a special note of it and ask follow-up questions. These terms are often acronyms, and I always drill down to make sure I know what the term means and what the initials stand for. In first interviews I will collect terms, then I will verify them in following interviews to make sure I am using them correctly. I want to be comfortable using them in my presentation. I will usually not terms in the column of my note page and circle them so I can separate them out for the use in the next interview.

Sometimes you find that terms that a given person uses are NOT generally used within the organization. For examples, Using Questions some terms are common at “headquarters” but not generally Though I use a list of questions (on back), once you get people used in the field and visa-versa. You don’t want to stand up talking about their businesses, you often simply let them go. In in front of the audience and refer to terms only a few people talking, they answer many of the questions on the list without understand. I often also find that there are terms used within prompting. I check off the questions as people talk. I asked organizations that are not consistently used throughout the questions when they haven’t addressed an issue or to flesh out organization to mean the same thing. I always point these what they have already said. problems in communication out during my presentations. Later interviews often focus on just a few areas—such as Notes changes in the marketplace—that I want a broader perspective I take notes from an interview by hand (no clicking keyboard to sounds over phone) on a yellow pad. I usually take from 3-5 As the people being interviewed talk about their organizapages of notes per interview but sometimes as many as 10 tion, I will often note down new questions to ask. Most of pages. these questions refer to terminology. I usually do not interrupt people as long as they are telling me useful things about their organization that I don’t already know. The one exception related to terminology. I commonly interrupt the speaker to ask terminology questions because I don’t want to make assumptions about what a given term means. When asking questions, I try to make them as simple as possible to answer. For example, though I want a general idea of the numbers of people in various groups (customers, competitors, employees) I ask about approximate percentages when breaking down those groups into various categories. As I am taking notes, I will use big headings as I move from subject to subject so I can understand the context of the notes more easily. I note down the main topic areas (philosophy, ground, trends, systems, and command) in margins if the speaker is skipping around in talking about them. After the interviews (usually within a day or so) I will type up the notes while my memory is still fresh (especially first interviews). This serves 1) to put notes in a more readable form, 2) refresh my memory, 3) identify areas that need to be pursued in subsequent interviews. Sometime the interview takes you away from topics you wish you had pursued in more detail. For example, you may not have gotten a term completely defined. As you type up notes from first interview, you note down areas that you want to clarify in subsequent interviews.

Nothing seems to impress and organization more than your ability to “speak their language.” Of course, what we are doing here is putting Sun Tzu’s ideas into terms they can understand,

who are your customers’ customers? The term “customers” is used more and more commonly within organizations for departments to describe the services that they provide other people within the organization. train. market attention. production of products/services. what is the process for supplying your products or services to customers? _Briefly. and developing a brand identity.Overview Questions _Could you briefly describe the purpose of your organization? _Who are your customers and what do you call them within the organization? (And sometimes. what part do the audience members play in this process and why is it important? How do they interact with other parts of the organization in that process? _What organizational changes are affecting your organization? _Are your products or mix of products changing? How? –What technological changes are affecting your organization? _What are the biggest problems your organization and the audience members facing? _What is the biggest opportunity that your organization or the audience members have? _How are your systems and processes changing in marketing? Sales? Productions? Services? _How is decision-making changing in ways the affect the audience? System Questions _What systems are the most important for your organization’s success: Marketing (market awareness). etc. age. _ What percentage of your time/resources go to marketing? Is this about right or should it be more or less? _ Describe simply the sales process for getting an individual customer involved when you contact them or they contact you. sales (getting dollars). and promote people within the organization. _ What percentage of your time/resources go to recruiting/ training? Is this about right or should it be more or less? Philosophy Questions _How do you make money (or get rewarded) in this process? _How does the audience member make money (or get rewarded) in this process? _ How does your organization differ from other similar organization? Why makes you special? _ What is the long-term vision of the organization? Why do people want to work with you? How do you change the world? Ground Questions _ Why do people need your products and services? _ What important ways can you break down your customers into various categories? (Geographically. _ What percentage of your time/resources go to sales? Is this about right or should it be more or less? _ Describe simply the process by which you production/deliver products and services to your customers? _ What percentage of your time/resources go to production/ delivery? Is this about right or should it be more or less? _ Describe simple the process by which you hire. motivate. do they go to competition? _ What ways do you break down your competitors into categories? What percentage of customers do you lose to those various categories of competitors? Command and Character Questions _How would you describe the character of your organization? What kind of people does it attract and why? _How would you describe the character people who make up the audience? _ How would you break the audience members down into different groups and what percentages are in each group? _What types of decisions do audience members have to make every day? _What are the most important types of decisions that they have to make? _How do they get it wrong? Climate (Trend) Questions _ How is your customer base changing? Which groups are growing? Which are shrinking? _ How is your competition changing? _Are you moving into new markets? _What changes are affecting your position in your market? Is your market share increasing or decreasing? . or hiring/training/promotion? _ How are your systems different from your competition? _ Describe simply your marketing processes for getting new customers. size.) What are those groups? What percentage of customers fall into each of them? _ What approximate percentage of your customers are repeat customers? Is that percentage increasing or decreasing? Do they come back to you for more of the same or for different products? _ How long do customers keep coming back? When they stop coming back. ) _How do you describe your product or services to your customers? _Who is your groups or audience members competition? Direct competitors? Other alternatives? _Generally.