Dell’s Big Success at CES

Hiring Josh Brener to help with its presentation helped Dell make a big bang at CES.
Posted January 8, 2016

Rob Enderle

After spending time in Dell’s CES showcase, it was clear to me that the firm still believes that PCs are a critical part of the firm. It was also interesting that even though this is a show that focuses mostly on consumer products, Dell highlighted its new laptops and monitors for business. This demonstrates how much BYOD has impacted the business PC market.

At the show, Dell had a really nice laptop that was made with woven carbon fiber and the first 30” OLED monitor which, given that it costs around $4,000, I’m likely not going to have on my desk anytime soon.

But the big takeaway wasn’t what Dell presented—it was how the company presented it.

The Reason for Presentations

Often it seems that the core reason driving the creation of a presentation is to get through it. Some executive is chosen, perhaps because of a blend of availability and rank, to present at an event. They usually aren’t trained, they are under-rehearsed, and major elements of the presentation are changing up until it starts.

The end result is often a stumbling, poorly read presentation that loses most of the audience in the first sixty seconds. And these things aren’t cheap—it is hard to get the combined cost of a CES presentation down below $100,000 all-in. In my opinion, this money is generally wasted because of the poor production quality.

What is particularly annoying is that in Las Vegas, where CES is held, you have some of the best entertainers, production managers, directors and stage managers in the world. And most of these folks either aren’t used or aren’t consulted on the overall event.

The real reason to do a presentation is to inform or sell, and you can’t do either if you lose the audience 60 seconds in.

Dell’s Difference

So what Dell did was bring in an actor to be the moderator, and the actor was appropriate to the content. Josh Brener, who plays in the television shows "Silicon Valley" and "The Big Bang Theory," was the moderator, and he brought a sense of professionalism with regard to pacing and humor to the event. Dell executives are typically better rehearsed than most other presenters anyway, but by using professional help, they held interest.

This approach also showed that they knew their audience because there were a large number of us that watch one or both of the shows Josh is in. One of the questions from the audience blended a concept form Silicon Valley into the event. I don’t know if it was staged, but the audience loved it.

Why Entertainment Is Important

The issue in today’s world is that folks have tons of distractions in the form of their personal technology. If you don’t entertain them, they will drift off into their digital world and never come back. They might as well be home or in the office because their heads just aren’t where the firm wants it to be.

Back in the 1990s, we did a survey and found that most tech events lost their audiences in 15 minutes—and this was long before email and smartphones. Today with the massive number of distractions a reporter has, it is more likely you’ll lose your audience within 5 minutes if you don’t engage and/or entertain the audience. Picking a moderator that is good at moderating, funny, and that the audience either knows or identifies with can go a long way towards keeping that audience engaged throughout most of the presentation.

It also helps to have more physical demonstrations and less time with someone just talking on a particular subject. Dell’s use of Josh Brenner made for a far more interesting and memorable experience, and I think it should be highlighted as a repeatable best practice.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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