When it comes to technology, I’m neither a gadget guy nor a Neanderthal. I’m happy to use the latest and greatest, as long as it’s easy and helps me get more done or enjoy the experience more. The difficulty is often figuring out what a given product does or how it helps. This issue is driven by the level of communication skills on the part of the tech companies themselves. But it isn’t just a tech company-specific problem; anyone that works to promote their product or service needs to hone a clear and concise message.
Yesterday, I spoke at ILTACON, the annual conference for the International Legal Technology Association with 1800 attendees – the tech teams from law firms and legal service providers and 200-plus exhibitors of tech products and services. Tons of tech talk and gadgets galore. With a few hours to kill before my presentation, I wandered the exhibitor floor, learning about a wide array of hardware, software, platforms and cloud-based solutions for law firms as they try to ensure they leverage technology to serve their clients.
I stopped at more than 20 booths, hearing pitches about video-integration, cyber-security platforms, document amalgamation and e-learning solutions. Most of the initial pitches were hard to process. Although the typical attendee at this conference is more familiar with technology than I am, I’m not stupid. I can translate fairly quickly. However, many of the exhibitors struggled to convey a clear, succinct message about who they are and what they do.
Without a strong message, it’s tough to be memorable, especially in a sea of hundreds of exhibitors.
I asked each person I spoke with, “If I only remember one sentence about your company or product when I walk away from this booth, what do you want me to remember?” Almost all struggled for a bit before sharing their clear idea, and many of those needed some work. Only three vendors nailed it.
Ben Freeman is the Head of US Operations for Tessian. When I stopped by Tessian’s booth and asked what they did, he responded, “We help lawyers hit send with confidence.” No jargon. Nothing complicated. Just enough to make me want to learn more. Their software builds algorithms about a particular lawyer’s email habits – who she emails, how often, at what email address and on what legal matters. If a lawyer (or anyone, for that matter), tries to send an email on a case to someone not usually on that chain, at that client, or involved in that matter, the software alerts them. In fact, their software does a lot more than that, but you have to start the conversation somewhere, and this was the best place to start. We’ve all sent an email to the wrong party at some point, so we can all relate most easily to this aspect of Tessian’s service.
Alan Doucet is a new Strategic Account Executive at Olympus. As I approached his booth, I thought he was talking on his phone, which seemed odd given that he was supposed to be pitching his product. In fact, he was showing someone else a device. When I asked him what it does, he assumed I was a tech professional at a law firm – a valid assumption given the audience for the conference. He said, “You and your lawyers dictate documents all the time. You want your audio to be as clear as your ideas.”
He didn’t start with “This is the new DS 9500 Pro Audio Recorder.” He didn’t start with anything about Olympus. He started with me – his singular audience at the moment – and identified a specific need I might have. Talking to the audience about the audience is a powerful way to start a conversation, and far more engaging than talking about your own self or service. Again, his product does far more than provide top quality audio recording on an easy-to-use device. But you want to start with the simple and move up from there.
Ginny Gonzalez is the Chief Marketing Officer for TCDI, which provides a broad range of tech services for law firms. While she was explaining some of the firm’s many services, I noticed a sign in their booth about their “Military Spouse Managed Review” program. When I asked about it, Ginny went from being enthusiastic to beaming. “We’re so proud of this program,” she started. “It ensures that military spouses don’t have to change jobs just because they’re changing bases.” Again, easily said, and easily remembered.
Military professionals move frequently. If their spouse is a lawyer, that spouse often has difficulty finding a job in the new location. TCDI’s services include reviewing documents on complex matters that require a lawyer’s skill set, but can be performed remotely and aren’t limited by jurisdiction. What was telling in Ginny’s case was the change in her tone of voice and expression. When she had an emotional connection to her topic, she spoke about it more genuinely, with more conviction, with simple language and in a memorable way.
What are the takeaways for you?
Keep it simple and relatable, speak from the other person’s perspective, and leverage how you feel about your topic to bring authentic energy into the conversation. These exhibitors were at a tech-for-lawyers conference – an intersection of two industries steeped in jargon. If they can manage simple and clear messages, you can, too.
Originally published on Forbes.com.