Adobe Systems

In the winter of 2001-2002, the planners for the 2002 Adobe Tech Summit were facing a decidedly non-technical problem: how could they help their software engineers and other technical presenters give better presentations? What could they do to help their presenters share valuable insights in ways that would be clear and compelling for their audiences, some of whom would be traveling halfway around the globe to attend the summit? Many of the highly-technical people presenting were understandably neither skilled nor comfortable at speaking in public. But all of the presenters had valuable skills, knowledge and insights to share, and if they couldn’t do that effectively, then only a fraction of what they were sharing would stick in people’s memories, or be shared with colleagues who hadn’t attended the summit, or ever acted on, negating the primary benefit of sharing the information in the first place. In order to get the desired return on the considerable investment required to hold these Tech Summits, the quality of the presentations needed to be dramatically improved.

At this point, Steve had just finished almost three years as a senior training specialist for Adobe. He had been conducting new employee orientations for the past year and a half, so he was well-known at Adobe as an effective presenter and trainer. He had recently left Adobe to return to his first career love, independent training, coaching and consulting. Shortly after launching his new venture, Steve was asked to help out with presenter training and coaching for the 2002 Tech Summit.

For that first Tech Summit, Steve provided traditional classroom training on presentation development and delivery techniques. He created handouts for those classes, and also attended dress rehearsals of all of the presentations, providing presentation feedback to go along with the technical feedback from senior staff, experienced presenters from past Tech Summits, and others. Over time, Steve’s role and coaching methods have changed to meet Adobe’s changing needs. There are now more presenters coming from more different countries around the globe, so traditional classroom delivery and dress rehearsals are no longer effective options. These days, Steve’s role is primarily as a coach and reviewer. The reviews are mostly remote, using Adobe Connect to display and record presentations, as well as Steve’s feedback. Steve also coaches both individual presenters and teams on the entire presentation process, from initial brainstorming and focusing sessions, to slide creation and technical demonstrations, to final delivery. Preparations being months in advance of each Tech Summit, with Steve actively involved in coaching for the three months prior to each summit. For the last summit, Steve worked with 180 presenters, reviewing each presentation at least once, and most of them multiple times, providing feedback on each iteration to help the presentations, and the presenters themselves, be as good as they could possibly be.

As of this writing, Steve has been the official presentation coach for each of Adobe’s seven Tech Summits since 2002, and is preparing to do it again an eighth time for the 2017 Tech Summit in February. For 2017, Steve is planning on taking even more advantage of remote reviews, recorded video feedback and a new library of YouTube episodes on every aspect of presentation design, development and delivery.

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