How to Apply “The Lean Startup” to Your Presentations: Part I

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As someone committed to “helping international companies and individuals achieve measurable success,” I often find myself acting as an “intrapreneur” (in other words, an entrepreneur inside large organizations).

Because of that, I often find guidance and inspiration for my work in unlikely places.  Recently, I realized that techniques from The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries, can actually improve how I approach my seminars.  After reading this post (and its sequel), you’ll be able to do the same.

Introducing the “Build-Measure-Learn Feedback Loop”

According to Ries, “A startup is a catalyst that transforms ideas into products. As customers interact with these products, they generate feedback and data.  The feedback is both qualitative (such as what they like and don’t like) and quantitative (such as how many people use it and find it valuable).”

The book goes on to visualize this idea with the “Build-Measure-Learn Feedback Loop” pictured below:

Build Measure Learn

Those of you following the main theme of this blog should see the connection here. Your presentations are your products and your audience represents your customers.  You are the entrepreneur (or intrapreneur) and your presentation is your innovation.  Therefore, the Build-Measure-Learn Feedback Loop applies to you.

Applying the Build-Measure-Learn Feedback Loop

It all starts with your ideas.  As mentioned in The Lean Startup, this is where you frame your innovation in the form of a “value hypothesis” and a “growth hypothesis.”  In other words, you set out to test if your audience will find value in your presentation and whether your product can grow from that success.  By completing the loop, you will validate or invalidate your idea/hypothesis.

In the build phase, you create the presentation that will travel through the loop. You want to build it as efficiently as possible as a minimum viable product (also known as your MVP, which we’ll talk more about in Part II).  Your product will be the result of this phase.

In the measure phase, you learn how well your product did in the field.  The following posts provide specific ways to do this:

2 Ways to Evolve with Your Audience

Embrace Feedback

Your data will be the result of this cycle.  As mentioned in The Lean Startup, the key here is to make sure you are measuring the right things. Focus on actionable metrics (e.g. the results of your surveys) instead of mere “vanity metrics” (e.g. how many people attended your first seminar).

Finally, after you have collected actionable data, you learn from the results.  What did the audience like/dislike?  Did they feel like they got more than their money’s worth (value)?  Are they willing to recommend your presentation to their friends (growth)?

Once you learn the answers to questions like these, you can travel through the loop again with a better product and achieve even better results.  Unfortunately, sometimes the loop may reveal what you don’t want to hear:  your hypothesis was wrong, and you misjudged your customers’ needs.  In that case it’s time to restart the loop with a new product and hypothesis.

So if going through the loop can lead to “failure” (I use this term loosely as every trip through the loop gives you at least one thing: knowledge), how do you make this process as efficient and painless as possible?  That’s where the MVP comes in, and we’ll cover that in Part II.

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2 thoughts on “How to Apply “The Lean Startup” to Your Presentations: Part I

  1. Pingback: How to Apply the “Lean Startup” to Your Presentations: Part II | The Business of Teaching

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