One advantage of being a technology reporter is a free education in presentation skills. During interviews, conference calls, product pitches, and strategy discussions, you get live demonstrations of effective -- and not-so-effective -- business communication techniques.
Sure, there are times it's tough to listen to it all, and it's sometimes tempting to read email on the other end of the con call connection. Occasionally, though, it's fascinating to catch a glimpse of the kind of verbal skills possessed by some of the top execs in storage networking -- regardless of what they're actually saying.
Case in point: Frank Slootman, CEO of Data Domain. Here's a guy who's definitely on the hot seat this year, thanks to his company's success in data de-duplication. Every supplier in the fiercely competitive storage market either wants to play with him or bury him. But, as he demonstrates in our recent interview, the flow of verbiage remains undeterred. This guy's never at a loss for words -- whether you agree with him or not.
Of course, it's not unusual for CEOs in any market to be glib. It's nearly impossible these days for the head of a public company to be tongue-tied or rambling -- at least not for long. In fact, superior verbal skills are a prerequisite for the job and always have been. One acquaintance of ex-Brocade CEO Greg Reyes, for instance, characterizes him as someone who could think on his feet and respond quickly to questions and comments, even though he wasn't always politically correct or considerate of others.
Some CEOs are better at public speaking than others, of course. Some top dogs seem oblivious to their lack of charm or clarity. Some are downright off-putting. Still, Slootman makes my list of the Most Poised. Others that come to mind: Joe Tucci of EMC; Dan Warmenhoven of NetApp; and inevitably, John Chambers of Cisco.