Yesterday morning, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff gave his annual three-hour keynote featuring the latest and greatest from Salesforce.com and its customers. The cynical look at this as one big sales pitch. But even if it is all about selling the present and future to existing and prospective customers, Marc’s presentations always get rave reviews from users and fans.

The following Benioff has generated stems from lots of things – the phenomenal growth of Salesforce.com, Marc’s oversized personality, his dedication to charity, his high social activity level and more. But it’s his presentations that have really helped accelerate his perception as a visionary and business innovator.

If you watch Marc in action, you’ll notice a few things that make his presentations so compelling.

Mixing It Up
A three-hour keynote sounds awful, if In fact it’s literally three hours of someone speaking from behind a podium. But Marc mixes it up – you’ll hear him speak for a while, then he’ll play a video, then call a customer up on stage for a quick Q&A, then ask one of his managers to give a demo, etc. Not 10 minutes goes by without something new to watch. It’s a great way to keep the audience continually engaged, especially for a long-form keynote like this one.

Surprises
This year, the keynote opened with a performance by MC Hammer. Last year Neil Young was in the audience and did a quick Q&A. Every year, Marc features some surprises that keep people guessing.

Customer Focus
Benioff is fanatical about his customers, and it shows in his keynotes. He literally fawns over them, telling their success story as his own. Even the product demos are shared in the context of how a successful customer is leveraging the new technology.

Authenticity
Marc practices of course, but you can also tell he really means it. Some long-time Dreamforce attendees joke that his frequent use of the word “amazing” would make a great drinking game. And although they’re right, he really loves what he does, loves his customers, loves the stage, and that authentic enthusiasm makes an impact.

Talk About The Future
Again, the cynics will call it vaporware. But Marc has evolved to the point where it’s not enough to just hear him talk about what’s happening now. His customers and followers want to hear him talk about the future. And he delivers.

Marc’s position and reputation allow him to do much of this, but these best practices are relevant for just about anybody giving a talk or presentation.