Last Year’s Halloween – An Apology

October 31st, 2014 by Simon

12 months ago, we reported on the downright petrifying monster that is Presentationstein.  Frankly, we were rather pleased with ourselves in what we saw as a public service, bringing the abuse of previously loved presentations into focus.  More importantly, we hoped that our spotlight on this important issue might help alleviate some of the suffering felt by business presentation audiences across the world.

We thought we were doing the right thing…but we were wrong.  And we apologise.

12 months on, we recognise that this simple, well meaning blog caused undue anxiety to companies large and small. Marketing departments descended into chaos as they scrambled to identify the cause of Presentationstein within their own business.  Sales leaders woke up in a cold sweat, recognising that their hotch-potch approach to presentation collateral had caused the untimely death of prospects and the shrinking of pipelines.  The list of business people impacted by our thoughtless exposé seems endless.

Again, please accept our sincere apologies if you were one of the business professionals affected by this video.

With time comes clarity and so this year, we’ve taken the bold editorial decision to run the same video report but with the following important warning:

The following video contains information, scenes and images that are likely to disturb business professionals.  If you are of a sensitive disposition or having a nagging doubt that your presentation isn’t quite up to scratch, you may wish to find a friend or colleague to grab hold of before watching.

The good news is that after reference to an acclaimed book on the subject and a series of counselling sessions conducted by trained professionals, many businesses are now delivering their messages with renewed clarity, heightened levels of audience engagement and powerful messages.

Presentationstein is no more…and audiences have never been more grateful.

Flying The Flag For Powerful Presentations…in Germany

October 29th, 2014 by Simon

It’s with a whole heap of excitement that we formally announce the arrival of our German website – http://www.eyefulpresentations.de

Eyeful Germany Website HomepageWhile we’ve been hard at work improving presentations across Europe for some time (and making quite a few friends along the way), this new development allows us to focus on the specific presentation needs of German businesses, large and small.

As part of this development, we’re delighted to welcome Thessa Roderig into the Eyeful family. Thessa not only shares the same unbridled passion for powerful presentations as the rest of the Eyeful gang but also has the unique insight of seeing it from the customer’s side of the fence.

Her experience of working with the Eyeful team on an important presentation proved so powerful that she’s decided to support our growth across Germany.  Frankly, it’s the best endorsement we can think of!

To learn more about this exciting news, check out the Podcast below or pop along to our sparkling, box fresh website here.

(Presentation) Lessons Learned from This Year’s APMP Conference

October 27th, 2014 by Simon

I had the privilege of speaking at the UK APMP event again this year. For the uninitiated, this is an opportunity for the UK’s bid and proposal experts to get together over a 3-day period and share best practice, gain insight into new developments and swap war stories.

Pontificating at the APMP ConferenceThis year I was talking through the ongoing issue of the Presentation Paradox, that peculiar state of mind that hits companies large and small when preparing for an important pitch. For some bizarre reason, preparing for this important pitch presentation is too often boiled down to a kneejerk ‘pull some slides together’ activity rather than seeing it as a huge opportunity to address any shortcomings of the bid document whilst simultaneously moving the audience to the next stage of the process.

I could rant on but frankly that’s not the purpose of this blog – I’m keen to share the lessons learned from this year’s event…

The lowly pitch presentation is getting some love

APMP have recognised the valuable part played by presentations in the bid process and now invite subject matter experts in to share their insight and knowledge. This year’s conference schedule covered both the fundamentals (technical training on PowerPoint) through to people like myself who were sharing new ideas and throwing down the presentation gauntlet to bid managers and their ilk.

This can only be a good thing – the more people think about the presentation process (from message and content through to the way it’s delivered), the greater the standard across the board. The net result is that we all benefit – presenters, audience and businesses.

New presentation technology is getting an airing

A completely unscientific straw poll during my seminar showed that the majority of businesses had tried new technology as part of their presentation process.

Top of the pile was Prezi, an innovative take on traditional slideware which, when used sparingly and at the right time, can be incredibly powerful. The flipside of this, of course, is that when used poorly and inappropriately, Prezi can be truly horrible. Delegates seemed to agree – many had tried it but few had returned to it on a regular basis for pitch presentations.

I was surprised to learn that an increasing number of high stakes bid presentations are now being delivered remotely. With the value of these bids often being in the tens and hundreds of millions, this seems a very brave thing to do! Remote presentation tools have come on leaps and bounds over the last few years (in particular video conferencing) yet I personally still struggle with the idea of building rapport and a relationship with pixels on a screen. Now this may be a personal tick I need to overcome as timescales shorten and travel costs increase but, in the meantime, if I can possibly find a way of sitting in front of an audience, I’ll bend over backwards to ensure I do.

The good news from all of this new technology and thinking is that bid presentations are benefitting from people approaching things differently. As with any development process, there will be things that people try which end up an unmitigated disaster whilst others will flourish and become ‘best practice’ for a business overnight. The key is to pick and choose carefully, making educated bets on the right approach to take for a particular audience.*

[* Gaining a good understanding of your audience is a particular passion of mine – for more information, reference The Audience Heatmap concept here].

Some things never change

Sadly there are some constants in the world of pitch presentations, one of which is out of the control of most presenters – leadtimes.

There is a consistent frustration voiced by bid teams when it comes to preparing their presentations – they’re given completely unrealistic leadtimes. One delegate shared an example of where the weighty bid document needed to be submitted by close of business on the Thursday. On the Friday, they received a call from the prospect asking them to deliver a presentation to the board and procurement team the following Tuesday.

A few things spring to mind:

  • Is this some sort of sick power play by the prospect?
  • Is the presentation simply serving as a ‘Cliff’s Notes’ version of the main document?
  • Is there any process in place to truly test the value of each bid or has the decision been made and the fast track presentation process simply a way of getting through the formalities as quickly as possible?

What makes this all the more concerning is that the delegate was a senior member of a bid team for a huge, well-respected technology business. Each bid is for millions of dollars and likely to underpin the strategy of the prospect’s business so surely the process should be a little more robust than this?

I don’t have an answer to this particular quandary but I do have a huge amount of sympathy for the bid professionals on the receiving end of this short-term approach. All I would do is implore the bid team not to lower their standards when preparing the pitch presentation – see it as the huge opportunity it truly represents and throw every morsel of energy you have to make the most of it.

In conclusion, the bid professionals at this year’s APMP event demonstrated all the attributes needed to create a powerful pitch presentation – an understanding of their audience, the ability to cut through the ‘noise’ of too much content and an eagerness to try new things (such as Blended Presenting) to ensure that the presentation opportunity is grasped firmly with both hands. If we maintain this forward momentum across all pitch presentations, the future is bright indeed.

Trust in Training – The Holy Grail?

October 21st, 2014 by Sally Bailey

We’ve been talking about trust a lot recently. Once the flurry of storyflows, storyboards and design concepts have died down, we’ve figured that the success of our presentation projects come down to this one simple thing – Trust.

Trust needs to be present before a client, no matter how confident they are, steps up on stage to deliver a presentation we created with them. Trust underpins the month/year/career-shifting pitch made by a nervous salesperson. Trust sits at the core of an internal presentation that communicates the need for change.

Eyeful Labs - Bubbling UnderTrust is equally important in training and coaching. It forms the backbone of any successful programme – delegates who ‘believe’ grab hold of their new skills and ideas and make the most out of them. Delegates who didn’t quite cross the threshold merely process their expenses and tidily place their course materials on the shelf next to their desk (‘shelf development’ over ‘self development’).

So how do you get it? If only it was as easy as waving a magic wand and ensuring the trust and belief of delegates but the reality is somewhat different. Trust has to be earned. There are no shortcuts or tricks of the trade – just bloody hard work.

However there maybe one exception…

Our Eyeful Labs training would seem to have an unfair advantage due to the topic in hand – presentation engagement. The quality of most presentations is, put frankly, awful – we’re typically starting from a pretty low standard in the first place. As such, by providing a simple, straightforward and logical way of improving the engagement between presenter and audience, we’re onto a winner from the word go. The very nature of the Presentation Optimisation means that improvements are obvious, discernable and repeatable.

Eyeful Labs’ combination of simplicity and process, coupled with huge (personal) leaps forward in terms of clarity and engagement means that trust is easier to win than most. The net result is that delegates are more willing to adopt Presentation Optimisation in the classroom and then have the confidence to ‘give it a go’ as part of their day to day lives, witnessing for themselves the improvements.

This trust creates a good habit that is hard to break, which is good news for presenter and audience alike. What’s not to like?

Sales Enablement is Failing Sales Teams

October 20th, 2014 by Simon

A lot of noise has been made over the last few years around the topic of ‘Sales Enablement’. We’ve added our own 10p’s worth to the debate in the past and then continued to look on with a mix of amusement and bemusement.

The amusement comes from the reinvention of something that has been around since the dawn of mankind (or at least, since man started selling stuff to their fellow man). Call it what you want but Sales Enablement, in it’s most basic form, is the development of sales tools to help sales people, um, sell.

Apologies to any sales or marketing execs who are currently sat with chests puffed out with pride – the fact that you’ve moved with the times and converted your sales collateral to work in a new ‘easy to access’ format isn’t revolutionary, it’s merely keeping up with The Joneses.

Perhaps more importantly, the bemusement comes from companies large and small missing out on a huge opportunity. All too often the excitement, investment and time spent on delivering on a ‘Sales Enablement Strategy’ overshadows the real need of sales teams. They’re not after gizmos (although I’ve yet to meet a salesperson who doesn’t like a new tech toy) – boil it down and they’re after story, structure and clarity of messaging. They want tools that will allow them to beat the competition, close the deal and take home the commission.

Frankly salespeople don’t care what platform, operating system or colour sales tools come in – they just want it to help them deliver the deal. It’s as simple as that.

Here at Eyeful we’ve had the pleasure and privilege of working with companies of all sizes across a range of industries. When the topic of ‘Sales Enablement’ is touched on, sadly a definite pattern is starting to emerge. Businesses are focusing their investment in the Delivery Mechanism (tablet sales enablement tools, fancy apps or training their sales teams to become slick ‘TED’ like presenters) without recognising that they are inadvertently recycling the same trite, unconvincing and generic content. It’s a little like remaking a bad movie – if it was boring and lacklustre in 2D, it’s going to be equally boring and lacklustre in 3D.

We implore sales and marketing professionals to take a step back and think beyond the hype and quick wins that Sales Enablement promises. If businesses took a moment to review the message and content they are dishing out in various forms, the more effective this whole ‘Sales Enablement’ bandwagon might be.

As we’ve said time and time again, if your prospect’s response to your pitch is ‘cool slides’, you’ve failed. Never let the temptation of cool technology or fancy aesthetics get in the way of your audience engaging with your message. And if you’re using the ‘Sales Enablement’ tag to merely add lipstick to a pig of a sales presentation message, you’ve missed a golden opportunity…and your competition is poised to make the most of it.

Seeing The Wood Through The Trees

October 7th, 2014 by Justine

Regular readers will know that our (borderline pathological) obsession with presentations leads us to find inspiration in the oddest of places. In the past few months we’ve found help and inspiration for presenters on the Moon, behind the paint on a Picasso and on the side of the road.

Today’s inspiration is a little more accessible than a trip into space. Unless you are currently sitting in a windowless room in the very centre of a city there’s a good possibility that you can see a tree. If not, I’m almost 100% sure that you have, at some point in your life, seen a tree, so I shall press on.

There are, largely speaking, two types of trees, evergreen and deciduous and it’s the deciduous ones in particular that have got me thinking.

A well-established tree is, by and large, a sturdy, reliable kind of thing, and while it initially appears unmoving, it is actually in a constant cycle of change and adaptation.

At this time of the year deciduous trees are going through one of the most dramatic annual changes in nature. Their leaves are moving through a fantastic spectrum of colour before finally giving it all up as a bad job and falling gracefully onto the ground.

There’s a lot of complicated science going on here so please forgive my simplification. The leaves change colour because the tree takes back from them all the nutrients that they are producing and storing during the summer, this renders the leaves themselves useless and they are shed.

What’s left looks completely different, but leaves or no leaves the essential ‘treeness’ remains.

Great presentations should be planned, designed and updated in a very similar way, your key messages are the trunk and they create a solid base for everything that follows. So far so good, but it’s worth noting at this point that just a trunk does not a tree make (an attractive set of nesting occasional tables maybe, but not a tree.)

The next thing you need are stories, they act like the branches of the tree creating interest and providing a basis for further growth and adaptation.

Whatever happens from here on, if you have your messages and your stories sorted, you will always have a tree.

How your tree evolves should be up to your audience and understanding them can make all the difference to your success.

In the same way that different people find beauty in different stages of the annual cycle of change, different audiences will need to see and experience different things from your presentation. There are a thousand and one different types of audience but they largely fall into three distinct but not mutually exclusive categories:

Factual Audiences might be more than happy with the basic, essential tree, unadorned by buds, leaves or fruit.

Emotional Audiences could well respond better to an early spring version, with the captivating prospect of new life with unknown potential.

For Visionary Audiences you’ll need the whole kit and caboodle – leaves, blossom, fruit and colour in a time defying ‘all at once’ extravaganza.

Recognising and adapting to different types of audience can be quite a challenge at the beginning but as long as you take the time to identify and develop your key messages and stories you’ll always have a core presentation that you can rely on and adapt.

To find out more about how the Eyeful approach can help you make your presentations as reliable and adaptable as they need to be, simply take a look at The Presentation Lab book or pick up the phone and give us a call on +44 (0)1455 826 390

autumn

Stop Posting and Start Doing…

October 3rd, 2014 by Justine

There’s quite a commotion online at the moment about the launch of the new Post-It App.

It’s obviously a clever piece of kit. It allows you to take photographs of up to 50 physical Post-It notes and then digitally manipulate them.

These virtual Post-Its can be pinned to your start screen, shared with collaborators and even exported to a PowerPoint, Excel of PDF format.

After reading a few excited posts about how useful it’s going to be I found myself asking a simple question ‘Why would I need to do that?’

Here at Eyeful we spend quite a lot of time encouraging our customers to step away from the tech.

Our tried and tested Presentation Optimisation methodology follows a path that begins with a pen and paper and there’s a good reason for that – it encourages you to think about stories rather than slides.

To me, the ability to write on a bunch of Post-It Notes then digitise and manipulate then seems like it might add unnecessary time and effort into what should be a simple process and is therefore an excellent way to procrastinate – and potentially not much else.

Bringing ideas to life and sharing them effectively is about identifying clear aims and objectives, adding a decent smattering of creativity and then pushing towards your desired outcome with some good old fashioned hard work.

If something will work better on paper, use paper – if it will work better on a computer, get typing. But maybe that’s where the genius of this app lies, in helping identify which creative path will work best for you.

It also seems to gel nicely with how we use tech today. When a teacher writes a homework assignment on the board some children write it down and some simply take a photo with their phone. I’m going to hazard a guess that most of us have taken photos of written information we need to remember or want to share (I personally confess to delighting in capturing weird signs and humorously worded instructions at every opportunity).

We store information in this way because it helps us ensure that the information is completely accurate and can’t fall fowl to bad hand writing or poor spelling (with the obvious exception of the aforementioned signs). It’s factual, unambiguous and easily accessed.

I can see great potential for collaboration too, although I might be a little nervous if I knew my hastily written and individually cryptic notes were going to be shared. I might even want to run a couple of them through a spellchecker before committing them to paper thus creating a process that would go something like this – computer – paper – photo – computer – before anyone else even got to see it.

Whatever you think about the app it does raise some interesting questions about how and why we communicate.

When it comes to presentations those are seemingly easy questions to answer – we use PowerPoint and we want them to buy our product. However the journey to achieving this effectively involves forgetting what you want to achieve and going back to basics to understand what your audience wants to achieve and if the Post-It app can help you achieve that, then I’m all for it.

post it blog

Windows 10 – First Impressions

October 1st, 2014 by Justine

Its two years since Windows 8 was launched and having mysteriously circumnavigated Windows 9, Microsoft is now unveiling its latest offering, Windows 10.

In our review of Windows 8 we wondered aloud whether some of the changes to the look and feel were really necessary and if they would alienate existing Windows users.

That feeling of ‘change for the sake of change’ seems to have been echoed by users worldwide and is supported by some rather damning statistics only 13.4% of desktop PC’s run Windows 8.1 and that’s significantly less that the 23.9% that still run on the now unsupported Windows XP.

It does seem like Microsoft has taken this response on the chin, Windows 10 sees the return a proper Start button and familiar menu (unlike the Windows 8 upgrade that just pretended to be one).

Many people felt that Windows 8 was too skewed towards touch screen functionality and that this bias created a much lumpier, less intuitive, interface for those on traditional PC’s and Laptops – particularly business users.

Fortunately for Microsoft most of their traditional audience still exists and is still using their products, they simply didn’t bother upgrading to Windows 8. This means that Windows 10 needs to hold the attention of Windows 8 fans and be friendly enough to persuade those that haven’t upgraded that now is the time to do so. If they fail to get the balance right nobody wins.

Early signs are good, behind the return of the beloved Start button there’s a lot more going on. A new ‘Task View’ feature allows you to display all your current apps, you can create multiple desktops and view them simultaneously and you can have up to four documents or applications open on the screen at once.

It also seems that every feature and App has been given the love it needs to work seamlessly through both a touch screen and a traditional interface and they should be able to identify and adjust to your chosen interface smoothly.

For those of you who can’t wait to get your hands on Windows 10, early versions will be made available to tinkerers in the very near future.

For the rest of us it’s time to sit back and wait for those in the know to get rid of any glitches and the really patient amongst you might like to wait until 10.1 reveals where Microsoft thinks the original is weak.

As soon as we get our hands on it we’ll be sure to let you know how it performs, but until then we’re always on hand to help you whatever presentation tools and technology you’re using.

 

Is Short and Sweet Here To Stay?

September 26th, 2014 by Justine

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of getting to the point here at Eyeful (although last weeks Ig Nobel 24/7 challenge was a bit much even for us).

Verbose business communications are fortunately becoming a thing of the past and while the odd 200+ slide, text heavy presentation still exists, you can be sure that we’re doing everything we can to consign them to history.

Keeping an audience engaged with relevant, understandable, information is the key to great business communication and nothing encapsulates this better than the ubiquitous elevator pitch.

While I’m personally a little sceptical as to whether an elevator pitch has ever been successfully delivered in and actual elevator, the concept of compressing your whole business into a few minutes clear communication can be powerful.

Our specialist presentation consultants work with our customers to achieve a similar level of clarity and purpose in their presentations and with all the opportunities that wearable technology could bring, we might not be far away from the elevator presentation.

But for those of you who still think that it’s not possible to cram everything into an easily digestible, audience friendly format it seems that a Japanese construction firm might just have the answer.

They predict that by 2050 they will have built a space elevator. Each elevator car will carry 30 people and its 59,652 mile journey into space is predicted to take seven days.

So in 36 years from now a 168 hour elevator pitch will be a perfectly acceptable option – until then our advice is to stick with a much more concise and audience focused approach!

space lift

My Kingdom For a Phone….

September 25th, 2014 by Justine

My journey to work this morning was not particularly noteworthy, the weather was average, the traffic was average and none of the others drivers did anything worthy of even light swearing.

But about 30 minutes into my 40 minute commute it occurred to me that I might have left my mobile phone at home.

I don’t consider myself to be a technophile; I’m old enough to remember when you had to be in the room to see a TV programme that interested you (and there were only three channels to choose from). So I was a little nonplussed to find a panicky knot forming in my stomach at the very thought of a day without my phone, there was even a brief consideration of whether I had enough time to go back home and pick it up (despite the obvious answer being no). I eventually settled the uneasiness by convincing myself that ‘at home’ was OK – at least it wasn’t lost, or was it?*

What’s even more worrying is that I spend the whole day sitting at a desk that has on it a computer and a phone – meaning that there is literally nothing I need my mobile for.

But technology long ago passed through the era of addressing needs – now it’s all about addressing wants.

We don’t need to constantly know what the hundreds of random people (most of whom we’ve never met and never will meet) that we call ‘friends’ on social media are up to, but we certainly want to.

It seems that simply having access to technology compels us access technology.

So what’s going on? Is it obsession, addiction, dependency or something altogether more (or indeed less) sinister?

A recent experiment involved 163 students giving up their mobile phones for an hour and taking a series of anxiety tests to find out if they were affected by the deprivation.

Apparently it transpires that even those of us who don’t manage to use our phones 25 hours a day (a figure arrived at by double counting the time we’re using it for more than one thing) will suffer some level of separation anxiety.

We’ve talked before about how hard it can be to engage an audience, discussed ways of turning surreptitious phone checking to your advantage and looked at whether wearable tech will have an impact on presenters and audiences. But now it seems we’ve got far more to worry about than we thought.

Talk of creating technology free zones is already stirring up the kind of angry, civil liberty, personal freedom, type responses more often seen in relation to huge social, political and legislative change but in reality trying to enforce anything is getting harder by the day.

Twenty years ago you could have asked people to turn off their pagers, ten years ago turning off phones would have done it and five years ago it would have been phones and tablets. Today you might need to ask people to relinquish phones, tablets, glasses and smartwatches to get close to the same effect. Five years from now implantable tech might just make the whole thing completely impossible.

It doesn’t matter what you think about our reliance on technology the important thing is acknowledging that it exists and understanding how to overcome the challenges and maximise the opportunities.

We talk about how Blended Presenting can help increase audience engagement and encourage interaction but maybe soon we’ll have to start thinking more deeply about Blended Spectating to make sure our stories can be heard above the constant stream of outside information.

Whatever the future of Audience Engagement you can be sure that Eyeful will be there, innovating to our hearts content and making sure that our customers are one step ahead of their competition.

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*for any of you still bothered about the whereabouts of my phone please don’t worry my husband emailed me to say I’d left it on the kitchen table and he’s put it in the cupboard above the oven (?) just in case I get home before him!