Posts Tagged ‘Communication’

An Open Letter to all Business Presenters

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 by Simon<

Hello you…

How are things?

We’ve been meaning to drop you a line for a while now but held off sending anything too close to the chaos of Christmas and New Year for obvious reasons. The festivities are now likely to be a dim and distant memory… as are the long list of New Years Resolutions (don’t sweat it – we think a little bit of extra padding looks rather good on you, if we’re honest). Now all of those pressures are out of the way, we’d like to ask you a favour… actually, three favours. And they all centre around that one part of your job that you find uncomfortable to the point of palpitations – business presentations.

Don’t worry – we’re not after the world… just three small things that will make all the difference to your presentation, and thus to your audiences.

1. Go on, go 16:9

Let’s start with an easy one – it’s time for you to move over to widescreen. Your laptop, your screen and your projector have all made the leap over to 16:9 ratio – it’s time you took the plunge too.

Have you noticed how old films and footage looks, well, ancient on TV when it’s shown in the old ratio and has big black bars down each side? Sorry to break it to you, but if you’re stuck using 4:3 ratio for your PowerPoint and Keynote, your presentations are going to look equally old fashioned.

But it’s more than simply keeping up with the Joneses. Blog picMaking the move over to 16:9 gives you more room to play with on your slides – create white space and let your slide breathe! Use the extra width to develop visuals that engage your audience! Heck, deliver slides that look like they belong in this decade!

If you’re responsible for stuff like corporate PowerPoint templates at your workplace, sort it out pronto and your colleagues will love you forever more. If you’re one of the users stuck with ye olde PowerPoint 4:3 template, harass the marketing team until they see the error of their ways (perhaps send them a link to this blog to speed things up) and make the move over. If they dig their heels in, whisper in their ears that the default ratio on the latest version of PowerPoint is now 16:9 – the world has changed and it’s time for them to catch up.

 

2. Don’t lose your nerve

We’ve spotted a bit of a pattern on important presentations. At the very start of the process, presenters (yep, you) are full of good intentions. You embrace the concept of ‘less is more’ both in terms of content on a slide and slide count, full of vim, vigour and determination that this time it’ll all be different – no bullets, valuable visuals and a clear audience-centric message. It’s shaping up to the best presentation you’ll ever deliver – happy days.

The problem is that as time marches on, you start to lose your bottle. You start to sprinkle a little more detail here and there, sticking in a complex diagram to demonstrate that you’ve really put the hours into the research and tweaking your message so as not to rock the boat.

Often, because the stakes are so high, you make the fateful mistake of opening up your presentation to committee. This truly is the death knell to any chance you had of developing a powerful presentation. By all means, call upon your colleagues for feedback and collaboration but never EVER rescind control – it’s your presentation… own it.

Collaboration = good

Committee = unmitigated disaster

Now don’t get us wrong, friend – we know that standing up and delivering a presentation this important is gut-wrenchingly stressful but don’t fall into the trap of compromising and diluting it as D-day approaches. Go back to the ideas that were the catalyst for version 1 of your presentation – the structure and message, the carefully chosen supporting content and the simple but effective visuals. Granted, they may not have been perfect but they’re likely to be a much purer more focused set of slides than the watered-down, ‘safe’ and ultimately homogenous presentation you’ve ended up with.

Go on – be brave, have faith and don’t compromise (your audience and your message deserve it).

3. There’s more to life than PowerPoint

Granted, this one might require a small leap of faith (call it a leapette). PowerPoint is not the only tool available to you as a presenter. There – we’ve said it…

Presentation Landscape WheelArmed with nothing more than a good understanding of your audience, a strong message and structure and, when required, the ability to visualise key elements of your story, you can deliver a presentation armed with nothing more than a pen and napkin/whiteboard/notepad.

If you wish to get fancy, you might want to dust down the tablet you were given a couple of years back in a pique of technological excitement (it’s not just for Angry Birds). Or you might want to try the multitude of other options out there (Prezi, Powtoon, Keynote, SlideRocket…the list goes on).

We’ve never had so many options to consider as presenters so have a look around and see what works for you and your audience…and what doesn’t. And it’s this last bit that is soooo very important. Whatever option(s) you choose, it is imperative that it works for your audience.

Not you – your audience.

Playing with new technology is always fun but if the net result of your experimentation is a presentation that bamboozles your audience or leaves them thinking more about the animation effect you used rather than your message, you’ve messed up.

So there you go…three simple changes to the way you approach presentations that will make all the difference. A difference to the way you engage with your audiences, a difference to the clarity and impact of your message and a difference in the results you’re likely to get from all your hard work. What’s not to like?

Have a wonderful 2015…

The Eyeful Team x

Seeing The Wood Through The Trees

Tuesday, 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…

Friday, 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

Is Short and Sweet Here To Stay?

Friday, 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

Improbable Research and an (Almost) Impossible Brief

Thursday, September 18th, 2014 by Justine<

Later today the winners of the 2014 Ig Nobel prizes will be announced, for those of you not familiar with the Ig Nobel awards they are given every year in recognition of scientific endeavour that makes you laugh and then makes you think.

To give you an idea of the scope some previous winners include:

2013 – Biology and Astronomy – Dung Beetles Use The Milky Way For Orientation

2012 – Anatomy – Walking With Coffee: Why Does It Spill?

2011 – Literature – How To Procrastinate And Still Get Things Done

2010 – Peace – Swearing As A Response To Pain

All thought provoking (and often completely bamboozling) stuff, but that’s not what got me thinking.

Tonight’s award ceremony will be a food themed extravaganza that includes a mini opera entitled ‘What’s Eating You?’, not one, but two ‘Grand Paper Airplane Deluges’ and a selection of key note speakers delivering 24/7 lectures.

A little odd maybe but not too far removed from a thousand other award ceremonies, until you look a little deeper and find out exactly what a 24/7 lecture involves.

Fortunately for all involved, it’s not a lecture that lasts a whole week, in fact it’s quite the opposite.

Every speaker has to cover their subject in two parts – a complete technical description in twenty-four seconds and a clear summary that anyone can understand in seven words.

You might want to take more time than that to simply ponder how this can even be possible…

We’ve talked before about the KISS principle and we’re all in favour of clear, concise messaging. There have been more than a few occasions where we’ve helped people compress over 100 slides to less than 20 and created presentations that were all the better for it. But this (in keeping with the whole Ig Nobel vibe) is something quite different.

Before we dismiss the 24/7 notion as something almost as improbable as the research these awards promote, I think it’s worth digging a little deeper.

After all modern communication is becoming more and more sound bite orientated. When so much information is readily available at the tap of a keyboard, we’re keener than ever to get down to the important bits quickly.

A few years ago nobody had ever heard of an elevator pitch and it was standard practice to produce lengthy and detailed proposals, brochures and presentations. Times have changed and business communication has become all the better for it, but I’m pleased to report that I can’t see 24/7 coming to a boardroom near you anytime soon.

But the next time you settle down to consider a presentation it might be worth giving it a go, just to see whether you can, you might find the results quite surprising.

If it all seems a little too intimidating for you, our specialist presentation consultants are always on hand to help our customers define and refine their messaging to create presentations that get straight to the heart of their audiences thought and concerns.

IgnobleFor those of you panicking that your presentation might be a little too verbose it’s also worth remembering that you’re never going to have to present in the face of the Ig Nobles very own Miss Sweetie Poo, who, as can be seen above, takes to the stage when acceptance speeches run over their allotted one minute and repeats the phrase “please stop, I’m bored’ until they do.

A New Face On An Old Friend? Watch This Space

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 by Justine<

The internet is currently buzzing with gossip and speculation about the future of the smartwatch. I have to say that the whole thing feels a little bit odd to me, many of my friends stopped wearing a watch when their smartphone started happily telling them the time and date. Watches were stripped of their singular functionality and became relevant only to traditionalists and the fashion conscious.

I personally feel aggrieved that having left me as often the only watch wearer in the room the tech giants now want to deprive me of the opportunity to tell people (on polite request) that it’s five and twenty to three. Not only that but it seems having a watch that only tells the time could soon fall into the most uncomfortable of classifications, retro chic.

After over a decade of promise wearable tech is now starting to make an impact. We recently looked at the potential of Google Glass and it seems that lessons have been learned with smartwatch tech visionaries and developers are considering both function and form in order to avoid the ridicule faced by Glass wearers. Apple have been making headlines by recruiting four of the biggest names in design and the debate about what their smartwatch will look like is as heated as the one about what it will do.

Early adopters are already spoilt for choice and some of the tech giants are well into their second and third generations and are working on moving the smartwatch away from being a smartphone peripheral to becoming a stand-alone gadget. Whatever your thoughts on where it will end there’s no denying we’ve come a long way from the original Casio calculator watch (much admired icon of 80’s geek cool and now strangely back in vogue).

It does however remain something of a niche market, so what difference, if any, will Apples (highly likely and eagerly expected) foray into the marketplace make when it comes to modern business communication?

At the moment I can see very little impact on the horizon, in fact the whole smartwatch phenomenon seems to be sitting contrary to recent thinking on how effective 24/7 communication actually is. Huge industry names are already starting to try and rein in their employees ‘enthusiasm’ for continual communication. Value is being given to time spent ‘off grid’ and the difference between ‘available’ and ‘useful’ as an employee is a hot topic.

I’m feeling a little controversial today and I think we need to consider the fact that no matter how advanced smartwatches become, it will be a long time before they are much more than another swish looking piece of tech that conspires to create a distraction.

Great communication happens when everyone involved is engaged, in real time, with the conversation.

Many presenters already accept that they will be facing audiences that contain the kind of email addicts and social media enthusiasts who are compelled to continue communicating to the online world rather than paying attention to the real one. It’s no longer seen as rude to take or make a call during a meeting and many people still feel that leaving an email un-answered for an hour will cause some sort of unspecified cataclysmic event that will lead to their eventual destitution. It won’t.

Communicating through rather than via this ever increasing array of technology tempts presenters into to creating something so awesomely stunning that their audiences won’t dare to take their eyes off it for a single second. Or maybe you can set about hijacking all that tech and making it part of your presentation? If every device in the room is pulled into your presentation, your audience will have no choice but to pay attention. Unfortunately neither of these will achieve anything other than a huge investment and a righteously confused or thoroughly annoyed audience.

Your presentation needs to be more interesting than their email, more compelling than their facebook account and more important than a call from their optician. It needs to connect with them on a personal level, address the issues they face and position your solution as an easily actionable way to improve their situation.

Achieving this sounds quite daunting but it’s largely about using old skills in new ways – which brings us right back to watches.

I can never recall an incidence when I have rebuffed a request for the time. I once did just point to the time on my watch while my mouth was full of food, but I’m confident that the addition of a vaguely apologetic facial expression and a half smile still made the whole interaction effective for both parties. I also know that asking for the time with a quizzical expression and a tap on the wrist works well where talking is inappropriate or impossible. And I’ll never forget the look on the face of a small and very annoying child who was confused into silence by being shown the obviously bamboozling face of my analogue watch after his 638th request for the time.

This is the kind of simple interaction that forms the base of every great presentation and no matter how complex the content is you should be striving for the same results and fortunately for you that’s exactly what we’ve spent the last ten years helping businesses do.

To find out how to hone your presentation into an efficient device that achieves a stated task (rather than a multi-functional one that fails all round and detracts from its main purpose) simply give us a call.

smartwatch

 

New Horizons For The Presentation Lab

Thursday, August 28th, 2014 by Justine<

In the last ten years we’ve worked with customers on every continent except Antarctica. Working in new territories is always exciting and we’ve (mostly) enjoyed facing the challenges and opportunities that international working brings.

Our presentation consultancy service works so well because we take the time to get to know our customers, their businesses and their competitive environment and when this involves a new country it often throws up some interesting considerations.

But it hasn’t all been plain sailing, we’ve been almost tripped up by cultural differences, learned to assume nothing about emerging markets and occasionally experienced some amusing diversions caused by language and terminology.

When we made our first forays into Russia we soon found out that the phrase ‘Death By PowerPoint’ has only a very literal translation and through our blog comments we know that ‘Giddy as a Kipper’ is not a phrase that travels well (if at all).

What we do know is that everyone we work with has the same goal – to improve their presentations and make new and lasting connections with their audiences.

Almost as soon as The Presentation Lab Book was finished we learned that it would be printed in Spanish as well as English, which at the time caused almost as much excitement at Eyeful Towers as the book itself.

Just this week we have learned that the book will now also be available in Korean so we donned our ‘enquiring minds need to know’ hats and set out to find out more….

The first surprise came from learning that despite it being an isolate language (one that has no known relationship to any other language) there are approximately 80 million speakers worldwide – which is quite a big audience to get to know!

The Republic of Korea is home to the first cloned dog; an Afghan hound named Snuppy and has the second largest Chocolate Museum in the World. Every year people travel from around the globe to experience the Boryeong Mud Festival and Gangnam Style is the most watched music video of all time. All very interesting, but what about business?

Well it seems that Korea has lots of surprises here too. The 2014 OECD Pisa tests ranked South Korea as having the best education system in the world and that’s not the only place they excel. Soeul is ‘the bandwidth capital of the world’ with residents benefitting from an infrastructure investment that gives them the fastest internet connection on the planet and in urban areas 100 Mbit/s services are the average standard, and are currently being improved. Korean car manufacturers were the first to offer (and honour) extended warranties and Korean made electronics are household items around the world.

It seems fair to say that Korea is one of the big boys when it comes to impacting global commerce, they’re not about to rest on their laurels and they love chocolate, which makes them just the sort of people that we love to work with.

korea blog

Internal Presentations – How To Make The Difference

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 by Justine<

The second webinar in our 2014 Summer Season focused on the often neglected area of Internal Presentations.

It’s really tempting to think that Internal Presentations aren’t important, after all most of your audience has to be there and their expectations are probably low, so why waste the time and effort?

Getting it right begins with understanding that you’ve already invested in your presentation, 20 employees away from their desks for an hour has a tangible but hidden cost and wasting that hour will not help you demonstrate any ROI…. Take an Internal presentation to a conference and that hidden investment can be huge.

Internal presentations also have the power to set the standard for communication within your organisation and setting that standard high will have a positive effect on how your team communicate with each other and, more importantly, with your customers and prospects.

Not only that but a clear, engaging, well delivered Internal Presentation can even tame that trickiest of beasts – office gossip.

To find out more about why Internal Presentations matter and how you can use them to communicate much more than simply the information they contain click below to hear our Internal Presentation webinar.

If you’d like to know more, get in touch and one of our specialist presentation consultants will be happy to show you just how effective your Internal Presentations can be.

Sales & Marketing Presentation Secrets Revealed

Monday, July 14th, 2014 by Justine<

Our Summer Season of webinars is well underway.

It’s a couple of weeks now since we kicked off with our first session focusing on the intricacies of Sales and Marketing presentations.

Eternally rubbish at keeping great ideas to ourselves, we shared the latest in presentation thinking and gave attendees some practical advice on how to develop, create and deliver Sales and Marketing presentations that get the job done.

For those of you who were unable to join the webinar live, we’ve released a recording of the whole thing that you can peruse at your leisure, all you need to do is grab a cuppa and a biscuit and click on the video below.

There are still opportunities to take advantage of our caring, sharing nature by attending our webinars on Technical Presentation and Event Presentations. All webinars are free to attend and further details and registration links are below.

Technical Presentations are always challenging because they tempt presenters into including every minutiae of detail, mostly because they think that’s what the audience will want. This creates presentations that fail to engage, meaning that most of that carefully collated information misses its target completely.

Join us on Wednesday 16th July at 12 noon (BST) to find out how understanding your audience and managing data can help you connect, click here to register.

Internal Presentations are often considered unworthy of attention, the audience is required to attend and is expecting very little (other than an email free half hour). The standard of internal comms influences how your people communicate to others both in terms of content and quality, so skimping on effort here can have a huge knock on effect.

Join us on Thursday 17th July at 12 noon (BST) to find out why internal presentation matter and how they can add value to your business in ways you never expected, click here to register.

Inside Eyeful Labs

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 by Justine<

Just over a year ago we launched Eyeful Labs, our immersive, interactive, presentation environment, designed to help our customers explore new ways of thinking about and delivering presentations.

In that time the Labs have grown to be much more than we, or our customers, ever expected.

They have become the place where presentation innovation, creative inspiration and the spirit of exploration come together with an Eyeful dose of ‘give it a go’ (and a soupçon of scientific insanity) to explore all things presentation.

Presentations are often the least loved and most abused part of any business collateral package and Eyeful Labs is our way of changing perceptions and giving presentations the time and resource they deserve.

At first, many visitors were unsure exactly what to expect (and to be completely honest so were we). But it soon became apparent that our combination of readily accessible presentation expertise and limitless coffee was hitting the right spot.

Soon customers were experiencing the effects in the best way possible and going on to action positive change in their businesses.

Today the Labs are a real hive of activity with customers, consultants, designers and presentation enthusiasts all adding to a mix that is pushing the boundaries of what presenters and presentations can achieve.

It’s a hectic, challenging, stimulating and provocative place to be, it’s The Presentation Lab bought to life – and we love it!short reel 2

To find out how your presentation thinking can benefit from a trip to The Lab, simply get in touch and we’ll help you explore the possibilities.