Posts Tagged ‘Storytelling’

The Power of Story – An Alternative View

Thursday, December 4th, 2014 by Simon<

Book iconHave you noticed something..? For the past few years, blogs, magazines, video experts and books have all extolled the virtues of story within business presentations.

On one hand, we applaud it.  Grabbing the attention of your audience is a good thing to do.
On the other hand, we’re frankly a little worried that presenters are getting the wrong idea, confusing themselves and their audiences in the process.

Panic not!  In early 2015 Eyeful will be unveiling our Story Season – a series of blogs, articles and videos to debunk the somewhat over-hyped topic of Story in Business Presentations. In the meantime, enjoy this tongue-in-cheek shot-on-an-iphone instructional video courtesy of a few of our delivery team.

(Don’t say you weren’t warned…)

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

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

Innovation In Action – The Presentation Lab Comes To Life

Friday, August 22nd, 2014 by Justine<

As its Friday afternoon and all our UK friends and customers are looking forward to a three day weekend I thought it might be a nice idea to share a little more of our ever popular innovation.

In this little gem Hannah took inspiration from stop motion animation to bring The Presentation Lab book to life.

The result is both captivating and quirky and about as far away from Death By PowerPoint as it is possible to be.

If this doesn’t send you into the weekend with a smile on your face I’ll be very surprised….

To find out more about how our expert designers can bring your presentations to life simply get in touch and we’ll be more than happy to help your presentation realise its full potential.

What Pitch Dropping can tell us about Pitch Presenting…

Friday, August 15th, 2014 by Justine<

Pitch (the tar like substance) is one of the slowest moving things around. It sits somewhere in the murky hinterland between solid and liquid and scientists have proven that getting it to do anything of interest takes a very, very long time.

Pitch (the ‘oh bugger they want to see us on Wednesday, what are we going to do?’) business kind is at the polar opposite of the action/reaction spectrum. It can evoke panic in even the most level headed of presenters.

So how on earth can the first type help us with the second?

It’s not about pitch itself but rather more about its place in one of the longest running scientific endeavours in the world – The Pitch Drop Experiment. For those of you unfamiliar with this particular phenomenon it involves waiting for some apparently solid pitch to fall through a funnel. As you might imagine this is not a whistles and bangs kind of experiment, in fact it’s quite the opposite.

The School of Mathematics and Physics at The University of Queensland began their experiment in 1927 since when it has dropped only nine times, In fact the custodian of the experiment for over 50 years Professor Mainstone never saw the actual event. In 1979 a drop fell at the weekend, in 1988 he was fetching a drink when it happened, in 2000 a video camera set up to record the event failed.

In fact it wasn’t until 2013 that anyone managed to capture a pitch drop on film and that honour was taken by a similar experiment set up in 1944 at Trinity College Dublin. In April 2014 the Australian drop was not only filmed but watched live on line by thousands of enthusiasts.

The scientific reaction was best summed up by Dr Shane Bergin, a physicist and senior research fellow at Trinity, “Eventually, when our one was caught on camera, it provided the world with a kind of scientific ‘Aaaah’ moment,” he says. “As in, finally, we see it!

Everyone knew the pitch was dropping but until they saw it for themselves it was difficult to make a personal, emotional connection to the event.

Business pitches face a similar problem; it’s relatively easy to explain the theory behind your product or solution, to provide statistics to back up its qualities and to regale your audience with how it has been successful at other times and in other places.

But what your audience really needs is the equivalent of seeing the drop fall for themselves.

They need to be able to experience your pitch in a way that connects with them, and they don’t have 86 years to hang around.

Getting it right is about understanding their viewpoint, motivation and situation and then placing your solution right into the heart of their world.

Unfortunately these are things that get the least consideration when panic sets in.

Eyeful and our sister company Sales Engine are on a mission to make sure that every pitch contains that moment. The pitch process can be an arduous journey littered with an unnerving trail of consonant ridden acronyms and intimidating processes that conspire to make the final scene, when you actually get in front of the decision makers, much more intimidating than it needs to be. Having experts at your side on every step of the journey makes a real difference.

So if you’ve got an upcoming pitch and you’re a little concerned that your drop is a long way from enthralling its audience simply pick up the phone, and while the professionals work their magic you can take a step back and possibly find a little time to enjoy the progress of the latest drop (ETA 2028).

pitch drop blog

The Curse of the Conference Call

Thursday, July 31st, 2014 by Justine<

Regular readers will know that we often talk about the Presentation Landscape and try to help our readers understand that presenting isn’t all about standing in front of an audience with a carefully prepared deck.

The best communicators understand that every business interaction is a presentation; even sharing new ideas informally can be more done more effectively if you apply some presentation best practice.

Before you dismiss that as unnecessary advice think about a child trying to persuade a parent to get them a puppy by arguing that it will help them be more responsible and get more exercise. These are not the reasons the child wants the puppy (those are mostly to do with cuteness), but they are the reasons they think their parents (the audience) will want to hear and will (please, please, please) respond to.

Childhood puppy requests should always be listened to with a huge amount of scepticism and it’s important that solid terms are negotiated before a parent even thinks about giving in, which tells us two more important things. Firstly that we have an inherent instinct to communicate in ways that will best engage our audience and secondly that even when we’re not doing business we’re using the same kind of skills and instincts.

So, presenting less formally or presenting without slides is easy because we can trust our instincts and rely on our natural ability to connect and negotiate.

Unfortunately this whole theory seems to fall flat on its face when it comes to conference calls.

It seems that once the people you are trying to communicate with are more than a few feet away all the things we know about engaging and negotiating are thrown out of the window.

Getting a conference call right is about understanding that it is part of the Presentation Landscape and not just an easy excuse to look busy. Rising to the challenge involves all the key presenting skills – know your story – know your audience – be clear with your messaging – make your call to action transparent and concise.

There are no revelations here, yet so many conference calls fail to achieve anything other than inactivity, annoying snapshots of people’s personal lives and uncomfortable silences. Unfortunately this is because they can easily fall into the same ‘no need to bother, it isn’t really important’ abyss that is also often home to Internal Presentations and without help, that’s where they’ll stay.

The clip below is both amusing and toe-curlingly uncomfortable to watch, but the sad thing is that at least some parts of it will ring true with anyone who has ever been on a conference call…

How we do business today means that conference calls are a necessity and businesses that work to understand where they sit in the Presentation Landscape and address the challenges they present will be better placed to take advantage of the opportunities they bring.

If you’d like to know how the creation of a great presentation can be beneficial to all your business communication simply download our free Sales Enablement Whitepaper or give us a call.

Eyeful Presentations – On Standby During The Commonwealth Games…

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 by Justine<

This evening sports and pageantry enthusiasts will be settling down to watch the opening ceremony of the 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

As we know from the 2012 London Olympics the next 11 days will include much to educate and inspire audiences and athletes.

It’s easy to think of the Commonwealth Games as a poor relation to its bigger, brasher cousin the Olympics, but the challenges are the same on every level. Every athlete is trying to give their very best, every spectator is expecting to see sport at its highest level, every person involved in bringing it together is invested in its success and every sponsor is hoping to get the best possible ROI.

Which reminds me a little of how an important presentation comes together…

Here at Eyeful Towers we love a sporting event, and having fully recovered from The World Cup we’re gearing up to enjoy whatever Glasgow brings. To get into the spirit of the thing we’ve all taken a few minutes to find out which sports would suit us best via the entirely scientific channel that is the online questionnaire and the results have been rather interesting.

Should England need to fill a Hockey field in an emergency, we’re (apparently) more than able to help out. We can also (in a dire emergency) swell the ranks in Badminton and take on other Commonwealth hopefuls in both Wrestling and Judo… and we have in our midst a couple of the best disguised athletic throwers you could ever hope to meet.

Which, by my reckoning, makes us exactly the kind of team playing, tactically astute, ready to get stuck in, self-disciplined, multi-talented people you’d want helping you with your next presentation…

Whatever triumphs and tribulations the Commonwealth Games brings, you can rest assured that we won’t be waiting in vain for a call to step in, we’ll be concentrating on what we do best – helping our customers make lasting connections with their audiences.

Commonwealth Stadium