Transperia Group, Inc.
Transformational Experiences That Drive Business Results

Archive for September, 2008

Hot 5: Avoiding Power Point Overkill

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Unnecessary GraphicI have a love-hate relationship with Power Point.  To be honest, it’s more of a hate-hate relationship.

I love using visual images to enhance a message.  They can stimulate, illustrate, & highlight good content.  More and more, however, I’ve seen the medium used and misused beyond its intended purpose and effectiveness.  You may use Power Point, Keynote, Pro Presenter, whatever—the software may vary, but the issue is the same.

I recently was producing an event for business professionals.  As I connected with the Keynote Speaker before the session, he informed me that he had 282 slides in his presentation.

“That’s a lot of slides,” I observed, trying hard to be understated.

“It’s okay,” he responded, “It covers 3 hours of training.  Besides, they go by pretty fast.”

“Go by pretty fast?”  I’ll say.  During a 3-hour training session, that’s more than 1.5 slides per minute.  Think about it.  A new graphic every 40 seconds.  That’s assuming that every graphic is equally spaced out, with no hesitations in the presentation.  A new slide every 40 seconds for 3 hours.  My head is still spinning.

Honestly, I think we’ve become lazy.  We have a classic example of the tail wagging the dog. The medium has become the message.  We’ve taken the focus off of our need to tell a compelling story and replaced it with a graphic delivery system.

A lot of presenters I see these days simply use Power Point as a public Teleprompter.  Consider this: if all your content is on the screen, then you, as the presenter, become unnecessary.  As a participant, I really don’t want or need to read your crib notes.  As with many other aspects of good communication, less is more.

As you prepare your next presentation, I encourage you to ask yourself these “Hot 5” questions:

  1. Is this graphic really necessary? Would my presentation be substantively any different without it?  If not, eliminate it.
  2. Will it distract from my message? It may be cool, hip, edgy or beautiful, but if it becomes a distraction, it shouldn’t be there.
  3. Will it increase or hinder the credibility of my message?
    • Is the design and composition of high quality?
    • Is it easy to read?
    • Is it easy to digest?

    If not, why give your audience any unnecessary reason to discredit you or your message?

  4. If the projector lost power, would my message suffer? Sure, it may lose a little zip, but if it suffers, then you’re relying too heavily on the graphics.
  5. Will it take emphasis off of me? Don’t ever forget that, as the presenter:

You are the story.  YOU are the show.  You are the star.

The message is much more important than the medium.  If you’re not convinced that you can deliver the goods on your own merit, then no amount of graphics will make a difference.

Let’s give Power Point a little rest.  It’s overworked, tired and needs a break.

The Friendly Skies…Really?

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Flight AttendantI was recently on an airplane.  As we were readying for departure, the Captain came on the loud speaker and said,

“Ladies & Gentlemen, I just wanted to make you aware that our flight attendant, Amy, has recently been nominated for Regional Jet Flight Attendant of the Year.  Let’s all give her a big hand,” which we did.

My first thought was, “Really? This girl?”  From what I had already observed, Amy didn’t appear to be the model of a great Flight Attendant.  I hardly saw a smile, she stumbled over the announcements and she coolly ignored the questions & requests of the young man seated behind me with Down Syndrome, all the while chatting it up with some other Flight Attendants (who were catching a ride on our flight—flying for free, by the way).

Then Amy delivered the safety instructions.  I don’t believe I’ve ever seen less energy or passion delivered during this standard speech (and I’ve been on my share of airplanes).  While pedestrian, at best, these instructions are still supposed to be the instructions on how to save our lives in the case of emergency.  You would have thought Amy was reading the phone book.

“How could this woman be nominated for an award?”  I thought.  A few moments later, I got my answer.  I overheard a fellow traveler congratulate Amy, who then scoffed and replied that the pilot was simply joking and having a little bit of fun.

The airlines are getting some tough press lately (and rightly so, in my opinion) because of several things:
•    Escalating ticket prices
•    Eliminating snacks
•    Fuel surcharges
•    Charging for baggage
•    And now some are even charging for soft drinks

Each of these cost-cutting measures is driving down the experience the airlines are providing.

But the airlines can greatly improve their customers’ experience at little to no additional cost—and it lies in the hands of their Flight Attendants.  It costs nothing to:

•    Smile
•    Treat people with respect
•    Be passionate about your job, and the service you provide
•    Be friendly
•    Act like you actually want to be there

I’m sure it’s tough to give that same safety speech day after day.  It reminds me of some years back when I used to be involved in theatre (yes, I did a little acting in college—don’t judge me).  The Director would inevitably give a speech to the cast somewhere in the middle of our show’s run and say, “Now, I know we’ve done this show lots of times, but there is a whole new crowd tonight who is seeing this for the first time.  They don’t care how good we were last night.  What matters to them is tonight.”

It’s easy to forget these simple things that can go a long way.  I think the airlines would do well to remind their Flight Attendants of this.  Maybe next time they’ll find a way to deliver that safety speech with a little zest, interest, or dare I say, even humor.  The power to create a good experience lies firmly within their grasp—if they will only seize it.

What can you learn from the airlines?  What are you doing to improve the experience you provide for your customers?  What can you be doing that doesn’t even cost money to accomplish?

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Never Get Too Cocky

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Remember that great clip from Star Wars (the original) where Luke Skywalker shoots down his first TIE starfighter?  All excited and a little proud, Skywalker turns to Han Solo and exclaims, “Got him!  I got him!”  Solo responds with a cool, “That’s great, kid…don’t get cocky.”

This past week I was producing a national conference.  While it wasn’t a wild show, by any stretch of the imagination, it did have its share of complexities, from a production stand point:  lots of cues, live music, video roll-ins, music bumps, interactive elements and more.

Just before the last session began, an attendee came up to the production booth to thank us.  He said that he’d been to two other similar shows in the past few months and neither of them had the high level of production values, excellence and quality that we had shown.

I thanked him and asked what made the difference.  He said,

“You know, the basics.  Hitting the cues right. Mics being turned on when they are supposed to be.  Tight transitions.”

I thanked him again for his kind words, then passed on his appreciation to my crew.

“That’s right,” I thought to myself, “We’re good.  We’re not like all those other hacks out there.”

Wouldn’t you know it, but we blew two small cues in that last session.  Nothing big and disastrous, and nothing that I think the audience would have noticed.  Just small things that can make the experience a little more enjoyable.  Or not.

We can never lose focus—even when we are confident of our abilities and have a proven track record.  Every little cue is important.  The moment we begin to rest on our laurels is the moment the unexpected can sneak up on us and take us down a notch.

Thanks for the reminder, Han.

Sony Walkman Project

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

Talk about a cool experience. Sony has taken a risk in promoting their latest Walkman media player.

Their website says, “The Walkman Project is an incredible musical collaboration that lets you make and share music with other people around the world.”

Sony has created a vehicle where people can collaborate on a piece of music together—each one adding his/her own part. You can sing, play or mix tracks. You then upload your contribution. Little by little, the musical piece grows, morphs and changes as each part is added. A very, very cool idea.

To promote this collaborative project (and their product), Sony created a video highlighting how even the most seemingly insignificant contribution makes an impact on the whole.

It’s brilliant.

The video features 130 musicians, all gathered in one place, performing a musical composition where each musician plays only one note at a time. The piece moves by beautifully as you watch each musician playing their one note, but the whole coming together fluidly and flawlessly.

It’s amazing.

I can’t imagine the immensity of the challenge of wrangling 240 microphones, handling 130 sensitive artist egos and juggling the logistics of such an endeavor.

Watch the video. It will blow your mind (at least it did mine).

Sony could have just done a regular product launch for their new Walkman. But instead, they created an experience for people to jump into, and also created a cool experience for the 130 musicians who played on the video, and then shared that experience with us.

Sony reminds us of the need to break the mold on our status quo events, projects or media. How about you? Is it business as usual, or are you creating an experience that will involve and impact your audience and not soon be forgotten?

Let the Sun Shine… or The Best-Case Scenario Rarely Is

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Age of AquariusMost of the clients I work with approach a project, event or media with big plans and high hopes.  After all, unlimited ideation, creative thinking and dreaming big are great ways to approach a new project.  Some of our clients, however, become a bit deflated when they realize that those big plans often come with corresponding resource requirements and challenges.

Great ideas and wonderful new creations usually require funding and human resources commensurate with the idea.

I’m not just talking about the costs for things we charge for.  In many cases, it’s the costs or situations that are unrelated to us (or outside our scope) that bring the most drain or frustration.

“Hmm.  Is it really going to cost that much, or take that long?”  I’ll often hear.  “Yes, that’s what it’s going to take to do this,” I’ll reply.

The client then sometimes enters into a theoretical bargaining of sorts with us.

•    “Well, what if we could get a vendor to agree to this.”  They’ll say, hoping they might find some as-yet-undiscovered bargain.
•    “By then, travel costs will probably have come down.”
•    “Hopefully the economy will have turned around by then.”
•    “What if we did some of this internally?”

We are often backed into a corner and asked to create guesstimates based on these hopeful, yet improbable, scenarios.  It’s what I call, “Best-Case Scenario Planning”.

And it’s dangerous.

I hate to even enter into it.  I explain to my client that it’s highly unlikely this and that will go our way, but they often twist my arm and ask me to create schedules or show them numbers based on such assumptions.  These unrealistic estimates then morph into the deadlines and budgets they plan for.

Here’s the catch:  “Best-Case Scenarios” almost never happen.

•    Shipments get lost in transit.
•    Unions go on strike.
•    Someone, somewhere drops a ball.

The planets rarely align in our solar system (either every 200 years, 5,000 years, or never, depending on your definition) and there’s no Age of Aquarius.

And the actual best-case scenario is more rare than a Kevin Costner blockbuster.

Regardless of how many disclaimers I list or try to prepare the project manager, anything that falls short of this new best-case scenario expectation becomes a disappointment, or even worse, is looked upon as a failure.

“Remember, we said that it would only work this way under a best-case scenario,” I remind them.

Doesn’t matter.

All they know is that they got their heart set on things happening a certain, albeit unrealistic, way and then got their heart (or budget) broken.

Moral of the story:  Next time you’re dreaming up a great new project, forget about the best-case scenario.  Plan for the most-probable scenario, and then budget a little more or set a realistic deadline.  Then, if the planets do happen to align, you’ll be a hero, everyone will be happier, and you can all join in on a chorus of “The Age of Aquarius”.

Thrilling Your Customers (Apple Does it Again)

Friday, September 5th, 2008

The experience we create for our customers goes beyond the time they are at our events, on our sales floors or using our products.

To foster customer loyalty and even build a cult-like following, you have to thrill the customer—even after the sale, or your obligation, is done.

I’m a huge Apple fan.  I’ve been using Macs for over 20 years.  I’m already in the fold—it’s a done deal—but yesterday I got another HUGE reminder of why I love Apple.  They extended my customer experience by thrilling me.  Here’s what happened:

On Tuesday of this week, I sent my almost three-year-old PowerBook G4 in to Apple to get some repairs done.  Being an Apple Care member (their extended warranty program), I had about 2 more months left before the warranty expired.  I decided to send the laptop in to get some final repairs while I still could.  Among the things I needed fixed was a flaky monitor.

Yesterday afternoon, I got a call from Frank, at Apple Care.

He said, “Well, we have a little problem with your computer.  The screen is so bad, it can’t be repaired.  It needs to be replaced”.

“Yeah…” I said, a little hesitantly.

“Well, this might sound weird, but we currently don’t have any monitors…and it will take a month for us to get any”, he said.

“You’re kidding.  I can’t wait that long.”  I replied.

“No.  But I think I have another solution for you.”  He said.

“Okay…”  I said, and braced myself for some pain.  Frank then made a statement that shocked me.

“We’d like to send you a brand new MacBook Pro to replace this one”.  He said.

“…Uh…What?”  I replied, quite eloquently.

“We’d like to send you a brand new 2.4 GHz MacBook Pro with 2 gigs of RAM and a 200 gig hard drive.  As far as your current machine goes, we’ll either fix & try to resell it, or use it for parts”,  He told me.  “The new MacBook Pro is yours to keep.”

“Am I on Candid Camera?”  I asked.

“No”, he laughed.  “You’ve had some trouble with this machine and it’s still under its Apple Care warranty, so we’d like to give you a new one”.

I explained to him that my machine was almost 3 years old and was even an older generation (PowerBook) than the computer they wanted to send to me.  He said they realized that, then asked if it was okay for them to send me a new machine.

Once I finished picking myself up off the floor, I thanked Frank and then asked how often he gets to make these kinds of phone calls.

He said, “It’s my job to call people up and tell them they’re getting a new computer.  They call me Santa Claus around here” (now that’s what I call a great job).

I told him he was my new best friend.

Apple gets it.  They didn’t have to do anything more than replace my monitor.  They didn’t even have to give me a refurbished version of the computer I already had.  But they went above and beyond (way beyond) and offered me a better solution than I ever would have dreamed of.

In short, they thrilled me…to say the least.

Excuse Me, What’s this Fly Doing in My Soup…?

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

Watiress w/GumThe service we receive in a restaurant can sometimes make or break the experience for us. Subsequently, the way we respond to that service (whether good or bad) sends a message of what our future expectations are. Tipping is really our most effective feedback mechanism for the service we’ve received.

My wife was a waitress. She was hard-working, fast, attentive and friendly to her customers (so she tells me).

While she’s a generous tipper, she sometimes thinks I tip too much. Normally, I tip an unwavering 20% (of the total, including tax). Even when I get bad service, I tend to tip the whole 20%. My wife argues that I should tip less when I get poor service.

I usually respond with something like:

  • “Well, maybe the waiter is just having a bad day” or
  • “You know, she’s probably a single mom and needs the money” or
  • Maybe I just don’t want to be perceived as cheap.

My wife then explains to me that it’s not fair to the good waitresses if I tip the same, regardless of service. It’s my responsibility to tip less.

She’s right. If we tip the same for exceptional or terrible service, then we complicitly support the terrible service we’ve just received.

I know that the amount is supposed to vary based on the level of service (full service vs. a self-serve buffet) and the caliber of the restaurant (cloth napkins and table cloths gets more than no table cloth and paper napkins). Let’s assume it’s a restaurant where you’re getting full service and a 20% tip is in order.

Here’s the standard I’m thinking I should follow from now on (no rocket science here):

  • Great service: 20% of total—including tax—or more (no one says you can’t tip more than 20% if the experience was really terrific)
  • Adequate or average service: 15% of total
  • Sub-standard service: 10% of total
  • Really bad service: leave something, albeit small, so they know you weren’t simply stiffing them. Then consider having a short conversation with the manager or owner on your way out.

Let your tip communicate your satisfaction level with the experience you received and set the expectation for next time. If you don’t, you can’t really expect something different on your next visit.

How about you? Do you have effective feedback mechanisms in place for your customers/audience?  Do you know if what you are offering is effective or not?  How do you measure it?  It would be nice if people left us “tips” for our work, wouldn’t it (or would it be frightening)?

What do you think?  I’d love to hear your feedback mechanisms, or simply feel free to respond with your tipping standards.  Please share your thoughts.