Transperia Group, Inc.
Transformational Experiences That Drive Business Results

Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Creativity vs. Innovation

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

There is a difference between having an original, creative idea and truly being innovative. The two are often assumed, incorrectly, to be synonymous. There are many people, companies and organizations that have (or have had) an original, creative idea and assumed, by default, that they were “Innovators.” Not necessarily the case.

AOL gave America access to the Internet.  Microsoft made it possible for the average person to have an affordable, productive PC.  MySpace ushered in the era of social media.  They all had great, new, creative ideas that made a substantial impact on the world.  But where are they now?  I’m not suggesting these companies have nothing left to offer, or can’t eventually regain some of their original, creative greatness.  What is clear is that they have all been eclipsed by others in their respective fields that understood the importance of reinvention and true innovation.

It’s one thing to have a creative – even innovative – idea, but true Innovators continue to reinvent, design, develop and create new ideas and ways of doing things; the others often hang on to their “original” idea and try to replicate it in perpetuity. A true Innovator does not desire to hang on to one idea or way of doing things, regardless of how cool, amazing or groundbreaking it was. True Innovators are continually driven to bring about change – and change the world in the process.

The Power of Person

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Personal connection is powerful. And it’s foundational, if not the cornerstone, to creating a great experience.

I’m always amazed at how much my experience at a store, restaurant, with a vendor, or wherever is affected by how I’m treated by the front-line person. It can literally make or break the experience for me (and determine whether or not I do business there).

I refer to it simply as “the power of person.” People want to be treated like a real person, by a real person. Not a number, not an interruption, not a nuisance, not a means to a sale. A person. It’s shocking how much we’ve lost sight of that in our culture.

Creating transformational experiences for people does not always have to be a huge endeavor. Simply put, our people are one of the biggest keys to creating a great experience for others.

I try hard to create a good experience for my clients, vendors and employees every chance I get. And the formula is really pretty simple. Here are some things we strive to do at Transperia:

  • Treat people like they matter. And authentically care about them.
  • Value their time as equally important (or more so) as your own.
  • Be kind and polite…even if they are being rude or disconnected (you never know what might be on someone else’s plate, or what burden they might be carrying).
  • Help them reach their goals (which, in turn, almost always helps you reach yours).
  • Be real and authentic. You don’t have to spill your guts inappropriately, but let them see the real you.
  • Have some fun/bring some joy in the midst of the interaction. I’m not suggesting telling jokes or not taking things seriously. Rather, look for ways to bring joy, if possible. Sometimes this requires a little bit of established trust or relationship, but if you authentically are looking for ways to bring some joy, it will go a long way.

These are just a handful of things that help a client feel like they are a “person” to you. You start by being a real “person” with them and letting them know how much you value them. If you can authentically do these things, your customers/clients will look forward to interacting with you—and doing business with you.

This isn’t rocket science and it isn’t a costly program to implement. If you (and the people on your team) simply employ “the power of person” you will stand out from the crowd. You will already be enhancing the experience. Best of all, others will begin talking about you.

Do you have any other ideas of how to fuel “the power of person?” We’d love to see your comments.

Why I Recommend Twitter: 140 Characters is All You Get

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Twitter Logo

It’s been interesting to me to see how much national attention has been put on Twitter lately.  While it’s been around for a couple years now, it’s being fully thrust into our cultural mainstream.

I’ve been using Twitter for over a year now. I’m not a massive user and don’t have a ton of followers, like some people, but I would consider myself “active”.

There are several reasons why I use Twitter, but I won’t get into that in this post.  I’d rather discuss one of the best benefits I find to using Twitter.  Here it is:

Limiting posts to only 140 characters makes us better communicators.

As a culture, there is so much clutter in the way we communicate.  And we’ve become lazy in our communication.  I believe that we’ve dismissed the need to be concise and set aside our need to develop our vocabularies and conventions of speech.

Being a clear communicator has become somewhat rare anymore.  People are forgetting how to make a clear statement and then make a cogent point about it.

As I produce events all over the country, I have the privilege (or curse?) of listening to a lot of different speakers.  Overwhelmingly, I find myself bored and distracted by their lack of clarity and inability to make a solid point without meandering rabbit trails.  Tangents, vocal pauses, verbally cluttered illustrations and unfocused talking points confuse the audience and make for a dreadful presentation.  I’m convinced that most speakers think that the longer they speak, the more value they give to the listener.  I couldn’t disagree more.

I’ve written before about the need for brevity in communication.  That’s why I love Twitter.  It forces you to make a clear and (hopefully) compelling statement in 140 characters or less.

That’s not always an easy task.  If you’re like me (and you use Twitter) you’ve probably found yourself starting to cringe at times as you see your available “character count” start to dwindle before you’re ready to end your tweet.  I really get nervous when I’m in the “red zone” and haven’t finished my thought.

I often find myself having to go back and restate my tweet so that it fits in the allotted space.  It forces me to be concise, creative and clear.  My tweets are almost always better because of it.

It didn’t take me long to realize that this discipline is making me a better communicator in general.  This exercise to my “communication muscle” is making me a better communicator in my business, in my telephone skills, with my friends and with my wife & kids.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we all start talking in tweet-sized nuggets in every area of our lives.  I am suggesting that the more we focus on being clear, brief and concise, the more it will force us to cut the clutter, find just the right words we need, and be more compelling communicators.

If you’re on Twitter and would like to follow me, I’d be honored.  Let’s keep the conversation going.  You can find me here:  http://twitter.com/markbennardo

The Open Face

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

One of the most compelling trainers on the art of communication I’ve ever met is a gentleman named Arch Lustberg.

Arch has trained tens of thousands of leaders and professionals over his long career and has worked with political figures, entertainers and high-level executives.  I’ve had the privilege of working with Arch on several occasions and each time has been a true blessing to me.  I always learn something new from him.

One of Arch’s most effective training points is what he calls “The Open Face”.  It is so simple, yet so powerful.  I’ve seen Arch take someone on stage and watched him transform the person’s communication skills in a matter of moments, simply by applying this principle.  I’ve also taken some of the principles of the “Open Face” and applied them to my personal life (such as how I communicate with my children).

I could take time telling you about it, but thought it better for you to hear it directly from Arch.  Watch this video of Arch discussing “The Open Face” (it’s less than 2 minutes long).

Arch has also written a wonderful book called, “How to Sell Yourself”.  It’s definitely worth your time and the 15 bucks.

Also, if you are in need of a keynote speaker for an event, Arch is an amazing choice.  You can get more info on his website.  And be sure to tell him that Mark Bennardo, from Transperia, sent you (and don’t forget to ask him about the time I saved his life)!

The 1-Minute Speech and the Economy of Words

Friday, October 24th, 2008

StopwatchOne of my first communication courses in college (many moons ago) required students to give a one-minute speech.  The speech had to tell something interesting about ourselves and our home towns. One minute—that’s it.  Go over and you fail the assignment.

Our professor’s point was simple:  a speech can never be considered too short if it holds attention and makes a memorable point.  It can be, (and most usually are), however, too long.

It was tough.  The art of effective communication is really tested when you are limited in the amount of time/words you can use. It was a really good exercise, and one I strongly encourage you to try.

The “economy of words” is an important principle to keep in mind when writing/speaking.  It would seem that more words would bring more clarity, but ironically, the more words we use, the more cluttered the message becomes.

Thomas Jefferson is credited with saying, “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”

This has been my shortest post so far. I’m trying to practice what I preach.

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”.