Deja-Conomy and Audience Advocacy
The impact on businesses--particularly in regards to how they view their events and meetings--is also similar.
We reflect back to when Live Spark was in its infancy, and Dan Yaman, our founder, regales us with tales of companies in difficult times; merging, scaling down, participating in acquisitions, etc.
In fact, Live Spark's predecessor company was started on Black Monday--and the term ignorance is bliss had never been more true. It may not have seemed like the best time to start a business, but it ended up being the perfect time for the company to introduce itself to the world.
At the time, Live Spark was known as Interactive Personalities--specializing in AniMate technology--real-time animated characters--instead of the entire spectrum of event design.
What happened during that time, was that companies going through significant change due to the economy or simply restructuring started contacting Dan and company.
"We need an audience advocate," was the request. Companies were still bringing their employees together for meetings--in fact, meetings were even more critical than ever for getting everyone on board and reassuring them with the new company visions. But what companies realized was that their audience needed a voice.
An audience in a state of uncertainty, or sitting in a meeting unconvinced, is an audience that is not receptive to new messaging. Likewise, when a company has issues that are unresolved, not addressing these before moving forward into mission-critical content is like putting a drop of water in a bucket of soup; the water is still there, but it's diluted by the simmering broil of the pot at large.
An audience advocate--in the form of an AniMate--was a transformational presence in these events.
Instead of CEOs and Executives talking AT the audience, they were able to talk TO them in an intimate way--even in a crowd of thousands.
The audience advocate:
- Kept the audience entertained and focused by interjecting humor.
- Brought up questions that were on the minds of the audience when an new concept was introduced.
- Voiced issues and objections so they could be addressed and the meeting could move forward.
- Provided an opportunity for top-level personnel to show that they understood what was going on, and were "with" the audience.
- Increased unity and feelings of company loyalty in a time where boosting morale and motivating employees was absolutely critical.
As we experience a deja-conomy of sorts in 2008 and heading into 2009, we're seeing more and more need for the audience advocate. As businesses find themselves in undesirable positions (or, sometimes, great positions, but with a high degree of change), the need for the audience to have a voice in the process grows. Though these AniMates have always been part of our toolbox, they fill a very specific niche in tough times that truly makes an impact.
Getting Tooned Up
Reposted from the MouseKingdom Blog:
For those who have seen real-time animation at the popular Disney attractions—“Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor” and “Turtle Talk With Crush”—take note. Here’s a clip that shows how Disney utilized the same type of interactive technology almost ten years prior to featuring it in their attractions.
The following video is a sample of what Disney did at a tradeshow for cable television executives. Toon Disney was just launching its cable station and wanted to expose the tradeshow attendees to their channel. They offered a draw in the booth; where the attendees could become “Tooned Up” (turned into a cartoon character) and walk away with a tape of their experience.
In the Disney booth, there was an area where an attendee could sit down and look at an off-screen monitor. There, the attendees saw themselves AND a real-time computer animated character that was digitally inserted into the video. The attendee was also wearing a microphone headset that contained a sensor that transmitted the position of their head and relayed movements to a computer. Hidden from the attendees was an actor performing the character’s voice and movements (interacting with the attendee) and a technician who operated the computer controls to change the attendee’s “Tooned Up” appearance; gender, hair color, skin color, etc.
The end result was magic—but then again, what else would you expect from Disney?
The attendees received a copy of their interaction with the real-time character and of their own transformation from person to Toon to take home to their colleagues and families.
It goes to show you that Disney has been ahead of the curve– seeking out ways to interact with their audience for years in the virtually animated world.
Note: Video provided courtesy of Live Spark; the company responsible for the animation technology.
The Seven Truths... Truth #3
Truth #3: The thing that convinces you isn’t necessarily the thing that convinces someone else.
Not everyone buys into the same type of argument. One of the biggest barriers in motivating audience action is that they don’t buy into your message. Some people want facts and figures, others want to see evidence that a plan has worked before, still others want to know that it’s what their peers are doing.
Your audience will be made of people that aren’t ALL convinced in the same way, so it stands to reason that a presentation has to approach persuasion from many different levels.
However, we tend to naturally want to present information in the way that convinces us personally. If numbers and pie charts are what convince me that our company initiatives are the right direction, naturally I'm going to load my presentation with so many pie charts you'd think it was PowerPoint Thanksgiving. Never mind that 3/4 of my audience may want more empirical evidence; case studies that show a successful implementation across other divisions or with other companies, etc.
So how can you turn a one-sided (or single-approach) message into something dynamic that will appeal to many?
Get the buy-in you need:
1. Acknowledge outstanding issues. When an audience is stuck on an objection, or their minds are elsewhere on an issue that isn't discussed, they cannot accept new arguments. For example, if you're talking about new company goals, but you have a huge distribution problem, people are going to be thinking, "These goals are nice and all--but how would I ever meet them with that distribution problem?" It doesn’t need to turn into a griping meeting, but briefly recognize problems and then give solutions or plans for improvement. You may then move forward.
2. Play to all persuasion styles:
- Data evidence--This is for the numbers people. They want to see charts, facts and figures that support your point.
- Social proof--This is for the consensus people. They want to see examples of how things have worked for other people in similar situations, or how things have worked in the past. They want case studies and stories.
- Personal guarantees of success--This is for the certainty people. They want hard evidence that it will work, but also that it will make them successful. They want to see visions of the future where they are successful.
- Relevance to achieving the goals--This is for the whole-picture seeking people. They want to see how a plan fits in with other elements in the company, and how it's relevant to the overall goals.
3. Don’t assume that your audience will be persuaded in the way that you are—do a reality check before a presentation. Run your argument by someone else, or filter your presentation through the lens of the four styles of persuasion. If it doesn't hit all of them in at least some way, then it's not going to be relevant to a portion of your audience.
The Seven Truths... Truth #2
Truth #2: The attention span of the average adult is between 5 - 7 minutes.
(And wandering minds are NOT an acceptable form of exercise.)
Hmm, how many of your event presentations are under 7 minutes? Probably not many. In fact, a lot of the Very Important Keynotes from company leaders probably clock in around 45-90 minutes (depending on how verbose the speaker and how much they're trying to cover).
Unless your information is delivered in a new, compelling way at this 5-7 minute interval, your audience will tune out. Blame it on the brain, it's just the way we're wired.
There are, however, a variety of tactics you can employ to maintain engagement throughout the presentation; stories, changing the focus of the presentation, and keeping the speech fresh and entertaining.
It’s just that somewhere in between getting the PowerPoints down and lining up speakers, someone forgets to employ these tactics. It seems that as long as a presentation has the right information in it, how it's presented becomes irrelevant. The truth is, if it isn't presented correctly, the information becomes irrelevant because it won't stick. Heck, it might not even make it into the brain in the first place.
So how do we solve the problem?
Herd their minds:
- Tell stories in the presentations to make examples relevant. Stories are intrinsically captivating, and short stories to highlight your point will refresh everyone's attention span. People will also stay engaged in a story for *longer* than the normal 5-7 minute attention window if it has a clear narrative and payoff. Using story metaphors are also a great way to increase comprehension of material.
- Change the presentation format every 5-7 minutes—add pictures, video or sound. You can maintain the same content points over a long period of time as long as you're changing how you talk about those points. Put in a video to illustrate a new product, show ad campaign material instead of just talking about it, and interview key experts instead of quoting them. Even a joke or anecdote can help. If multiple people in department worked on a project, have them tag-team on the presentation. Anything to vary it from just one person talking at the audience for an extended period of time.
- Get clean from your PowerPoint addiction—use PowerPoint to enhance what you’re saying—not as speaking notes. There's nothing more un-engaging than slide after slide of the same points as the speaker is talking them through (note--not talking TO them, but reading them). The brain cannot process both sets of identical information inputs and checks out.
The Seven Truths... Truth #1
These are the things that WILL happen in your event unless you take measures to prevent them. And they're not great for the event OR your bottom line.
We'll go into detail about each of these Seven Truths, but briefly, they are:
1. 95% of what is delivered in a typical meeting environment is forgotten 24 hours later.
2. The attention span of the average adult is between 5 - 7 minutes.
3. The thing that convinces you isn’t necessarily the thing that convinces someone else.
4. People generally only remember the opening and closing parts of any given presentation.
5. All events produce an outcome...but it might not be the one you want.
6. Adults are just kids in big bodies.
7. If a topic isn’t relevant, the brain doesn’t retain it.
Frightening--but don't worry, you can negate these factors through techniques like brain-based learning, interaction and strategic planning.
Let's explore the first truth: 95% of what is delivered in a typical meeting environment is forgotten 24 hours later. You might as well shake hands with your colleagues at the end of an event and say, "Congratulations, we've just had the best event that no one will remember."
Maybe that's a little harsh--the average person will retain that 5%--but you have no idea which 5% is going to stick. What if it's the dinner entertainment and not the CEO's goals and directives for the year?
So how do we solve the problem? Utilizing brain-based learning strategies you can make more of your content stick in the minds of your audience—and strategically reinforce key content to make sure that the most important messages go home with them.
Help your audience remember more key content:
1. Give breaks in between presentations for the audience to write notes and absorb the information.
Your brain needs a break. Going from one topic to the next, to the next in a typical event can lead to information overload. Something as simple as writing down notes after the presentation, or being encouraged to share one's key takeaways with a neighbor can dramatically increase retention. Of course, encourage attendees to take notes during presentations as well.
2. Have 3 key points per presentation—no more.
Simple is best when it comes to your key content. Sure, there may be many things to talk about (I've never been in a situation where there was a *lack* of things to talk about), but narrow them down so that you're sure the most important things are going to stick.
3. Reinforce key points at the beginning (pre-framing), middle (informing) and end (reviewing) of a presentation.
Tell the audience what you're going to talk about, elaborate on it, then review what you've just talked about. It may seem redundant on the surface, but that doesn't mean you have to say things the exact same way every time.
Pre-framing will prepare your audience for the information. This is why we look at maps before we go on a trip--to see where we're going. This way, the audience can also "look" for your messaging within the speech--they know which key points to watch out for.
Elaborating using stories, pictures, video, etc. will give your audience the meat of the information. They may not remember every detail from this elaboration, but they'll still remember the key points.
Reviewing will tie the speech up neatly, and remind the audience about the key points. This is also where you can insert action items related to the key points. I.e. "We want to grow revenue 16% this year...and this means you have to..."
Do these things consistently, and you can stretch that 5% retention. Most importantly, you can begin to control WHICH percentage of the meeting is sticking in the minds of your audience--the key message points.
Events in the Time of Downturn
Now, annual events like sales meetings and marketing get-togethers aren't exactly of the same ilk as an incentive trip, but in light of the economy, many companies are facing pressure to cut costs. This means, often, that the budget for events is slashed dramatically.
Days may be cut out of a trip, the attendee list may be shortened, and event planners are faced with having to make do with less.
Fortunately, making do with less doesn't mean doing less for your attendees. Because what your event comes down to isn't the pricey items like the staging design and teambuilding golf outings. You can engage your audience without the big set, and you can have an engaging networking activity without the 18 holes.
Meetings, in times of budgetary crunches, can be more critical than ever. It's an opportunity to rally the troops, focus on the coming directives, get everyone on board and boost morale.
Remember, there is one universal truth in meetings; expensive or low-budget: the audience wants to be engaged. With unlimited budgets, there's the temptation to engage them with high-tech.
So how *do* you still hold those crucial events with LESS budget and have them be MORE effective than ever?
Your audience wants to play...
To get people to interact, you don’t need a golf outing or an expensive cocktail hour—you just need to set up an environment where they can *play* in a meaningful way.
- Organize team activities, game shows and competitions that go throughout the event.
- Have frequent “brain breaks” in the meeting; allowing the audience to absorb information.
- Get the audience to interact with the speakers with a variety of activities; stories, roleplays, etc.
Your audience wants to be persuaded…
Let your audience know what the game plan is moving forward, why it’s going to work, and what’s expected of them to implement the company plan. Address their objections up front so you can move forward in the event.
- Play to all four styles of persuasion (for more on this, stay tuned).
- Have the audience set their own goals and objectives for the event.
- Outline a clear game plan and have every presentation fit in as a puzzle piece to the larger picture.
Remember, message is key. The more effective you are at getting your message across in clear, concise, relevant manner, the more effective your event is going to be for your audience.
Your audience is not going to remember some of the more expensive things; lighting grids, custom opening videos, etc. They SHOULD remember your message.
- Make sure your message is clear and concise.
- Stick to a minimal number of key message points
- Add in stories, examples, interaction—and lay off the PowerPoint in presentations.
Sure, all these things seem basic, but they’re still the most important elements in producing an extremely effective event—and one that need not break the bank.
Welcome to Live Sparks!
What does that even mean? Strategic event design?
I'll tell you what it *doesn't* mean. It doesn't mean lighting grids and staging--although that can contribute to strategic event design.
What it is, is creating your entire event--be it a national sales meeting, a training module, or a product roll out--with learning in mind.
The goal of strategic event design is to make sure that the audience retains MORE of the most crucial information at the event. It means that the audience is on board--persuaded and aligned with the message. It means that the audience is engaged in the event instead of holding covert Blackberry text sessions under the tables.
This blog will:
- Give you tips and tricks for creating a highly engaging event.
- Outline strategic event design principles and theories.
- Show case studies of successful events using unique engagement strategies.
- And much more!
Oh yeah. Who's "we"?
Dan Yaman is the founder and CEO of Live Spark, a company dedicated to producing the most effective, engaging events *ever*.
Missy Covington works with Dan at Live Spark in creative strategy and writing.