The Seven Truths...Truth #6
We're just finishing up the list of Live Spark's The Seven Truths About Events (that you may not want to know). This time, focusing on Truth #6.
Truth #6: Adults are kids in big bodies.
No matter how responsible our roles in life, our attention span remains all-kid. I would venture to say that the only difference between a room full of kids and a room full of adults in a presentation situation, is that adults have learned to be polite enough to sit still and give the facade of paying attention. There is only so far one can stretch their attention span--and only so much information one can take in.
People want to play and, more importantly, the brain needs to play and stretch to absorb information. It doesn’t want to sit in a room for hours on end with PowerPoint as its only stimulus (it will signal the muscles in the arm to reach for the Blackberry under the table).
Now, this doesn't mean that information is trivialized--merely that it is presented in a way that will fully engage the brain. The more crucial the information, the more critical it is to play.
So how do you treat the kid while educating and informing the adult?
Remember to play:
1. Incorporate right and left-brained activities. This allows attendees to absorb information while doing something creative. Couple intense presentation and learning moments with something that allows attendees to use their hands.
This could be as simple as having a reflection period where the audience sketches out a learning moment from the presentation, or as complex as a structured activity--or even an activity within the presentation.
2. Utilize team competition. Utilizing team competition and activities within an event keeps attendees engaged and makes them responsible for their own learning (as they are accountable to their team.)
Set up teams at the beginning of the event, and have structured and unstructured challenges throughout to keep the competition going.
- Unstructured Challenges: Asking questions in a presentation and rewarding teams for interaction, calling for responses in workshops, on-time rewards and spontaneous spirit and cheering.
- Structured Challenges: Games and interactive activities are the perfect way for an audience to feed the brain’s need for competition, stimulation and play while staying on task and on point in an event. These can be game shows, painting challenges, roleplay tasks, etc.
3. Break away from PowerPoint. Interact with your audience. Tell stories within a presentation. Use PowerPoint sparingly, and make it picture-heavy to illustrate and highlight points instead of beating them to death. Have the audience take an active part in a presentation--rewarding them with small trinkets (or team points) for their participation.
You can also use innovative presentation formats. Try an interview or skit; roleplays or demonstrations; case studies and stories.
Meetings Mean Business--And Strong Companies
From the Meetings Mean Business website:
One in eight Americans works in the travel industry. Meetings Mean Business is a grassroots campaign whose goal is to protect the millions of American jobs that depend on business meetings and events. Right now, events across the country are being canceled because of dangerous political rhetoric and media sensationalism that attempts to embarrass corporate America away from travel at the expense of working Americans. If our government is serious about recovering our economy and creating new jobs, we need a robust travel industry that supports the jobs of millions of hardworking Americans in hotels, restaurants and conference centers all around the country and empowers businesses who rely on travel for meetings, events and performance incentive programs to recover and grow.Bill Marriott has similar things to say about the economy and business meetings in his blog. A few select quotes:
In the past few weeks alone, we have had millions of dollars worth of meetings canceled, because companies fear how they will be perceived.
I also feel strongly that scaring companies, including those that have not received emergency government assistance, into eliminating travel from their normal course of business will hinder our economic recovery at a time when we need to do everything we can to stimulate our economy and create jobs.
It's a frustration of anyone dealing with corporate events. A lot of companies are cutting back on getting everyone together, and it's hard to blame them--what, with all the media pressure to do so.
Meetings Mean Business and Mr. Marriott are going at this turn of events from a jobs standpoint, but while I agree with and respect that viewpoint, the cancellation of corporate meetings is not just hurting jobs in the travel industry--it's hurting the corporations themselves.
These are uncertain times, to be sure. Employees of even large, seemingly bullet-proof, companies are worried about their longevity. While most are putting their noses to the grindstone and working even harder, it's hard to function at an effective rate when one is operating from a position of fear.
Now, more than ever, employees need guidance and direction. They need to know that the company has a strong vision, goals and--ultimately--a plan for better or worse. They need to hear a strong leader--the CEO, perhaps, or their management team--come forward and give them reassurance; even if that reassurance is in the form of, "Times are tough and here's what to expect."
Now, some would say that there are meeting alternatives, but this simply is not so. Webinars, memos, video conferencing--all are great and have their place, but are paltry substitutions for getting everyone together.
Having a meeting in a time of economic downturn and uncertainty:
- Reassures the workforce--taking them out of a place of fear so they can be more effective at their jobs.
- Increases morale and a sense of team--it's powerful to reconnect with peers and develop optimized working relationships.
- Gets everyone on the same page; communicating a clear state of the company, goals and visions for moving forward.
- Gets everyone moving in the same direction--calls employees to action.
- Shows that the company is not reactionary and displays a strong, united front.
...there are a million little ways to cut the budget in an event and still host it. In fact, some of the most effective events we've been to have been scaled-down, minimalist affairs. The important thing, right now, is a unifying message--and that means unifying a company's workforce.
And that, ultimately, means bringing them together. So don't cancel your meeting as a first reaction. Evaluate whether it's necessary (yes, probably even more so now), and take a critical look at where the money in the event is going.
Because when a company cancels its corporate meetings, it not only hurts jobs in the travel industry, but it also hurts the company.
The Weight of Recognition
Well, today a box arrived at our office. A black, hefty box that just oozed importance. (Well, not literally, but the yell of, "Hey, look...we got a box and it looks shiny!" echoed through the office, drawing *all* employees to a central location.)
What was in the box?
Why, it was the Emmy. And yes, they're just as heavy as everyone makes them look on TV. Here is our Producer--and named Director on the Emmy--David Stewart, holding up the substantial statuette.
Once again--congrats to David, Brendan and the Minyanville team on the Emmy win! We're awfully proud of all of them.
Hey, do you think the board would go for an AniMated Emmy at the Emmy awards next year? We think it'd be a great idea!
Now who do we talk to about that...
The Seven Truths... Truth #5
Truth #5: All events will produce an outcome--but it might not be the outcome that you want.
If you don’t set explicit objectives for your event and then align every aspect towards achieving those objectives, you messages may be disparate and lost – and even downright confusing. Without having every presenter--every meeting element--in line with the predetermined outcomes, radically different conclusions may be drawn from the audience.
An example of mis-aligned event elements would be playing, "Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down" as walk-out music for a break immediately after the CEO's upbeat call-to-action and company vision. It doesn't exactly project a musical vote of confidence, does it?
But this is a superficial example. What if the marketing team is telling a sales force that it's important to gather existing customer data utilizing their pre-existing relationships, and the VP of sales is telling them to be proactive in seeking out new leads. These messages are not exactly mutually exclusive, but they could be seen that way if not tied together properly.
Here are ways to keep your outcomes in the forefront of your mind and, thus, into the minds of your audience:
1. Set outcomes for the event, and have each presenter align their outcomes to the main goals of the event. If it doesn’t fit—you must not present it.
Often times, presenters will come up with content based on what's important to them--not what's important to the meeting or the audience. This is not a fault or a surprise, for when one spends their entire working life in their department, executing their objectives it can be hard to see where they fit into the big picture or difficult to acknowledge that those objectives might not be front-of-mind relevant to the audience.
We also see a lot of departments justifying their work throughout the year--which would be fine if they were presenting to the board, or relevant upper management. It might not be fine considering the audience at hand.
Having a specific set of outcomes and requiring presenters to adhere to them can eliminate some of this extraneous content, and keep the event sharply focused.
2. Make sure outcomes are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
There's a trick to setting event outcomes. When we ask some of our clients what the outcome is for their event, often times we'll get the response: "Well, to get everyone together." Which is a great thing, but not something that can be acted on and carried out after the event.
Outcomes should be specific: Do you want the audience to gain knowledge of new product XYZ? To feel a cohesive sense of team that will carry on to their job performance after the event? Don't be afraid to narrow outcomes.
Outcomes should be measurable: Increasing knowledge of a new product will do what? Will it help the audience sell more of widget x? How much more?
Outcomes should be attainable: Setting the outcome for all audience members to have absolute knowledge of all new products immediately after the event might not be attainable.
Outcomes should be realistic: Events are a great vehicle for producing outcomes (or they can be, if done right), but one event is not going to radically change the job performance of the entire company without adequate follow-up. Be careful of setting unrealistic goals for a 2-5 day event.
Outcomes should be timely: If a new product is not being released till next year and cannot be sold till then, the outcome of knowing and selling the intricacies of the new product is not timly, because the audience cannot use that outcome right away after the event. An outcome of generating excitement for a new product so they can start communicating that it's coming to their customers might be a more timely goal.
3. Have a clear idea of what you want your audience to do after an event—and make it a pointed call to action.
A meeting can only do so much. Have an action plan set up after the event to follow through with audience members--reinforcing the outcomes and leading to execution.
The Seven Truths... Truth #4
Truth #4: Studies have shown that people generally only remember the opening and closing parts of any given presentation.
Considering most presentations, this may be the scariest truth of all. If you think about most speakers—the most important information is generally put in the middle (where it is henceforth forgotten). This is why we call it the "Jan Brady Effect"--poor Jan; the Brady Bunch always made time for and remembered and paid attention to Cindy and Marcia (Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!), but as the middle child, she was forgotten.
How does this relate to your event? You want people to remember the meat of the content--usually placed in the middle of a traditional presentation. The frivolous warm-up joke and wind-down anecdote usually fall to the bookends--where people are paying the most attention. Therefore presentations need to be structured differently—rearranging the content so that the most important things fit in where they’re most likely to be remembered.
So, how do you ensure that they remember poor Jan...errr...your most important content? Here are some steps you can take to negate the Jan Brady Effect:
1. Outline the key points for the presentation in the beginning and the end.
Say it once, say it twice, say it three times.
Highlight your key points in the beginning. This both prepares a learner's mind for more in-depth content, and it introduces the topics once. Keep it high-level and simple, but very relevant.
Go in deeper in the middle. The meat of a presentation is a great place for depth and detail. Not all details may be remembered, but the content will be closer to sticking.
Recap at the end. The end of the presentation--after the "in conclusion" should be a highlight of the most important, most actionable, most relevant key points. This is what you want the audience to act on, and what you really want them to take home.
2. Pepper different presentation elements; stories, jokes, anecdotes, videos—throughout the presentation.
Every time you introduce a new stimulus or media, the attention peaks in the audience. Our brains look for novelty, and if it's different, we can't help but listen up.
Putting in multimedia elements--such as videos and visuals--reinforces the content for visual learners in addition to mixing up the presentation format. Video and visuals can be great speaker support as well.
Stories, anecdotes, relevant jokes and metaphors are naturally engaging formats; they reinterpret information in a different way--so it's like a review within a presentation--and they add relevance and personality to the content or data.
3. Save the year-in-review for the middle of the presentation.
This is one of the most frustrating things that we see in corporate presentations.
The stage is set--this event is going to be new and different, they say. The audience is in a new ballroom and they're prepared--nay, they're *expecting*--to be motivated. . .
And then the first executive starts his speech with an inspiring. . . year-in-review. We're not saying that the year-in-review isn't important--indeed, it's crucial to know where you've been so you can see where you're going, and it's certainly important to highlight past successes to motivate the group. However, the past shouldn't be the first thing in a "brand-new" event.
Aside from that, though, is that the audience already *knows* (or should know), basically, what already happened. Therefore, it shouldn't take up prime attention real-estate at the beginning of a presentation. Instead, review current topics/goals, and then put the year-end review in the middle of the presentation in the context of future plans/actions and learnings.
And the Emmy Goes to...
Hoofy and Boo are the character creations of Minyanville--a next-generation digital media company that creates branded content to inform, educate and entertain all generations about the world of finance. The bull (Hoofy) and bear (Boo) of Wall Street, Hoofy and Boo are dedicated to reporting the latest financial news of the world in a witty, informed, and often irreverent format.
Hoofy and Boo are brought to life by Live Spark and are examples of Live Spark's AniMates. This unique animation technique allows for quick production on each 2-minute segment--essential when rolling out 2 episodes a week; one for Fox Business Channel and the other for Yahoo! Finance (all episodes are housed and replayed on Minyanville's own site). Episodes are also assembled through Live Spark, and go through an extensive post-production process adding in all graphics, sound and additional media content.
Click here to watch episodes of "World in Review with Hoofy and Boo".
[Click on image below to make larger.]
From the Minyanville News Release:
Minyanville Media Wins Emmy
“Minyanville’s World in Review With Hoofy and Boo” Wins Award For Business and Financial Reporting
New York, Dec 2- Minyanville Media, the fast growing financial information and entertainment company today won a Business and Financial Reporting Emmy for its animated news show “Minyanville’s World In Review with Hoofy and Boo”.
The show was honored by The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, in the New Approaches to Financial Reporting category for its groundbreaking weekly show starring the animated icons of finance, Hoofy The Bull and Boo The Bear.
“It is a humbling honor for us, to be recognized as a leader of business news reporting,” said Minyanville Founder and CEO Todd Harrison. “ We continue to do our part in helping narrow the gap between what people know about managing their money and what they need to know, “ he added.
The show, which is an entertaining and educational look at the world of business, money and the financial markets runs on Minyanville’s fast growing web site, www.minyanville.com. It also runs on Yahoo Finance each week and ran weekly on The Fox Business Network.
Hoofy and Boo could not be reached for comment as they were taking a meeting with their new agents.
To view episodes of “Minyanville’s World In Review With Hoofy and Boo” visit www.minyanville.com/mvtv
“Minyanville’s World In Review With Hoofy and Boo”
David Stewart [With Live Spark]
Brendan Stern [With Live Spark]
Minyanville is a next-generation digital media company that creates branded content to inform, educate and entertain all generations about the world of finance.
Led by a cast of animated "Critters" – including Hoofy the Bull and Boo the Bear – Minyanville uses a combination of smart analysis and entertainment to highlight the need for better financial understanding. Targeting segments at all stages – from kids to the most sophisticated professional investors – Minyanville reaches its audiences through their Buzz and Banter subscription product, a website (www.minyanville.com) attracting nearly 1.5 million monthly unique visitors and content distribution deals with Yahoo! Finance, T.D Ameritrade, Dow Jones MarketWatch, Bloomberg, AOL, MSN and others. They have the first and only animated business news show "Minyanville's World In Review" that premieres weekly on Yahoo! Finance. The show was recently nominated for an Emmy. Minyanville "professors" are regulars on Fox Business Network, CNBC and Nightly Business Network. Meanwhile, the company is reaching more than 280,000 kids through an educational virtual world at www.minyanland.com.
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.