We recently prepared a presentation for a client that had more than 100 slides…for a one hour meeting. Do the math: If you calculate time for introductions and leave even five minutes at the end for questions, that’s a pace of two slides per minute during the presentation. A blistering pace.
Then consider the content on the slides: lots of words, tables, and occasional graphics. Typeface size was 18 to 28 point. You get the picture. The intent was to hammer home thousands of ideas and facts. The client could not be swayed. They needed every one of these slides to deliver a successful presentation. They just wanted us to “make it pretty.”
I wish I could say we used our magical powers of persuasion to enlighten them to use a strategically messaged, visually compelling presentation. Didn’t happen. I did wonder what it was like in the room for the audience… and the presenter. I imagine they were both exhausted when it was over.
Presenters often start with a bunch of slides and try to cram them into a narrative—and it shows. The most effective presentations look simple because they were planned that way.
When your objective is to communicate, educate or influence, the most important work starts with the result in mind:
What is the point you’re trying to make or what must the audience learn?
Why is it important to the audience?
What story can you use to bring the material to life?
What do you want them to do with the information?
Every presentation should tell a story or take the audience on a journey. This applies even if you’re sharing quarterly returns (some of the most important stories). Once you identify your objective, develop the slides that are clear and compelling. Be concise. Use as little text as possible. Because you don’t want them to be reading your slides, you want them to be listening to you.
Then practice, practice, practice. The more comfortable you are with the information, the less you’ll need to rely on slides. Your audience will be grateful.
With a dizzying number of tools, apps and online resources available to business communicators, it can be difficult to keep up. Here are five of our favorites; our go-to sources for inspiration, innovative design and fresh ideas. Happy Holidays!
Creative Market— Creative Market is an online marketplace for community-generated design assets. The website sells graphics, WordPress themes, stock photography, and other digital goods. If you are building infographics, there are thousands of icons to choose from. www.creativemarket.com.
Grammarly—Unlike cursive handwriting, correct grammar never goes out of style. Grammarly’s writing app helps ensure your writing is easy to read, effective, and mistake-free by automatically detecting grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice and style error. It’s available as a free Chrome extension or online at www.grammarly.com.
HBR IdeaCast—This weekly podcast by the Harvard Business Review features leading thinkers in business and management. What’s the connection to communications? Great leaders understand the value of communications and alignment with corporate values. There are lots of clever ideas to nab here. Available on Apple Podcast and www.HBR.org.
Ted Talks—Everyone needs a 15 minute mental vacation from the daily grind. Watch a Ted Talk. Our recommendation for business communicators is Talk Nerdy to Me by Melissa Marshall. In less than five minutes she outlines a formula for bringing scientific content to a general audience. Use this approach whenever you’re sharing complex (or boring) information. www.TedTalks.com
Unsplash—There is no better site for beautiful, free images and photos than Unsplash. You can download high resolution files to use for any project. No attribution required (although always appreciated). Just spend 10 minutes scrolling through the photo files and you’ll be inspired to improve the look of your presentations or handouts. www.unsplash.com
Looking for a new way to reach your employees without blowing your entire budget? Try podcasts. If you think it’s a niche channel, take a look at these numbers:
4 in 10 Americans listen to podcasts on a regular basis
Podcast listening was up 23% between 2015 and 2016
85% of listeners complete the entire episode*
Americans are falling in love with podcasts in numbers that increase every year. Recent podcast phenoms like Serial and S-Town attracted legions of new listeners. Guess what? Many of your employees are among them.
Internal communication pros are paying attention. Disney, IBM and Microsoft have added podcasts to their internal mix. Perhaps it’s time for your business to do the same.
Consider these three things when developing a podcast strategy (or selling the idea to your boss).
Accessible everywhere. What’s the one item most people can’t do without? Their phones. A podcast will allow you to connect with team members as they multitask: at the gym, on a walk, in the car. With the average daily commutes now at around 26 minutes each way, podcasts provide alternative listening content. Smart speakers (think Alexa, Google Home, or Siri) are now in 20 million Americans in live in homes, providing another channel for podcasts.
Builds community. Engaging employees who work at remote locations or in non-desk roles is always a challenge. So is communicating across global time zones. Podcasts are a viable alternative. It’s like being in a conversation, as if the speaker is talking directly to you. There’s an intimacy that can’t be delivered in a company newsletter.
Shows your company leaders are human. Your CEO may be smart, but would you like to have a beer with him or her? Effective leaders know the value of storytelling and conversation. A series of podcasts with the senior leadership team will give employees insight into the personalities that lead the business and where the company is going. It can help align people around your business priorities.
* Source: 2017 Infinite Dial Study, Edison Research
If you’re a regular reader of our blog here at Insight Strategic Communications, you will know that we love two things: Telling our clients’ stories and doing so in a cost efficient way.
That’s why I loved what Spotify did when they unveiled their “Year in Music” infographic series this month. But before I dive into this, I need to explain a little more about Spotify first.
That insight is exactly what Spotify used when it compiled its year in music. Who were the most played artists? More interestingly, who were the most played artists during the summer? And even more interesting, who were the most played artists in Scotland on Sept. 18, the day the country voted to remain part of the United Kingdom? These are fascinating small details that open our eyes to the coolness of data mining.For those unaware, Spotify is a commercial music-streaming service, like Pandora, except that it allows users to search for any song, artist or genre in their vast catalogue to play on demand (Pandora does not allow users to select specific songs, only “stations.”) So while Pandora users are more likely to discover new music through the stations they listen to, Spotify users are more likely to know what they want to listen to and play their favorite songs. This is important, because it gives Spotify more specific insight into each and every one of their users.
But where Spotify really nails it is the personal infographic that I can see about myself, or that you can see about yourself. Every Spotify user is able to see their own data, whether you pay for Spotify’s premium service or not. In reviewing my personal Year in Music, I learned things I never knew about myself (I use Spotify the most on Friday, for example). Bottom line — Spotify used data to tell a story about me. That is cool.
I was once told by a business leader, “If we can tell our client more about them than they know about themselves, I can pretty much guarantee they are going to trust us and want to do business.” Spotify has done exactly this, and all using information they already tracked. Their biggest costs were probably to web designers who made the info attractive and available — a small price to pay when it comes to making a personal connection with millions of customers.
We can all learn from this. Is there anything we can learn from our customers by looking back on our work for them? It’s the end of the year, so it’s a good time if you have a break in work to evaluate your data and make your plans for 2015. If you think it’s time for a fresh approach for the upcoming year and need some help, get in touch at email@example.com.
Social media is changing the way we communicate. We’re learning a new language with new phrases and symbols. Businesses are speaking directly, to larger audiences than ever before. With these new opportunities, you need to ask yourself a few questions. What should I share with my audience? What platforms should I use and how can I utilize those platforms? What should my social media strategy be?
When deciding what you want to share through social media, you must first establish a voice that is consistent with your company. What is the overall objective of your social media plan? Don’t blog, post or comment about legal matters at your company. Ensure that employee social media use complies with your company culture and ethics. Don’t use photos unless you have the rights to use them. It is very important that you trust the people who are in charge of controlling your social media because once something is posted into the public domain there is no turning back. If you’re not careful you could end up with a very public dilemma on your hands (e.g. US Airways this past week).
Facebook is the most used social media website in the world. Because of this, Facebook is a great place to start. Use Facebook to interact with your audience and share information. Encourage them to sign up for e-mail updates or contests. Ask your followers questions and track their feedback. Facebook can also be used as “home base” to promote your other social media platforms. One tip to consider when using Facebook is to keep posts short (80 characters or less), if your post is too long your audience will glance over it. A second tip is to consider the timing of your post. To get the most engagement from you post, post it between the hours of 8 pm-7 am and post on the weekends. At the time of this blog post, statistics show that posts made during these times will get the most engagement.
Twitter is another social media platform that you can use to your advantage. Again timing is a key factor when deciding when to post. Twitter “followers” are almost 20% more likely to engage with your tweets on weekends, yet only about 20% of brands tweet on weekends. Hashtags can be used like “campfires.” Users can search your hashtag to view what others users who have used your hashtag are saying.
A few companies that are excelling at social media include Zappos and Groupon. Both have found the value of using social media not only to sell, but to engage customers in conversation. They interact, collect feedback, and discover what their customers really want. Take some time to explore social media and find the right mix of platforms and tactic for your business.