It may not hit on all of the PowerPoint pitfalls, but it highlights some of the most prevalent.
PowerPoint is a *great* tool, don't get us wrong, but it's easy to turn it from a tool to a weapon (the latter being used to bore people into a comatose state instead of highlighting key points).
With that in mind, over the next few weeks, we'll be starting another blog series--similar to the 7 Truths. So get ready for the Top Deadly PowerPoint Mistakes (and how to fix them!).
Engine Eddie in the New York Times.
As you might imagine, this attracted some attention.
In fact, Engine Eddie got his own spot in the New York Times. Check out the article here.
Here's a copy of the article text, also:
Pretty cool. :)
Going Viral in Pursuit of the Perfect Lawn Published: June 8, 2009
Back when being the chief executive of General Motors meant something, one of G.M.’s leaders, Charles Erwin Wilson, became the secretary of defense and was widely known by a nickname, Engine Charlie. Decades later, a marketer is centering a campaign on an alliterative alternative, Engine Eddie.
Engine Eddie is an animated character who encourages consumers to take better care of their lawns by offering them the chance to send “EddieGrams” to friends and neighbors. The messages can be personalized to enable the senders to talk up the condition of their lawns -- or suggest that someone else’s lawn needs some help.
And where, pray tell, would such assistance be available? Why, of course, from the sponsor of the EddieGram effort, the Briggs & Stratton Corporation in Milwaukee. As the leading maker of gasoline engines for outdoor power equipment, the company would benefit if Americans were seized with an overwhelming urge to improve the looks of their lawns.
The campaign is housed on a Web site where computer users can engage in some “backyard bragging with Engine Eddie,” who is a lawn mower with a head where the engine usually goes.
To indicate the origins of the character, whom Briggs & Stratton describes as its “online spokesmower,” he has a full head of grass rather than hair. (No need to buy Eddie a comb-and-brush set for Father’s Day, just a nice pair of lawn clippers.)
Visitors to the Web site can create e-mail messages in which Engine Eddie — bearing his own face or the sender’s, through the use of an uploaded photograph — “speaks” to the recipient. There is also a link to another Briggs & Stratton Web site, which describes why the company’s products “are on more lawn mowers than any other engine in the world.”
In other words, if Schlitz was “the beer that made Milwaukee famous,” as the old slogan proclaimed, Briggs & Stratton wants to be the engine that makes it even more so.
The campaign is similar to many these days in having multiple agencies involved in its creation. Marx McLellan Thrun in Milwaukee conceived of the Engine Eddie character. The Milwaukee office of Cramer-Krasselt provided strategic direction by suggesting the character be the star of a viral campaign.
Oddcast in New York contributed its new PhotoFace technology, enabling the personalized messages to talk and bear the likenesses of the senders.
And two agencies in Minneapolis, Live Spark and One Simple Plan, brought Engine Eddie to life for a so-called satellite media tour, during which reporters and anchors at local TV stations were able to “interview” the character.
The EddieGram campaign, with a budget estimated at about $250,000, is also similar to others nowadays in that it seeks to reach consumers who are younger than the typical audience a marketer communicates with through traditional advertising.
In this instance, the goal is to introduce Briggs & Stratton to home owners ages 25 to 35 who are “self-directed,” says Rick Zeckmeister, vice president for consumer marketing and planning at Briggs & Stratton, and “very Web-savvy; they like blogs and like getting customer information online.”
“We celebrated our 100th anniversary last year,” he adds, “and like any company around 100 years, what you make, and how you communicate, need to evolve.”
“For a conservative, 100-year-old company, it seems a little more out there,” Mr. Zeckmeister says of the campaign, “but we’re trying to connect with our younger consumers.”
“Honestly, when I presented it to senior management, the room would be divided,” he adds. “One part of the room would be, ‘I don’t get it.’ The other part of the room would say, ‘Man, I should send that to my brother-in-law.’ ”
One major change “in the last 5, 10 years,” Mr. Zeckmeister says, is that what he calls “generational information” is being shared less between, say, fathers and sons, in matters like “what car to buy, what power equipment to buy.”
As a result, “people don’t know as much about engines as they used to,” he adds.
Enter the self-directed consumer, who goes to the Internet to get filled in. As a result, “we’ve done several initiatives online for young homeowners,” Mr. Zeckmeister says, among them yardsmarts.com, a Web site devoted to lawn care that contains video clips, articles and a Yard Doctor feature. (Yardsmarts also has presences on Facebook and YouTube and offers e-mail newsletters.)
“We want to go where our next generation of consumers is,” Mr. Zeckmeister says,” and at the same time “have fun.”
“We need to have a little more fun,” he adds, laughing. “Yards and grass and family, it’s supposed to be fun; we forget that sometimes.”
The perceptions of Engine Eddie seem positive, based on the results so far of research into how the campaign is being received.
“It’s a confluence of fun and the viral element,” says John Feld, vice president at Cramer-Krasselt.
For instance, say “you’re 32 years old, you get e-mail from a neighbor that says your lawn looks like hell,” he adds. “You might send one back.”
The initial goal of a 70 percent “open rate” for the e-mail messages has been far exceeded, Mr. Feld says, with recipients “clicking multiple times.”
The goal of a 10 percent pass-along rate for the e-mail messages has also been exceeded, he adds, reaching 12 percent, while the goal for the number of repeat visitors to eddiegram.com, set at 20 percent, has reached 24 percent.
The only metric that has fallen short of its goal is average session length, Mr. Feld says, which has been running less than the projected 4 minutes. One theory is that people who return to the site spend less time there because “they know what they’re doing,” he adds.
If the ability to send talking e-mail messages sounds familiar, it may be because Oddcast is the agency that has developed many such applications including one for CareerBuilder — Monk-E-Mail, which dates to early 2006 — that was a huge viral hit.
There are still “hundreds of thousands of users a month, three and a half years later,” says Adi Seidman, chief executive at Oddcast.
“The first thing we look for in a viral application is entertainment value,” he adds, so in coming up with the EddieGrams the idea was to produce something that would appeal to “the Home Depot crowd.”
That is the reason for features like inviting the senders of the e-mail messages to “pimp your lawn,” and design unique backgrounds for Engine Eddie.
“We were all about making the pimping fun,” Mr. Seidman says, so senders can “put a barbecue on the lawn, put a cool chicken on the lawn.” “I would always push for the wilder and the more novel, for sure,” he adds.Hmmmmm. Perhaps the recipient of the next EddieGram will hear Engine Eddie echo “Engine Charlie” and say that “for years I thought what was good for the country was good for Briggs & Stratton and vice versa.”
The Millennial Myth
My name is Missy, and I'm a Millennial.
Millennials--or Generation Y, those born, roughly after 1980--are entering the work force en mass. They're not only changing the face of the workplace, they're also changing how companies operate in regards to communication.
Over the last several months, we've noticed a trend with our clients. They'll call us up with a common problem and a slightly panicked voice, "We've got to change our event strategy/training messaging/presentations... We've got Millennials now, and we can't just present as usual, we have to *engage* them! They demand interaction! They demand entertainment! They demand engagement!"
While we're glad that Millennials have inspired companies to start rethinking their presentations from a brain-based perspective (focused on engaging the brain in interactive ways), we can't help but lament the fate of the poor, disengaged Gen Xers and Boomers that came before them.
Nothing has changed with the Millennials. Therein lies the myth. The Millennials don't learn differently. They don't have *more* need to be engaged.
They're just not quiet about their dissatisfaction with presentation-as-usual.
You see, all those Boomers sitting in an event, PowerPoint slide after PowerPoint slide after mind-numbing PowerPoint slide, weren't paying *more* attention than the fidgety, distracted Millennials--they were just better at hiding their dissatisfaction.
Previous generations accepted Death-by-PowerPoint as an unchangeable status quo, and while they didn't become engaged in the message or absorb the key information, they also didn't complain about it. Therein lies the Millennial difference. Millennials have been raised to believe that they are a force of change; that what they want should be given to them, that they should be engaged and entertained and bygod if they don't get that, they're going to let you hear about it.
So by all means--revamp your presentations. Make them brain friendly, engaging, effective... Because the Millennials may have demanded the change, but your Gen X and Boomer employees will thank you as well.
Our Submission to Meetings Mean Business
While we come at this issue from a slightly different perspective, we also decided to submit our own video--highlighting why corporate meetings are critical--both for the travel industry AND for corporations.
Take a look at one of our AniMated characters giving his perspective:
The Seven Truths...Truth #7
Truth #7: Audiences only care about themselves.
This one’s no big secret; people want to know what’s in it for them. If a topic isn’t relevant, the brain doesn’t retain it.
It sounds harsh, but people need to filter information by relevance in order to get the most crucial pieces. It was true in the wild, and it's true in the great, wild event ballroom.
An audience needs to see a clear connection between a speaker’s message and their own personal objectives; whether that’s helping them improve their sales with a new product, making their job easier with a new company structure, etc.
So how do you make it relevant?
1. Have the audience set their own personal objectives for the event at hand. Before the event, or even a specific presentation, have an audience write a list of things that they want to get out of the event/presentation. This will help focus their attention to the truly relevant pieces of information; those that will inform, inspire, and help them to perform their jobs.
These objectives can be revisited at the end of a presentation or event. The bonus is, if you have a question and answer session at the end, if the pieces of information were not covered, the audience has a focus for their questions.
2. Include the “What’s in it for you” message with every presentation. What does what you’re saying mean to them? Filter the information; dividing the nice to know from the need to know--and only keeping what's truly relevant. Frame it through their eyes--a marketing team might have different goals and objectives than a sales team, so be mindful of what your audience wants/needs to hear, and mold the messaging accordingly.
At the end of a presentation, have clear takeaways and action items for the audience.
3. Preframe a presentation. Point out specific things that the audience will be interested in hearing. This primes the brain to absorb those pieces of information. If, for instance, you are going to give them training on a new product, tell them that by the end of the presentation, they will learn the three key features and benefits of the new product that will help them sell it into more companies.
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.