Monday, June 29, 2009

Two ears, two thumbs, eight other fingers

Over the past year, the more events - especially presentations - I've been to, the more I've noticed the bloggers and tweeters in my midst. And how rapidly they're propelling themselves from the back of the room towards the front.

Now initially, I thought blogging conference presentations was a great idea - a fantastic way to spread the speakers' words to a far wider audience. Twitter seemed a very good option too: capturing that nugget of great thought and sending it into the twittersphere. But now I'm not so sure.

Thinking about it, how is it possible to really listen and learn while trying to keep up a running commentary? Isn't there a danger that you simply reflect at the most superficial level rather than really locking onto the nuances of what any speaker has to say. It struck me most recently when I had a blogger and three different Twitterers feeding back on the same presentation. All had a lot to say, but little of their opinion actually converged. I didn't get much sense of the speaker - just what these people had to say...and that was less than useful.

Equally, last week I was in on an event where lots of people were blogging away. When it came to questions at the end, none of these people had anything to ask. Had they really been listening properly? What's the point of a live event if there's no live interaction?

I guess I'd rather people listened, digested and then fed back.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

One small step

I've been formally offered a place at Brunel to study for a PhD, beginning in October. The letter arrived this morning, and I've been grinning ever since. At this stage though, the PhD work remains an elusive dream, just out of reach, as there's no funding attached to this offer. That comes separately....I hope. I've applied for an Isambard Research Scholarship which is a competitive process so there's no guarantee that my application will actually attract funding.

So, while my feet are firmly in the clouds this morning, I need to wait 'til mid August to find out whether I've secured sufficient wonga to take up the place this year.

Whatever happens, the funding won't be enough to enable me to give up this corporate comms lark yet. If all goes to plan, I'll be working three days a week and studying two long days and probably two evenings a week. In fact it won't be too much different from now - some weeks I'll be working six days plus, and others will be dominated by research. I'm really up for the challenge, and I think it'll help both sides of my career.

Anyway, one project interview already done today and three more people to tap into. I'd better crack on.

Monday, June 22, 2009

No smoke...

It'll definitely be a lively week this week. I'm planning a workshop for one client - and still completing the research that will sit at the heart of the exercise, while also picking up speed on the latest issue of one of my regular publications. So I'm here and keenly researching information at the moment.......but am working against a VERY strong desire to get back into bed.

Yesterday was busy and I flopped into bed dog-tired just after midnight. Then, at 1.25am all hell broke loose as our two very loud, very piercing smoke alarms burst into life. (More than) momentarily confused, I raced downstairs thinking the burglar alarm had gone off. Only when I saw that all the lights were green did I realise that we might have a fire and that I should probably be escorting the kids from the house and ringing the fire brigade. Anyway, weirdly, shutting the kitchen door immediately stopped the alarm. There was no smoke, no smell, no blown fuses and all seemed ok.

For the next half hour, Jac and I checked every device in the kitchen, office and living rooms to try and figure out what had happened - with no enlightening result. So it was back to bed with a mystery on my mind. Jac was soon sound asleep again. Me, the worrier, lay there tense, waiting for the alarm to go off again. I finally drifted off some time after daybreak......only to be jolted into Monday by the 6.45 sound of the Today programme.

The coffeemaker's on overtime this morning.

Monday, June 15, 2009

It's what you say, not what it looks like...or is it?

Had a good old healthy ding-dong with a client this morning over how to structure a presentation. He's from the school of 'let's get all our charts together and weave a story around them'.

I come from the opposite school. For me, a good presentation is built on a good story. I like to work with the client to find out what outcome they want to achieve: who they're speaking to, what they want to say - and what they want people to hear. Most of all, it's about what they want their audience to do as a result of sitting through their presentation.

My preference is to script the presentation first and then find the right imagery to add power and amplification to the key messages. As a consequence, if an image, a chart or a sea of bullets aren't adding anything, they don't go in.
Far too often speakers put all the emphasis on making the slides look pretty rather than on what they actually have to communicate. And far too often the result is death by PowerPoint and a lost message.

So my client today sent me half a dozen PowerPoint presentations with the missive: 'Pull the key points out of each of these and weave them together into a coherent order...' - which frankly gave me pain through to my teeth.

So we backed and forthed over a few emails and a phone call and, like in all good business relationships, reached a compromise. We've now talked through the story and agreed the key points to communicate. I've got a sense of the audience and how the piece has to play with them - but I'm still expected to incorporate about 30 PowerPoint charts. I reckon people will absorb two or three, but that we'll need to use about seven images in total to underscore the messages.

Now we'll have a bit of an iterative process as I open with seven, he expects 30 and we'll each haggle our way to somewhere in between.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

For inspiration: Meet the British

Looking for a bit of inspiration for a creative way to present a fairly staid finance business, I came across a great little programme that aired on BBC 4 last night. Essentially a collation of 'Ministry of Informatiojn'-type films made to 'sell' Britain overseas from the 40s to about 1980, 'Meet the British' is an absolute gem.

Not sure it has given me the inspiration I need, but the research has been fun...

Monday, June 01, 2009

The heat is on

Spent most of this morning working through a fairly dense narrative document. Absorbing work and now, a good few hours on, I realise just how hot it is in here. In climatology terms, today is the first day of summer, and for once it's living up to expectations - I think I'm actually going to have to turn the aircon machine on....on June 1st! Last year I used it only once all summer.....

Working is falling into a more normal pattern now, with fairly full weeks and a bit of a pipeline building. All good after a dire first third of the year. Anyway, I must stop dripping on my keyboard (yuk!!).