Audience engagement is still the number one desirable for corporate messaging events.
It’s proven that engagement increases with audience participation. So, it should be easy to achieve then?
The difficulty is that not enough people want to participate or contribute. So, we end up hearing from the same, more-confident-than-me people every time.
We’re all scared of looking silly in front of our peers. As the microphone is handed round, usually slowly, there’s a hush of expectation and the spotlight falls on us…
We feel exposed. We may have a good idea, but if we mess up the delivery by tangling our words, we end up looking and feeling stupid.
But don’t despair! The cavalry’s here in the form of two rival technologies that take the pain out of Q&A by making it fun, quick and social.
The first is Catchbox: http://getcatchbox.com/ if you can’t see below…
These soft-foam, boxlike Mics can be thrown by the presenter to the audience. Q&A becomes quicker, involves participation and reduces the perceived hierarchy between stage and floor. It gamifies Q&A.
The second technology allows us to use our own smartphones as the floor microphone. It’s Crowdmics: http://crowdmics.com/
Again, instead of waiting through lengthy, pressure-building, pauses, we can immediately light up the conference with our own ideas, spoken through our own handset, delivered through the conference speakers.
The result: a spontaneous outpouring of ideas and a collaborative, sociable feeling.
Both technologies look likely to play an important role in our next events at Pumphouse.
Long gone is the day when one size fits all. Thank goodness! I grew up in a family where ‘hand-me-down’ was the only clothing brand that existed.
Today, choice is everywhere, not just in clothing, but permeating every single facet of our working and home lives.
And because choice is omnipresent, it’s hardly surprising that two new behaviours have recently surfaced and we see these all the time in the events world. Instead of being satisfied with ‘what’s on offer’:
- We like to control and shape the experiences we consume. Checkout ‘Chune’, a great device for merging playlists and designing a new one that recognises the tone of your party. http://chune.co.uk/ if you can’t see the video…
- And we like the experience to ‘know’ us, interact with us, get rid of the irrelevant stuff and cut to the fun straight away. http://shortcutapp.com/ allows us to bypass queues at events and have our orders from stores and concessions delivered to our seats using smart POS software.
One of the many downsides of unlimited choice is that we are more easily bored. Our life-diet has become high-calorie and content-intense. In food terms, we have become used to fillet steak and lobster frites. There is no longer a place in our hearts for beans on toast, right?
Because we get quickly bored, we urge for experiences that are unexpected and unplanned. The curious will always want to explore.
Two new apps that feed this urge are:
http://partywithalocal.com/ an app which puts city locals in touch with travellers who want to party! What could possibly go wrong there?
And http://www.spangle.io/ is another which takes the ‘pulse’ of local events and informs you which party is the place to be.
Regrettably, when I looked at the possible parties in my local village, it returned a question mark. Cambridge it is then!
The word ‘innovation’ is banded about, an over-used buzzword, by marketers fervently trying to attach extra kudos to products and ideas. Quite what innovation means is open to wide interpretation and, as such, begins to explain exactly why the term is so widely employed. It can mean everything from the gradual improvement in processes to the creation of a bright idea. Anything that improves or changes is seen as innovation.
Innovation can be derived from seven different sources, argues American businessman Peter Drucker.
- The Surprise of unexpected failure.
- When reality is inconsistent with expectation.
- Out of desperation for a better way.
- When industry is outdated.
- When lifestyle changes.
- When attitudes change.
- Discovery of new capabilities.
Any one of these sources can be harnessed by business and converted into successful commercial reality. The trick is to discover the best opportunities and to develop them quickly, before the competition.
True innovation is at the heart of everything we do, in trying to present our companies as fresh and insightful. It is perhaps the biggest opportunity for marketers to stamp their own creative brand on their companies as they seek out new revenues. Perhaps the onus of responsibility for innovation rests four-square at the door of the modern marketer. Perhaps the link is less tenuous. Curiously, few companies have ‘innovations directors,’ people solely charged with the development of new ideas, and yet the importance attached to new thinking is unarguable.
Consider the iPod or Dyson vacuum cleaner, Pay as you go mobile, IKEA self-assembly self-collect. All of these innovations addressed one of the seven points above and all saw successful and rapid adoption. But just because an idea or product is innovative doesn’t mean it will be a commercial success. Bridging the chasm between launch and success is not a given. DVDs, as mainstream as it gets, were marketed by Philips as Laservision, thirty years ago. The idea was ‘simply years ahead.’ It took the adoption of CDs in the music market to catch on before people trusted DVD. Too late for Philips. They failed to bridge the chasm, convert the niche, early adopters and tap into the lucrative mass market. Perhaps their strategy was flawed beyond launch, perhaps they believed so strongly in their revolutionary idea that they didn’t feel the need for a strategy at all. Either way, thinking what nobody else has thought is only part of the solution. Innovation alone is not enough to guarantee success.
Fortunately, the days of hire-and-fire are long gone. Industries that were once renowned for having an itchy trigger-finger are leading the way with new strategies for employee engagement. Some unenlightened hospitality companies still view their people as transient and replaceable, but these apart, management understands the cost to business of taking a poor attitude towards its workforce.
Treating staff in a way that nurtures and supports is the best way to grow a successful business. This has been well known in the city for some time – where talent is rewarded in a truly staggering way – these people do the best job, deliver good service and earn their companies the highest returns.
The costs to business of losing staff are well-documented and vast. In addition to expensive recruitment sagas that stretch already time-poor executives and the risk associated with employing the wrong person, there is the indirect cost to the business of knowledge lost, disrupted team dynamics and loosened customer relationships.
For entry-level employees the estimated cost of losing staff is 40% of salary. This grows to 150% of salary for middle-management and a whopping 400% for a senior-level or specialised employee. These figures may sound high, but are easily justified when you do the maths.
Potential costs to business include:
- Exit costs
- Compensation & benefits while training
- Lost productivity
- Customer dissatisfaction
- Reduced or lost business
- Administrative costs
- Lost expertise
- Temporary workers
People are, after all, the human face of the business. People relate to and engage with other people, not businesses. So, the supporting and nurturing of their valued staff makes good business sense, not just a fluffy nice-to-have, to management looking for sustainable growth.
Engagement is the key driver for retaining staff. Keeping employees interested in their jobs and the companies they work for is paramount. So, who does it best and what devices are they using?
Personal programs are the central to the answer, developing staff in the way they want to be developed and showing the path forward. Not just the next job but the one after that.
Companies at the forefront of this become sought-after places to work. Their people value their jobs, become more engaged and hence stay to produce better work. Some companies tackle this with a generic ‘gym-membership’ approach – but the current thinking is the specific development of personnel –university courses – or training that propels people into new opportunities is what works best. It is not just the academic learning and progression that people enjoy, but also the enhancement of the softer skills such as confidence, pride and social awareness.
People who are trained to do their job and are given further training opportunities along the way are a remarkable 88% less likely to leave their jobs. Coupled with this is the statistic that businesses who fail to train their staff are three times more likely to fail than their counterparts.
During a recession it may be tempting to cut the training budget, but this is a false economy and those that continue to train will reap the rewards when the marketplace picks up.
In the hotel industry, a sector that until recently paid some of the lowest wages, companies such as Four Seasons, IHG and Jumeirah have become desirable places to work because of the way they treat their staff. Perhaps this goes back to the old-fashioned notion of treating others in a way that you want to be treated and perhaps this works both ways?
Red Carnation Hotels’ staff turnover last year was 32%, compared to a sector figure of twice that. This year the group intends to run 70 different internal training courses and 20 further staff initiatives that support and reward its staff, making them feel more valued. These initiatives don’t stop at the employee; they also take in the wider family and community, appreciating the influence these important people have on an individual’s work performance.
Jane Surley from Learnpurple lists ten ways to develop a sustainable workforce.
- Recruitment. Ensure that recruits are right for the business and in particular, understand what you are all about.
- Engagement. Right from the start, do everything possible to win hearts and minds, engaging them fully in the business.
- Induct. It is vital that new recruits know what a successful outcome looks and feels like and ensure that guidance, support and the tools to do the best possible job are always available.
- Communicate. This is a two-way process. Consult as well as instruct.
- 5. Listen. Some of your best ideas will come from your people. Lose the ego.
- 6. Support. Make sure that people know where to go for the best help.
- 7. Feedback. Encourage frank feedback and deal with negativity swiftly.
- 8. Develop. Mentor, job-swap, projects and initiatives. Keep it fresh.
- 9. Progression. Understand your people’s goals and help them to achieve them.
- 10. Wellbeing. A healthy workforce is a productive one. Introduce employee-focused benefits to win the retention war.
Pumphouse, engagement specialists in the field of employee communications, recognises the long-term investment necessary to deliver sustainable employee programmes. It models much of its programmes for business taking this into account and looks to factor in forums for management to listen and engage with its people.
The same factors, which keep staff engaged at their companies, apply to conferences and live events. Included in their plans and proposals, Pumphouse spends time on a process called ‘delegate mapping.’ It knows that a stuffy room, unappealing décor or inadequate audio-visual destroys engagement, leaving delegates feeling over-looked, even neglected.
The converse is also true. Well sited venues with quality catering and facilities coupled with a vibrant creative – that reinforces messaging – and impeccable delivery instils the sense of ‘wow-factor,’ reinforcing the delegate’s belief that they are working for the right company.
The captain of the crippled Costa Concordia cruise ship, Francesco Schettino, has reportedly said the reason he was in a lifeboat while thousands of panic-stricken passengers and crew were trying to evacuate was because he “tripped” and fell into the rescue craft.
He cited the fact that the boat was severely listing, tilting at 60 degrees! However, as the first and second mate were also to be found in the same boat, are we seriously to believe the three most senior crew members simultaneously tripped and fell into the same boat.
The captain, it has now been discovered, sailed his vessel through a rocky passage close to the mainland so he could salute a retired former colleague. Perhaps in hindsight, the colleague has now voiced reservations about the skipper- a great shame he didn’t raise them earlier.
The price paid for this man’s incredible vanity is 11 dead, 24 missing, the sickening sight of an enormous ship lying on its side beginning to disgorge its contents into a pristine maritime reserve and endangering the lives of brave emergency personnel in the rescue attempt. And for what?
A violinist who tragically lost his life in the attempt to retrieve his instrument demonstrates clearly that we all have differing priorities in our lives. The bond between musicians and their instruments is clearly as tight as any, worth risking a life for this individual. To be placed in this position is inexcusable and our hearts go out to him and all the others who have lost their lives and all the families and friends who have paid a shocking price for one man’s vanity.
The priority of the captain of a ship carrying 4200 people should be their safety. The priority of the captain once that boat has sunk should be their safety. The priority of this particular captain, throughout this sorry episode, has been the captain.
We all know that we should choose our words very carefully, but what about the spaces between them? The gaps that allow us to breathe and separate out complicated sentence structures; gaps that sometimes include punctuation are perhaps just as important.
It isn’t necessarily what you say, but how you say it, that’s important. When speaking we can use tone, volume and inflection to accompany the words. This additional ‘colour’ makes clear whether we are in trouble, being lied to or complimented. Writing does not contain this ‘colour.’ The meaning has to be conveyed entirely by the words, and the gaps.
An article in the New York Times caught my eye, which I wanted to share with you today.
The article, which was published in 2006, concerned a comma, one of my gaps, which looked set to cost a Canadian company $1,000,000. Ouch!
Bell Aliant, the phone company entered into a contract to use Rogers telegraph poles. Rogers hires out usage in five year terms. Automatic renewal continues in five year terms unless cancellation is notified at least 12 months from the end of a particular term, starting from the second term.
What Rogers’ contracts department actually wrote was this:
“This agreement shall be effective from the date it is made and shall continue in force for a period of five (5) years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five (5) year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party.”
The second comma, preceding the words ‘unless and until…’ should not have been used. Without it the meaning is as Rogers desired. With the comma in place the ‘unless and until…’ could also refer to the text preceding the first comma, meaning that the one year’s notice could be given at any time.
The comma police in this office often question my use of punctuation, especially my little friend the comma which I hitherto sprinkled far too freely into my writing.
Now, when I add in a careless comma, or two, unnecessarily, in my prose, I will spare a thought for a couple of Canadian executives and a legal team who tangled with the fiery fiend of punctuation, the comma, and got well-and-truly burnt, or would have done had the process taken place in an English-only country.
I read an excellent blog just now that is the inspiration for my very own next blog – http://superhypeblog.com/?p=4964 – If you don’t want to read the blog within the blog, let me quickly outline what it is about – creating a perfect event, what are the ingredients. The author had just come back from what he deemed to be the nirvana of events and he outlines all the key reasons it stood, head and shoulders, above all the others. There are two vital factors for me, the first was the attention to detail, which is something which can never be overdone.
Once you have crafted over 100 events, it is the simplest thing in the word to slip into a formulaic state and repeat a pattern that seems to work but which is nothing more than a series of repetitive moves that become less and less personalised and more and more frayed at the edges.
What I was particularly attentive to however was this man’s thrill at the actual intimacy of the event. The fact that he and his fellow delegates could get quality time with the people they had come to listen to, that they interacted with them as a group, gaining and sharing incredible insights. Intimacy is not a term you would automatically link to an event, but it was key. Smaller size groups, smaller size rooms, less intimidating and a real sense of being able to approach ‘the gurus’.
Now the gurus can range from a CEO talking to his employees to a Chairman addressing his or her shareholders, the fact remains that creating a situation where people are not being talked at, but in which they are interacting makes all the difference. Finally content – again here our blogger claims that given it was a Blogging Strategies Summit it could easily have become a techie-nerdie affair, instead everything was carefully crafted to relate back to real life business issues, branding issues, management and leadership issues, in other words it gave actionable insights.
Just goes to show what I am always saying, each and every project should be broken down and re-constructed taking every individual element apart to scrutinise how it can work better for a specific audience need. When you read what made this blogger so happy it all seems simple, but carrying it off professionally takes energy, consistency and vision.
I don’t claim to understand the first thing about cycling, but I do know this; team GB rules the banks of the velodrome.
Another staggering Team GB swag-bag of gold medals has left other countries reeling, licking their wounds after yet another unsuccessful campaign. GB’s absolute dominance at Beijing has been matched at London 2012, with Team GB celebrating seven out of ten possible velodrome medals. Victoria Pendleton was dreadfully unlucky to be disqualified twice, which could have meant racking up nine out of ten. What a shame, too, that GB cycling could only field one entrant in each discipline making the inevitable wave of GB clean-sweeps impossible.
Despite the IOC making things as easy for the opposition as possible and perhaps to cover up for their country’s lack of medal-ware, France, the owner of the world’s premier cycling race is suggesting that we somehow have ‘magic tyres,’ carefully hidden after each race, and that our success is due to them.
Fuelling the argument is Sir Chris Hoy’s father who said “You’ve got to upset someone. It might as well be the French. They’ve got to look for some reason for why they’re under-performing.”
A tongue-in-cheek remark by cycling performance director, Dave Brailsford, claiming that GB had ‘specially round wheels’ has been taken up by a French newspaper leading to Frances’s director of cycling questioning our bicycles. (Anything to divert the detractors, of which there are many, from drawing the obvious critical conclusion.)
“I am not talking about any illicit product, because anti-doping tests are so strong. Honestly, we are looking a lot at the kit they use. They hide their wheels a lot. The ones for the bikes they race on are put in wheel covers at the finish [of a race].
But Mr Brailsford said: “I told them we had some special wheels because we had made them specially round. The French seemed to have taken it seriously, but I was joking. They are the same wheels as everyone else. There is nothing special about them.”
Ironically, the wheels are made by Mavic, a French company.
According to Cisco, more things are connected to the internet than people. In 2010 there were 12.5 billion internet-connected devices, a figure that is expected to grow to 50 billion by 2020.
These figures are not just made up from the expected smart-phones and tablets. Smart technology is popping up everywhere, even in the least likely places.
Cattle, fitted with wireless sensors, can now ‘tell’ a Vet when they are ill or pregnant by transmitting packets of information. Animal welfare issues could become a thing of the past.
Closer to home, similar technology can help us self-diagnose health risks.
When devices talk to us, it makes our lives that little bit easier. But this is nothing compared to the very real prospect of a series of connected devices talking to each other and making intelligence-based decisions on our behalf.
Imagine. An email hits your in-box while you sleep. That meeting you scheduled for 8am has been moved to 9am. Your alarm clock responds by revising your wake-up time to a default setting. A traffic jam en-route factors back in twenty minutes and the sensors from your car’s fuel tank suggest that a stop to refuel may also be necessary. 10 minutes back in for that too.
The kettle boils as your alarm goes off. While you are making the coffee the car begins its defrosting routine.
Of course, the words ‘kettle’ and ‘car’ may not exist for long. Perhaps a device that knows when we are thirsty provides the drink of choice, from your favourite vendor, quickly and cheaply to your door and cars are replaced by ‘transport on demand’, a low-energy, cost-effective transport solution that ‘knows’ sixty people from Royston are thinking about setting off for Stevenage at 8.12am.
Automatic emails from your colleagues acknowledging the new meeting time flood in.
An extra thirty minutes in bed with the wife, or playing with the kids could be seen by some as frivolous, a poor return from all that technology, but it all adds up and begins to put back a little more private life in today’s ‘available 24/7’ world.
Sensors will also detect planetary and environmental changes. These changes will be communicated by myriad devices across plentiful platforms, potentially saving millions of lives from natural disasters.
Businesses will save billions in wasted time and resources; every facet of our lives will be transformed.
Adding further to our smarter world, where devices begin to take our choices for us, is another technology that will make our personal input into our own lives even more informed.
This technology is augmented reality. Unlike virtual reality, which changes the appearance of what we see, augmented reality leaves the backdrop unchanged – whether that is a streetscape or a single can of beans – and superimposes graphics, audio and even smells, to heighten our understanding of the view. As our viewpoint changes, so does the interface, fed by a mix of GPS, brand recognition and internet-based information.
Mobile device apps are currently the most readily available readers of this technology. When viewing a street using existing iPhone apps, useful graphics appear to explain the scene. Google will bring out smart-glasses in the near future designed to look like normal sunglasses. The viewer’s experience of what she sees will be transformed without the need to point a device.
Seeing a street and knowing where the food outlets are is one thing; viewing a person and knowing they are not what they seem could be quite another. Facebook and LinkedIn profiles made readily available to the viewer will allow us to qualify our perception of a person and see whether reality closely maps. I can see this being a very useful interviewing tool, allowing HR professionals to predict appropriateness for a certain role.
This technological double-whammy will have a startling effect on our lives. It has the power to transform our smart-device affection into full-blown addiction and dependency.
Simon Barnes, writing in The Times on Saturday, had this to say:
“London turned down the option to celebrate giants and supermen and power and might and chose instead to celebrate people… Humour, above all things, humanises and there were elements of self-mockery that suggested that we could make this the humorous Games; the Games of humorous humanity in a land in which a joke and a grumble are never far away, and often enough one and the same thing.”
A billion people watched Danny Boyle’s creative extravaganza on Friday night and were almost unanimous that he had pulled off an impossible feat. By following on from Beijing he had inherited the graveyard slot. The ceremony could never live up to Beijing. But somehow it did. It wasn’t as technically perfect as Beijing, but it delivered. It was a quirky, irreverent riposte, a statement that Britain is still here, Empire-less and having undergone 60 years of managed decline, but still here producing some of the very best things in the world.
It was a celebration of our past and our present. The nation that delivered modern sport, the best modern music, Bond, Beckham and Bean is proud of its heritage, but never so proud that it cannot laugh at itself. This fact alone brought humility to these games. We do not have to pretend that we are a perfect nation. We are flawed in many ways, but not in our sense of humour. That is alive and kicking and was vibrantly represented in an incredible evening.
There has been comment about the Left Wing nature of the show. In an age where greedy bankers have driven Europe to the edge of the abyss, there seems little to celebrate in Capitalism, so why not celebrate the NHS, an extraordinary organisation, CND and punk-rock?
These organisations are every bit as British as the Royal Family and the armed forces. Together they make us what we are; a cocktail of left and right, tradition and innovation, a multicultural, tolerant, society.
Danny Boyle produced a gritty, no-punches-pulled collage of Britain. He took us from a pastoral green and pleasant land through Brunel’s scarred industrial powerhouse to The Arctic Monkeys. It all worked perfectly…
… except for one thing.
The delivery of the flame to the stadium by an uber-cool Beckham, looking like Bond himself; the lighting of the copper kettles by the next generation, and the raising of them to form the wonderful cauldron; wasn’t this the perfect ending?
Apparently not! Someone thought that Paul McCartney singing ‘Hey Jude’ would add the final coup-de-grace. I cannot imagine that that someone was Danny Boyle. In the preface to the opener he said he was given a blank sheet of paper. I can’t help but wonder if someone’s name had already been written at the bottom.
For me, it was the only thing that didn’t work. What preceded this was tight and meaningful; the end was flaccid, pointless and appallingly sung.