A colleague forwarded to me a hilarious video, linked below.
Briefly, it shows how the use of conference-call technology may not be working as well as we believe. Indeed, it may not be working at all.
As a communication tool it has one clear, demonstrable benefit: its ability to assemble widespread participants around a virtual table to discuss an idea or business strategy, without the cost of physically gathering them all together in one location.
What it doesn’t guarantee, as this clip humorously identifies, is engagement. What is it about the human psyche that makes us sit up and pay more attention at face-to-face meetings? Don’t get me wrong. These meetings can be dull too, but they will certainly possess a gravitas that makes us take them more seriously. They exude importance; they are interactive, can intrigue, excite and often entertain. We enjoy them, we get something out of them, they feel like real-life, human experiences.
Contrastingly a virtual meeting such as a conference call rarely cuts the emotional mustard. More often it has the ability to makes us feel disconnected and commodity-like, as though we are just going through the motions at someone else’s behest. Our attention, only loosely captured at the outset, wanders off all too easily. Without the behavioural rules of engagement that bind us together at meetings, we end up looking at our watches thinking of the homeward traffic; we think longingly of a bottle of wine chilling in the fridge, of wives and husbands, dogs and children; anything but the subject in hand. You care deeply about the subject being discussed and you value your job at the company you work for. The trouble is it’s just so difficult to concentrate when you are listening to five or six disembodied associates, speaking, interrupting, feigning politeness and generally talking around a subject.
So what’s missing? Why is this format often so unappealing?
Pumphouse Productions often blogs about the importance of having an engagement strategy to accompany communications messaging; after all, if nobody’s actually listening, how important is the content anyway?
How can we make a shared business phone-call sexier? We can’t. The telephone was created for two people to have a private conversation; cleverly adapted to provide a conference-call solution it has lost its intimacy and with it communication clarity. Physically, the technology works (most of the time); emotionally, it will probably always fall a little bit short.
I was the only one who wanted to go ice-skating between the cocktail-making and the three-course meal. Not that I’m a devil-may-care kind of chap; not that I want to boast my skating prowess, just that I know my predilection for energetic pursuits once significantly ‘over-served’. Danger, broken limbs – bah!
What is it about alcohol consumption that converts us from non-athletic office-wallahs into budding Jane Torvills and Christopher Deans? I’m not shy and I’m not gregarious; I’m somewhere in between. After a few drinks, however, as my shy side disappears completely, almost anything is possible. I’m as good looking as James Dean, but more rugged; I’m as eloquent as Oscar Wilde and a better skater; I’m Elton John on the piano, Michael Flattley on the dance floor and Superman on the ice-rink. All at once. And I know it! (You should too, by the time I have told you seven times!)
So it is with a delicate mixture of anticipation, trepidation and excitement that I sally forth into the big ‘C’, as Cambridge is known in our household, later tonight. Undoubtedly the food will be excellent; the drink will flow far too fluidly; the banter – ribald, risqué and rambunctious – it will be fantastic! The only blot on a clear-blue-sky horizon is whether my increasingly bad behaviour will pass by, unnoticed by the also drunk company mandarins, or whether I will have to write formal apologies in the New Year.
The Christmas Party is an institution that rests uneasily in the office calendar; it is juxtaposed with edgy sales-strategy meetings, last minute planning with clients and critical event production. I, for one, am a keen advocate. Its staying power as an unnecessary expense in straitened times and as an alcohol-fuelled, non-pc anachronism in the normally straight-laced business world says something: that that other big-‘C’ – Christmas, and the good spirit it engenders, is here once again and here to stay. Despite its obvious failings and the pressure it will indubitably face from the office behaviour police in Brussels, it has a unique place in our hearts. It also gives us the opportunity to dance with the cracker from HR, on the table, obviously, while drinking a pint of wine and blowing through a party horn at the same time.
Like I said, shy!
and here’s Ricky Gervais strutting his stuff in ‘The office’ party, comic-relief this time but worth putting it in anyway, just for fun.
-see you in the New Year.
After 352 days of neglecting our friends and relatives, we will look to make amends in the festive season and observe the traditions of our youth by over-eating, over-drinking and buying expensive presents in the malls of our choice.
Twelve days of excess will eventually give way to insincere promises to repent our bad ways. These, in turn, get forgotten in the flurry of hard work, bad weather, inadequately gritted roads and a public transport system that is declared unsafe by the nanny state. By the time dark and stormy January gets into its second week, Christmas cheer is all but forgotten.
Apart from an unlikely autobiography by Ann Widdecombe, which will never be read – presumably recycled by a distant aunt who never read it either – and a sweater made from sustainable tree pulp, which will never be worn, very little of this Christmas’ manifestations will actually physically stay with us. And that’s a good thing! Good that we don’t clutter up our bookshelves with the meaningless ramblings of semi-famous people; good that we allow our stomachs and livers eleven months to recover and good that we can get back to what we’re good at. Complaining!
…Is how some people view the festive period.
Christmas is much more than the giving and receiving of gifts; its unique place in our hearts sees us travel to the other side of the country to share the experience with our loved ones and let them know, that despite the long silences in between visits they are always very much in our hearts. It is a time of peace and love and a time that most of us still take a well-earned break.
Somewhere along the way it’s also comforting to be reacquainted with the original Christmas message. You know the one; delivered by God. He wanted to speak to us and became man. For thirty years, His message was told and re-told by that man. Incredibly, 2000 years later, it is still being told worldwide.
It’s hard to believe, here in secular Britain, just how popular God is. Over half of the world’s population believes in God; 93% of Indonesians, 91% of Turks and 84% of Brazilians are away in a manger. Our figure is a very lowly cattle shed, 34%.
Despite this, primary schools nationwide will celebrate the Nativity with their own home-made version, church attendances will swell as we belt out those well-known tunes, trees are decked with fastidious attention to detail and we eagerly tune in to the thoughts of Kings and Queens, Presidents, the Pope, Chancellors, Governor-Generals et al as they talk to our nations.
The original message is as fresh and relevant today as it has ever been. The message, delivered by our leaders equally so. Despite our myriad personal problems and the significant issues facing millions, we’re a positive species, full of hope and optimism for a fresh new year.
Happy Christmas and New Year!
Floating illuminated plastic balls down Colombia’s jungle rivers is the latest in a series of innovative communications campaigns designed to demobilise the anti-government fighters of FARC.
The LED-lit globes, delightful to look at as they are, are far more than mere decoration however; each globe contains a message or gift from family members of those involved in the fighting. When deployed, the globes create ‘rivers of light’ and illuminate a possible way back from the jungle and back into the city; a metaphorical path from fighting to peace. The messages they bear may not reach their intended recipients, but it is argued that they will reach someone with a similar set of circumstances; a fighter who is missing his son or daughter, wife or mother at this time, the most family time of all, Christmas.
Hopes are that at least 300 of the remaining 5000 fighters will disarm as a result of this particular campaign this December.
Isolated in small bands in the jungles of Colombia, it was thought perhaps that seasoned fighters may feel that they had been forgotten and disowned by their families. The campaign communicates the opposite truth; that, far from being forgotten, they are still loved and missed. Colombian based advertising agency, Lowe, interviewed many FARC operatives before designing their campaign. During their research they discovered that the guerrillas felt as imprisoned as their captives, unable to leave the jungle unable to see their families. This emotional tug on the rebels’ heart-strings, coupled with the promise of safe-passage is likely to gain traction.
The video shows the Colombian Army as instruments of peace, looking to communicate with their former enemy. Forthcoming peace talks look set to end 50 years of fierce fighting.
I am reminded of a great video, narrated by Stephen Hawking, which claims that mankind’s best efforts are achieved by talking and its greatest failures come from not talking.
Whatever your political view about FARC; the power of communication should never be underestimated.
I don’t usually blog about pop-stars. Mine was the punk era and writing about anything more current than the Jam and the Clash makes me feel uneasy. But this is not a blog about pop-music per se.
Last night Beyonce unexpectedly released her fifth album directly onto iTunes. 14 new songs and 17 videos were made available for immediate download. Bored of releasing her music in the traditional format – via a recording label producing a physical disk – Beyonce was able to cut through the lengthy red tape and avoid the release being diluted with staged leaks.
“It’s all about the single and the hype. I felt, like, I don’t want anybody to get the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it’s ready and from me to my fans,” said Beyonce. You appreciate the sentiment.
People tweeted, liked and shared. The news trended on twitter and iTunes crashed, unable to keep pace with demand.
Two lessons can be learned from this PR coup by the Queen Bee:
- Challenge the way things are done; ‘we’ve always done it that way’ just doesn’t cut it.
- Speak as directly as you can to your intended audience.
Challenging the way things are always done is not new in the music world. New formats and platforms have always dynamised this industry. The slow moving monoliths do not survive and only the nimble, fast-thinking innovators will thrive in the iWorld.
By cutting out a moderating influence, Beyonce has given her fans what they want, the real unexpurgated Beyonce. Without the slow-burn production moderating and improving her performance, the content released has a raw, truthful edge to it.
What can business learn from this? That the most direct forms of communication are best? That by wearing our hearts on our sleeve and offering our raw thoughts and opinions into the uncompromising crucible of judgement does not weaken us. It strengthens us, makes us honest and galvanises support for crystallising ideas.
Life is full of smooth plastic compromise. This is earthy, rugged and natural and I love it!
The latest marketing campaign of WestJet has taken the idea of ‘random acts of kindness’ to another level. WestJet placed a virtual ‘Santa’ in a Canadian airport lounge. The jolly old man engaged with and talked to singles, couples and families about Christmas. Unknown to those passengers, a team of listeners recorded their special wish-lists. While they slept on the aircraft, WestJet staff procured gifts from stores local to the passengers’ destinations. Instead of their luggage greeting them on the carousel they received their Christmas wish.
By creating a video, which has received 13 Million hits in a few days, the Canadian low-cost airline has produced a viral PR campaign, par excellence! The film below shows a somewhat emotional journey; passengers’ reactions to the company’s random acts of extraordinary kindness are clear. Why would they ever want to fly with anyone else?
Curiously, the video has received 91,000 likes and 2,000 dislikes. I think the people who disliked this are the sort of people whose hands I would like to staple to their cheeks. What’s not to like, and why doesn’t Ryanair do something similar?
This idea of WestJet truly embraces the Christmas spirit and better than anything I have seen, shows the staggering power of this form of marketing, when it’s done right. I am reminded of my one and only delightful airport experience. Once, at Manchester Airport, I arrived early and the airline opened the desk especially for me. Later, while I was having lunch with my wife and daughter, a lady from Boots tracked us down. Earlier, we had bought some perfume from her. She exchanged our purchase for a recently delivered gift pack containing the same perfume and an extra eau de toilette. She didn’t have to go out of her way to find us . But she did and it made us feel great.
In his blog of 10 event trends for 2014, Julius Solaris, concludes with the above title. Perhaps this is a practical mantra for most businesses. The business machine giant, Hewlett Packard, has a well-known design strategy. It strives to make its latest products obsolete as soon as possible. If it doesn’t, Hewlett Packard argues, a competitor will.
Live events, which fuse together talented communications professionals and the latest available technology, produce compelling environments that create the perfect platform for message delivery. Technology use is advancing at an astonishing pace; more people have personal devices than have access to safe drinking water. Smart device connectivity challenges the way we look at and do everything. ‘Same old, same old’ just doesn’t cut the mustard any more. Perhaps it never did.
Today’s event delegate is a time-poor, information-rich, tech-savvy, motivated and connected professional. She is capable of multi-tasking at events, able to sift and use the relevant information being disseminated by the speaker without losing contact with her day job. She has to remain ultra-available to her colleagues, answering emails, delegating roles and devising strategy. Once upon a time, being at an event would place her on the dark side of the moon, unavailable, uncontactable, out of the picture. Not these days.
To accommodate the ‘iGeneration’, today’s events harness the latest technology. In particular, social media has a huge part to play. In addition to adding to the buzz or shared chatter, live slide-sharing apps allow delegates to view presentations directly on their personal devices. This opens up a possibility for screen-less presentations. Split screen technology allows us to view presentation slides, listen to a presentation and perform myriad tasks all at the same time. This is not just a desirable ‘like-to-have’; for some busy delegates it’s utterly essential.
For a creative agency like Pumphouse, the opportunities to engage delegates with bespoke environments will always be there, but today we also have to take into account the fact that ‘distraction’ is part-and-parcel of everyday life.
Opinion is certainly divided on the desirability of mobile technology at events. Many organisers believe that phones are a nuisance and their badly-timed usage at events undermines engagement. (Answer the survey to add your vote)
Others believe the opposite, convinced that they help to ‘connect’ a disparate audience, better than a single presenter ever could, and drive a more purposeful conversation.
Has the day of presenters telling the audience what management wants the audience to hear, gone? Have we moved into a different era, pioneered by the likes of Google, where employees collaborate to set a more relevant agenda? The argument will rage on, rather like the usefulness of social media to business. Those who have found a way to leverage the technology to their benefit are staunch advocates; others, who cannot see its relevance, aren’t.
In the pro-social/mobile camp, a peer to peer event, with no hierarchy at all, could be the future. Morning collaboration could determine the nature of the business conversation to be had in the afternoon. The presenter becomes a facilitator, simply adding a little structure and guidance here and there. If the essence of engagement is contribution and participation, then devices could be looked at as the necessary conduits of that engagement.
Are you old enough to remember back to a pre-internet age when you had to persevere to find the information you wanted? Trade journals, magazines and books – if you could find them in your town and they weren’t out of date – rarely supplied all of the answers. They left ample scope for doubt, speculation, extrapolation and curiosity. We tried stuff out; we made mistakes; we got it right and we got it wrong; we experimented and took decisions based on the scant information available.
In the modern age where a surfeit of information is readily accessible, 24/7, there are few topics that have not been discussed to within an inch of their lives. The data we once struggled to find is certainly out there, floating around in the ether somewhere. Our problems have all been solved. Or have they? With information overload, a new raft of issues has surfaced.
Our ability to absorb facts and details from internet gurus has changed the very way we consider. Instead of seeing and trying first-hand, we choose to accept the view of a trusted third party, assuming it a) to be entirely neutral in its objectivity and b) to have a better idea of our own minds’ tastes and preferences than our own minds. In our effort to show due diligence, we open up the sluice gates of online opinion and comment before taking a simple decision ourselves.
When everyone with a smart-phone has the ability to publish a rich, meaty casserole of their accepted wisdom mixed with a bubble-and-squeak of personal thoughts, how do consumers now select the nutritious choice cuts from the cabbage? Within our field of expertise we may have a trusted inner sanctum of websites and relate to a favourite blogger whose every superlative chisels itself indelibly into our psyche as categorical truth. What new filters should we apply when asked to investigate beyond the limits of our personal safety zone?
This morning, I searched Google for ‘social media impact on events’ and returned a staggering 284,000,000 results in a thankfully petite 0.29 seconds. Now, not every post on the 28 million pages is going to be relevant, doubtless, but even on page 19, I found four listings that warranted closer inspection. How do I know which of these postings has a sound basis in fact?
According to Chris Jami, author of Venus in Arms, “Learning isn’t acquiring knowledge so much as it is trimming information that has already been acquired.” How true. The author of The complete idiot’s guide to getting things done, Jeff Davidson, goes further than this citing the existence of a crippling and invasive, internet-related condition: ‘Information fatigue syndrome’. His research suggests that 33% of managers suffer ill-health due to information overload, 66% of managers report tension with colleagues and diminished job satisfaction and, worryingly for commerce, 43% believe that critically-important decisions are delayed and put off because of an all-engulfing tidal-wave of readable comment.
I am not an anti-internet Luddite. Like the rest of the world, my life has been inextricably linked, hooked up and woven into the online tapestry. Earlier this year, our offices had three depressing, finger-twiddling days without it; something none us wants to repeat in a hurry.
And information excess manifests itself beyond the confines of the internet. Organisations are becoming obese, hard-disk heavy, cloud volume obsessed, information squirrels; email trails that unnecessarily copy in tens of colleagues, exacerbate the problem. In-boxes, filled with spurious details that have to be read and acknowledged, often add little or nothing to the recipient’s capability to get their job done. And it’s not just businesses that are suffering; homes that used to have cluttered shelves and cupboards full of literature gaining dust now also have myriad P.C.’s, tablets and smart-phones constipated with jpegs and pdfs that will never ever be viewed. Ever.
The numbers are mind-blowing: more people have mobile phone subscriptions than have access to safe drinking water and electricity; over 200 million tablets have been sold in 2013. The picture below shows the St Peter’s Square announcements of the last two Popes. Spot the difference!
There are now 14.3 trillion (14,300,000,000,000) web pages on the internet. Curiously, 284 million of them have something to do with the impact of social media on events. My next blog may take some time…
- Is the internet slowly killing us? (peterclarkeblog.wordpress.com)
- Less information, the cure for information overload (markdotto.com)
- Information Fatigue (bulatlat.com)
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.
3D-Projection Mapping has been around for a while and, unless you have been back-packing in the wilds of Northern Canada for the last three years, you would doubtless have seen its usage in high-budget pop-concerts and product launches.
As the technology has increased in popularity, so costs to produce projection-mapped displays have fallen. Now, it is not just the wealthy corporations who have the budget to project their images onto large buildings to launch the latest vodka-derivative drink or hybrid utility vehicle. Entry-level pricing of around £5000 has made 3D-Projection Mapping an affordable consideration for the many rather than a exclusive, highly-coveted medium for the rich.
The technology relies on accurately mapping an animated 3D image onto a 2D surface.
Outdoor projection mapping, otherwise known as ‘Building Mapping’ uses animations, projected onto the surface of a building, to bring large environments to life. Clever graphics, played upon the building, can leave the viewer amazed as seemingly solid and straight walls morph into curves and change colours. Palaces are built brick-by-brick in seconds only to be destroyed and built again.
Brands can interweave a message into the animation, imaginatively presenting a product or service to the awed audience.
(Click on the link to see the incredible transformation of Prague’s astrological tower.)
The use of centrally-located, high-profile buildings is a particular favourite for product launches and PR stunt-delivery. It ticks all the boxes, highly visible, impressive, environmentally friendly and latterly, giving a decent bang for the buck.
In the face-to-face, conference environment, the high-profile building is replaced by a carefully-considered stage set. Whatever set designed, Projection Mapping has the ability to transform it. With so many conferences looking to transform the behaviours and culture of their audiences, the technology readily strikes a resonant chord with many organisers.
And it’s just so engaging – distracting even – as clicking on the link below will prove.
Add PiP (Picture-in-Picture) projection, which inserts more traditional video and presentation assets into the overall treatment and holographic technology to exaggerate the 3D effect, lifting products or people off the screen, closer to the audience, and you are left with a highly engaging, ultra-realistic presentation format.
After all, face-to-face is about the message, delivered in context. If your event’s purpose is to drive meaningful change, by firstly challenging existing beliefs and then making the future dream more easily reachable, then these technologies should be among the first you should explore with Pumphouse Productions.