No Death by PowerPoint With Cool Presentation Tools

I went to a conference for meeting planners earlier this year and the most crowded sessions were not about hotels, contracts, or the latest trends in catering, they were on event technologies. Then again it shouldn’t be a surprise given the times we live in and all the new communications tools for marketers these days. I became very excited by all the possibilities for meetings, from “hotel keys” that not only open your room door but also manage room functions, to new social networking tools and mobile apps specifically for events. But the ones that really stood out as something I can use right now were the alternative presentation technologies. Marketers are supposed to be “creative” and about ideas but we often fall victim to the dreaded, predictable format of PowerPoint aka Death by PowerPoint. There are now more opportunities available to develop presentations in more creative, thoughtful and unexpected ways while holding the attention of audiences – here are are a few of the biggies.  They are great to know about for internal or external live  events, as well as communicating ideas to online audiences.

Pecha Kucha

PechaKucha seems more like a movement than a technology but it’s both- PechaKucha means something like “the sound of chit chat” in Japanese  and is based on the premise of 20 images for 20 seconds each with audio – no shorter and no longer. This has spawned a vast social network with PechaKucha nights around the world where 20 artists, authors, and anyone else enamored with this format can come together and show their own Pecha Kucha creation. So even though Pecha Kucha is more of an art form, it can be used in the business world. The nice thing about Pecha Kucha is that it is both a rigid yet flexible medium-it has all the ingredients  to be creative  but also make each slide count. Unlike PowerPoint, the tendency for bloated decks is difficult – you have to pare down your story or in some cases recreate it. So in a way using this format can be both a challenge and a gift and will also make you think out of the Microsoft Office Suite and that’s well…sweet!

http://www.pecha-kucha.org/

 Prezi

Yes, another “P” word….Prezi is a tool that can be seen as a blank canvas — you can tell a story  the way you want and guarantee your presentations stand out from the crowd. Using text, images, video, Flash files, line drawings, and zooming in (one of the coolest features), and other unusual effects, Prezi will make audiences sit up and watch a narrative unfold. It’s also great tool to encourage people to focus on a point you want to make while keeping the images flowing (I was getting dizzy from viewing samples so make sure to limit the  zooming-a little goes a long way). Prezi also works with PowerPoint by importing slides from a ppt. deck and following the instructions to can give it a whole new life. There is also a library of presentations on the Prezi web site that you can use to customize and get inspiration from and even a “Prezi for Dummies” out there.  Prezi is free for the basic usage, and step up is $59+/year.

http://www.prezi.com/

Pico Projectors

From the presentation itself to the medium to display it, there are projectors that are the size of the palm of your hand, or even better, integrated into smart phones. Pico projector formats were a hot item at CES this year and will continue to be a growing market with our insatiable desire for mobile technology. With the popularity of the iPad and other portable display mediums, more and more vendors are getting in on the action, with models starting at $99. Since last year, the Pico projector market is selling a million units a year, and as more mobile phones have them integrated, these numbers are expected to grow exponentially. There is one projector that seems to be designed specifically for Paris Hilton:  iGo released a gold-plated Pico for $1,600, tricked out with lots of bells and whistles. In general Pico projectors are not suitable for large group presentations, but they are great medium for small meetings, impromptu presentations, and handy to have in general. And let’s face it-small gadgets are just plain CUTE!

http://www.picoprojector-info.com/introduction

So what’s the  bulleted list we might put in a PowerPoint “Summary” slide (besides the fact that everything I’ve mentioned starts with a “P”-let’s hear it for alliteration)

  • New presentation tools make the story the center stage, not the format. By having a blank canvas, you have ultimate control of what the audience will see, hear, take away– and most importantly remember.
  • Alternative  presentation formats push us to tell our story in a different, creative way and encourages our mind to be more open, maybe even developing new or other ideas we wouldn’t have thought of using PowerPoint
  • Being in marketing means understanding and using the latest technologies for our field so I will be going to a Pecha Kucha night soon and getting me a Pico projector  (but uh…not the gold-plated one)
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Traditional Marketing Does Not Exist

If I had a $1 for how many times I’ve heard the rhetorical question “Is traditional marketing dead?” or purporting that it is, my business office would be located at the top floor of a fancy San Francisco building instead of my small condo. I even heard this phrase  as part of “common knowledge” last year on a phone interview for a job from someone squarely in the internet space. Makes sense given his world revolved around ecommerce. For fun, I made the case for other forms of promotion, not sure if knew instantaneously I wasn’t a good fit for the job, was sticking up for my generation of marketers, or being a devil’s advocate. Lo and behold, they hired someone else. 

Fast forward to now:  I’ve had over a year to think about traditional marketing and what it actually means (nor not). I realize that the answer to this question affects not only the way thousands of companies seek out and market to customers, but also me professionally and personally. What should I spend MY time focusing on? What’s important to know for the future? I watched and waited, I scoured Mashable, TechCrunch, marketing articles and editorials, Linkedin groups, talked to people. I want to know what trends that have come and gone and maybe more importantly. what is noticeably absent from the mix – perhaps even permanently.

My first thought was we need to get rid of the word  “traditional”. It  not only sounds stodgy and connotes ancient, it  doesn’t capture the essence of what marketing has and will continue to be: an ever-changing transformation of strategies, tactics, and  tools to reach customers and prospects. As mentioned on this blog before, a recent marketing class instructor said  “There is no such thing as online and offline marketing anymore – it’s all marketing” and this was an aha moment for me, reinforcing the fact that innovations in technologies, shifts in communication and creative strategies, and business and consumer drivers dictate what direction the marketing mix will go, not simply salivating over anything internet related.

Think back to some of the trailblazing times in last century’s marketing: the first print advertisements in a newspaper; the first highway billboards seen for miles; the first advertisements for hair care, cigarettes and indigestion cures on black and white TV; and now social media communities churned into marketing machines. Some forms of communication go out, but many never leave. What works stays, what doesn’t goes away (fax advertisement anyone?).

Which brings us full circle to the same question: is traditional marketing dead? And does traditional marketing collectively include any communications that is print/offline and not on the internet? Is it one-way marketing pushing out promotion vs. two-way communication encouraged by social media communities and customer feedback? The answer depends on your definition of traditional, but the most popular one seems to be one that focuses on “old school” direct mail, advertising, trade shows – anything offline vs. the Big Dog: the internet, with a heavy emphasis on social media, particularly as of late. In fact, young B2B marketers have probably never even produced or received a hard copy direct mail at work, but ironically might be getting a postcard twice a year from their local carpet cleaner offering 20% off…which happens to be quite successful for their business.

The important question marketers really have to ask is not whether there is such a thing as traditional marketing and if it is dead, but what is the best way to reach their target? Context is everything – smart companies assess and deliver the right mix of gravitational pull for their own business and do not fall prey to the latest trends because they are in fashion or techie appeal.  It might not be a Facebook Fan page that grabs your customer’s business if they are not internet-savvy; or consider hybrid marketing like the Yellow Pages which have print directories but also support  a web business to reach their targets wherever they are. Compare a  high level executive receiving a hand-crafted invitation to an exclusive CEO event in the mail versus an email.  It may not be as convenient or include flashy html but it strikes the right emotional and business cord to open up a real and personalized invitation (with texture yet!). Or a multi-level, integrated campaign for a new consumer product which is advertised on the web, in print, on TV and retail. One communication channel may have more impact than the other but they all work together in concert, one is not more relevant than the other. Lastly, a high tech companies that offer customer events both webinars and in person events maximum impact with different audiences and objectives. All of these examples come back to: there is no such thing as online and offline marketing anymore. The truth is that traditional marketing does not  exist, smart decisions to reach your target do.

While it would be foolhardy not to be on top of critical pieces of the internet pie – be it email marketing, ecommerce, social media, the alphabet soup of  SEO, SEM, PPC, etc. – we must not be myopic and dismiss the successful tools used for years to reach our prospects and customers when they hit the bullseye.

Online Event Technology Cannot Trump Human Connection

For many corporations, online event technology has bridged the gap between time, distance, culture to reach their prospects and customers. These advances help marketers reach audiences across the street and across the globe quickly and efficiently.

The beginnings of online events in the late-1990s consisted of webinars (also known as eSeminars) and web casts, straightforward attempts to port the live experience to the computer. They haven’t changed much over the years and are still used by many companies to launch products, educate consumers, soften PR problems and more.

The significant changes in online events are the dazzling technologies such as telepresence meetings and virtual events – marketers now have even more choices with these newer, sexier showcases to swap out with their less flashy cohorts. The result? With a mix of the webinars and newer online events, some companies are cutting trade shows, seminars and other in-person events altogether – that is a mistake.

The argument for leaving live events off the roster has been made for some smaller, nimble web-based companies in these times of shrinking budgets and growing computer sophistication among attendees. Add to that shorter times to execute webinars at less cost and with fewer resources and that decision can make financial sense for them. 

But for the majority of companies now reslicing the event pie, it is a myopic view to cut live events altogether.  As much as in-person events are given a bad rap for bloated budgets, unnecessary fluffery and fuzzy ROI, online events also have their inherent disadvantages of hollowness, distracted attendees, occasional breakdowns in technology, and lack of feedback. Though there are certainly online event ROI tools to measure activity and clicks, how does one value metrics for the human connection – that  elusive “X” factor?  This may be the speed bump on the cyberhighway we are ramming over. There is a completely different psychology, awareness level and interaction that takes place face-to-face human exchange that online communication can never replace.

If we look closer at online events, they have four basic outcomes, from least desireable to most:  1) Cancellation  –  Since the commitment is low and they likely didn’t pay 2) Inattention – The person could also be filing their nails or having a conversation with their cube mate (ironically, I recently received a webinar invitation to “How to engage multitasking webinar audiences.”) 3) Paying Attention – Asking questions of the presenters, responding to event surveys, wanting more information  4) Ready to Buy – The person wants a salesperson to call or is ready to click and buy –this of course is the best outcome, live or not.

Contrast these actions with a live interaction at  a trade show, conference or networking party. The result could be the same but could also be changed real-time: There may be the opportunity for  conversation and extended discussion, read the person’s body language and facial expressions, answer questions, and even change their opinions and buying objections. Add to that some peppering of personal discussion of  common colleagues and interests and you have a real engagement. This face-to-face encounter cannot be seen, heard or felt online at any more than a superficial level – a cyberspace click — if at all. 

This is just one example to consider. What about the annual user conference that suddenly goes online? How will that affect your customers and their perception of its importance to your company?  Or the one trade show you exhibited at every year that you are now absent from? Ultimately these types of business decisions will be based on your goals, target audience, and perhaps most importantly, budget. But when evaluating what events to add, remove, and replace in your events mix, take a close look at how interacting live verses cyberspace will matter, or not. This factor may not be calculated into the equation. 

And make no mistake – quantifying and persuading management that human encounters are worth the cost can be difficult. Analyzing the hard numbers, online events will always win out as more attractive cost-per-lead, but the intangible benefits of live interaction may not be able to be measured long-term. Online events, strategically used in conjunction with live ones, keep just the right distance and closeness with your prospects and customers.