Friday, 11 September 2009

Business Friday: Grand Brand Bang.

Instead of dressing down on Fridays the creatives at a large successful advertising agency amuse themselves by dressing up and behaving as Business people: they call it Business Friday. An essential element of Business Friday is PowerPoint presentations with bullets, words flying in, fades, sound effects: the whole palaver.

It’s true! PowerPoint is absurd Business uniform!

Since I last blogged, conversation streams about Brand; Ideas that Stick; and Targeting the Message were brought into comic relief by a single PowerPointed seminar failure.

Mark Gallagher’s compilation “Brand is . . . .”

Verne Harnish quoting his Uncle Wally and Chip Heath on Ideas That Stick.

Stephen Lynch quoting Bob Eckert, featured in Fortune magazine, on Targeting the Message.

The seminar, about business planning and implementation, packaged in PowerPoint to standardise delivery in various locations by various presenters, was a tool for building relationships with prospective clients to help sell professional service.

This particular seminar failed because the ideas that stuck - the impression communicated were predominantly though not overwhelmingly negative. It failed to achieve purpose. Yet the seminar had worked fine for the guy who produced the slides.

I’d experienced similar failed attempts to control seminar quality while teaching General Management at the University of Auckland: the course, part of a new innovative degree in Business and Information Management, was delivered on 3 different campuses. The course seminars were packaged as PowerPoint presentations and printed copies of the slides were included in course-books for students.

The presenters and students believed that the knowledge was the PowerPoint slides: linear, hierarchical, shallow, un-provocative, boring. Learning was stumped not stimulated. Read Edward Tufte The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint (now in 2nd edition) to learn how PowerPoint regiments and limits thought, kills presentations and stops learning.

The thing is, content doesn’t make a seminar and regimenting content, especially by PowerPoint, reduces seminar quality. The message, which is bigger than the content, and hence the brand is blunted and distorted by the medium. It becomes Business-like, boring, uniform, more of the same.

Jack Daly doesn’t use PowerPoint in his seminars. People complain about Tom Peters’ slides because they can’t understand them: nothing boring, uniform about those guys.

Never be upstaged by your slides or your other props.

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