Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Signs of Authority: An important Presentation Trait

I have seen number of presentation from junior to senior management teams. In many of them, which obviously have improved better in terms of slide quality with 2007 and lot of intelligence shared in web, the delivery mechanism has always not excited me. When I see TED Talks and compare my own experience as presenter and audience, I realize that authority and command generate and shape the presentation than slides themselves. Few areas that I find useful to concentrate during a presentation are:

1. The sign of authority on subject: When you know what is on slide, you would present a take on the slide and not read the same. You would avoid phrases like "What this slide means is...", "We have put this slide to tell that ....", "As this slide states..." etc.

Instead the audience should be able to scan the slide, make their impression and wait for you, the presenter to elucidate it further. That enables you, the presenter to have a meaning on the stage along with the presentation.

2. Command over flow and language: My dad used to say this in my child hood, that this is the most critical skills you need. Indeed he was a professor who could lecture without a break for an hour on a chosen subject. Of course, in that age I got to neither oppose nor follow.

But this is a take from politician and film speeches. They never falter. Some demand silence when they speak. They pause long enough for accolades, over powering the audience. Some intersperse with questions, for people to answer it and answer the same in their voice. This affirms their status and get more buy-in. In some presentations which are extempore in nature, the flow is so structured and still so malleable depending on the audience interest.

So some points to remember are: no hums ("uh", "umm"), no stammer pauses (like "so so", "like"), no generic, wayward phrases (like "that thing", "you know what i mean", etc).

The sign of authority on the subject is realized by the audience only in the ability to make an easy flow and flawless language.

3. Control over TIME: In some of the presentations, I have been told that if audience can stay longer than fixed time, it is a sign of attention, attraction and success. It is easier to accept this as a fact, as this line of argument too make some sense.

But counter intuition also seems to have a good argument. People who tend to stay longer, either are polite enough to let you hang around or have made their decision much earlier and hence are tuned off or have got nothing to do with the presentation and it was just an experience for them. It is like we do not antagonize a friend when we don't bother or are in a mood to pay attention any longer. We do not care for switch off point as the time limit has exceeded the attention span.

Control over time, has always been a critical skill to provide audience with a pleasure of utilizing their time craftily. This keeps them on their edge, since they know there would be something missed if they are not around at that time.

The authority that you mean business and exactly know what you are talking about gives the sign of authority, a respect and perception frame of reference.

4. Contribution: Instead of measuring audience attention, attraction through the time they spend on the session, it is good to measure the involvement through contribution. Contributory audience is a rare form of group that you could ever get. Better still, you have a couple of people who can chime with you on questions, topics, supportive statement, the better the session jives in the presentation. I make it a point to always take a supportive person alongside, to one de-risk any stage frights, I might get and to enable a tango experience that provides a relief to the audience.

Believing in user intelligence and generating user contribution in a live session, is the highest form of love and respect that a presenter can command from the audience.

5. Analogies, Stories and Queries: Let it be a good strategy presentation or a presentation of a case which is not in a good time or shape. Analogies, Stories enable the presentation better.

A few months back, I was on verge of a breakdown. Sales front was down, repeat orders were drying up and projects were coming to an end. Recession was felt all around. To keep head high required lot of inherent motivation.

In this time, my senior management wanted to know what is happening. It would have been easy to provide the facts as bullets, prepare for the worst and await their decision. The other alternative, that I chose with my bosses advice was to present a story on where we see windows of opportunity flowing in. In the last part of slides the facts came out that we are caught in storm. But the initial analogies and stories of positive turnarounds in other areas, our helplessness yet the efforts we are putting in with all our abilities helped present the case without a hard blow.

In the last review this month, my senior manager told my immediate bosses that this could be used as a case study on how to keep track of a service and ensure a fast turnaround. The slides used to present had a marked story to speak about themselves.

Not only in such instances, I have found a presentation with careful, meaningful and relevant analogy and story helps get the attention, attraction and more importantly the message across. Having a follow up call provides the stickiness factor that we all strive to attain in every engagement.

Would love your comments on more traits that you would like to contribute to help me stand up for the next presentation as a better presenter ?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Social Media is not just a single application

In some of responses received when talking about Social Media, the default mental model, that is referenced and spoken in context is Twitter. It often leads me to wonder, that are we using Social media in right context and frame or limit it to applications, that we know in this space.

While in my earlier 2 posts, I realized that when I started writing I too had a few tools that I frequent: LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogs and wrote according to their functionality. But I then had to generalize it to mean any tool or software in this space. Few tools that I was a regular earlier were: Ryze, Orkut. For some reason, i could not be on Facebook still.

But these are manifestations of an idea around concept of social and community networks. The whole idea is to get talking, keep talking, get to share, set to learn...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Elastic Learning Design: How Social Media Transforms Course Structure

Sahana in response to my post on Ideanets, had the following comment.

"I love the idea of "ideanet" and these moving and expanding, gathering more and more force en-route. I can see an analogy to Twitter here--a collection of 140 characters coming from different directions, converging on certain topics and forming a veritable flood of ideas on that topic. From this mix emerges something that is powerful, innovative, transformation in nature."

I liked the brevity of the message here. What underlies this statement is a powerful message on what laser-focused topic discussions and little good digression can have on learning.

A similar format was started by our community at Ning. Join us to view the topics under discussion here.

In many cases, the output of a learning design is to create a table of contents or a course structure with limited amount of elasticity in allowing for change: Expansion, Contraction based on current context. The idea of elasticity in these instances is to make a remediation path or a custom learning path pre-configured to a certain assessment score. The role of social media has not changed it, but eliminated this constraint in unparalleled ways.

The funny thing is that social media is not a learning medium or tool.
It is an exchange medium
. It is a place to
  1. bond,
  2. develop relationships,
  3. collect,
  4. discuss,
  5. lead,
  6. participate,
  7. share your possessions: It could be your friends, knowledge, music collection, books, etc.
Yet, the revolution it brings on to learning and development on an individual is to challenge old notion of a structure and replace with a structure that is
  1. unstructured, yet
  2. dynamic,
  3. relevant,
  4. intuitive,
  5. appealing,
  6. important and
  7. hence ELASTIC in nature.
And yes, in these is true learning and spirit of learning that endures our lives. Hence design and invest in a social media program that even if 1% in your company is active, it is worthwhile investment.

But yes and again, having an Intranet portal or a technology implementation is not sufficient condition to be in social media community place. You need to buzz it every time, every occasion, every where. Have you done it ?

To enable such elastic learning design in a company/community cannot happen in a vacuum. Users just don't create content on their own. They need content to talk about, need to talk with people, to generates true social media learning content. Hence investing in e-Learning around the vision of taking the next big step in social media learning would get you better ROI strewn in the path of e-learning implementation.

A truly Elastic Learning Design will give the endurance of time, life-long support and automated self-coach vehicle with the promise of higher return every time the content is accessed by a consumer.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

TOP 5 business considerations for Social Media adoption

Social media is a world to live in. As there are many tools, places to attract a social and cultural group, it is important to understand the prime considerations. While there can be an extended list, the below list is written in response to a query on "Why should I invest in Social Media Marketing, What should I not do and Is there something that I should be aware of?" for a prospect who is new to the subject.

Why should I invest in Social Media Marketing:
1. It is here to stay. It is real business. It is the potent marketing weapon for keeping your customers. Mark your presence TODAY to gain the social media experience.

2. As with age, social media gets stronger by the day. You cannot expect to build and stage manage one. The paradox is the more it grows, the more attention it deserves.

As with neighbourhood friends, social media networks at the most lie dormant. They never vanish. As we get energised when we bump into a long lost friend, the dormant nets just need a trigger to wake up.

Once out in the world, you are on your own is an oft mentioned saying. It applies to social media as well. The content you release in social media is for the world to consume. You never know who would like it and when. The paradox is to succeed in social media, you need people. You cannot make a mark on your own.

5. The name, fame and spread of word for you is real. People recognize you for what you have done to them and develop a self-interest to propagate it in their crowd. How many times, have your customers referred you multiple times to multiple friend of theirs and take special interest for your business? Social media people do it. The motive here is "association" with like minded people and it is amazing to see how many people like you for who you are.

What should I not do:
1. Social Media is an organic evolution and not an instant gratification project. You get to see people following you, reading your content after you achieve critical mass. The unfortunate part is that the threshold is not a constant and varies from individual to individual. So without patience and focus, do not enter this world.

There is no room for translucency in the name of transparency. You will be exposed if there is a hidden catch.

3. Do not pay for social media activities and think people with wages can deliver to you. They can at most help you. But if you are not there, your efforts in social media is not recognized. It should come from within. Authenticity is always tested on you by the entire world.

Always be responsible. There is no pardon for transgression of social morality or insensitive wit.

5. It is a culture and cannot be made a rule/mandate. If you cannot be part of it, want to modify the rules, do not enter through the door.

Is there something that I should be aware of:
1. Social media will always remain a child. It is your own child. You need to give it attention always and cannot end loving it. It means you need to be a caring parent and enrich this medium with your attention and love. The constraint is you cannot get busy and leave this to junior staff to handle on their own.

2. It is a one-way street. Once in social media, orphaning or dormancy is a major flaw. Never get in without sufficient time or with half-hearted move. The efficiency of social media is directly proportional to the activeness on your part and activeness in equal proportional of network team.

3. The time to give information is when it is created and immediate. Back dating and back tracking information is not a worthwhile exercise.

4. Thankfully, it is technology that powers it. Paradoxically, it is not technology that drives social media. It is people and real people, with authentic values, special interests and good content who are still a minority in the social media world.

5. Irrespective of who you are in real world, social media recognizes 1 role: Specialist.
Explore, Research, Assimilate, Investigate, Analyze and then capture them suitably to share them for the world to know you.

Would love to hear about relevant and similar posts for own improvement.

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