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If you make presentations frequently, or are likely to need to, take a few moments to hear some very useful advice from some world class experts who know how to make PowerPoints really work.
What do you think? Could some of these techniques help you add life your PowerPoint game?
We've all played email tennis, either with friends, family or business colleagues. That's fine, if you have the time. If you're working on a proposal document and you're using Word, you can bounce revisions around forever and a day. That's also fine, if you've got the time. Problem is, time is a premium asset these days and if you want to get the most out of your time, you need to save as much of it as possible. And what time you do use, you do so as efficiently as possible — that's where Google's new collaborative communication tool comes in.
Wave is email and revision-aware word processing combined into a real-time web application that allows more than one person to edit the same document at the same time. So imagine starting a new "wave" (which is Google parlance for a new page or document) and then inviting friends to contribute.
Once your colleagues have accepted your invite, you can see them typing in the new wave. Better yet, as you all make additions and changes to each others' copy, you can scrub the revision time line back to a specific point and start again.
The benefits of working with Google Wave are:
Because Wave is free, the only additional time you'll spend will be learning how to use it. And if you can use Word, you can use Wave, too. With all the time you'll save, you could learn to play tennis!
I've been meaning for some time to blog about what it is that makes a promotional video really work in a business context. And now I've been asked to judge an exciting video competition, I've been given extra motivation to get the post written.
The following are my top seven tips for creating a powerful promotional video for business. Conveniently, they'll also be what I will be looking at when I judge the upcoming competition. In writing this post, I've focussed mainly on business to business, although my tips work equally well for business to consumer.
So what elements do you need to ensure that your promotional video is very high impact?
Get the basics right. Imagine you are looking to employ someone, and you receive their CV only to find that it's full of spelling mistakes and formatting errors. Are you likely to employ them? Probably not. The same basic rule applies when you create a business video. The thought that goes into quality control will affect what the viewer thinks of your business. Make sure that the sound quality is acceptable. Think about lighting (much as you would when taking a photo of someone). Take some time to "frame" each shot in an interesting way. If you need to, re-shoot anything you are unsure about. Make sure that your title graphics don't contain spelling mistakes. These things only take 5% more time when you are creating your video, but add 95% to the overall impact.
Tell a story. Great videos - even business videos - tell a story. So rather than "shouting" at your viewer (brochure style), pull them in. If you run a car repair shop, you might shoot the video from the perspective of someone who has damaged a car in an accident. If you run a hotel, you might tell the story of a couple's incredible wedding at your venue. If you are a business organisation, you might get a handful of members to share their stories about the impact you've had on them. If you are a consultant, you might share some of your greatest "triumphs" or top tips. In telling a story you are building empathy with someone who would like to be part of that story. There is always a great story to tell - find the most powerful one, and tell it.
Be different. Chances are you are in a competitive market with lots of other [insert your profession] trying to appeal to lots of [insert your typical prospect]. It's not going to be easy to stand out if you are pretty much the same as your competitors. So, look at what they are all saying, and say something different. This alone will increase your chances of being heard above the din. It works for Richard Branson doesn't it?
Demand action. If I had five pounds for each time I saw a promotional tool (advert, video, website) which got my attention but then failed to demand action from me, I think I'd be a millionaire. Make sure you have a very punchy, clear "call to action" in your video. Make it the last thing your viewer sees. When I watch your video, I should have no doubt what it is that you want me, the viewer, to do next. So, what is it that you want me to do?
Be creative. There seems to be an unwritten rule that if it's for business, it has to be deadly serious. Wrong. Be creative, have fun, throw some colour into what you are doing. You don't just want people to know about your business. You want them to react "hey, that was fun" or "what a hoot", or "wow - that's clever." People will react more positively to your message. We're all human, and we don't like things to be mundane. It also helps you to differentiate.
It's not show and tell. Avoid telling your story twice. Video is a great medium - it gives you both visual and audio to work with. So use them wisely, and in tandem. let one work with the other. Don't fall into the trap of saying and showing the same thing - for example "we've got lovely meeting rooms" and then showing the lovely meeting room. Rather, let the visuals work to enhance the audio - for example "we make meetings a breeze" and show lovely meeting room and a fresh cup of coffee.
It's not about you. Sadly, your prospects care very little about how brilliant your products and services are. They're not as interested in this as you are. They almost certainly don't care about the clever things you'd done in the past. And they don't want to hear that you were estabilshed in 2002 and now have 56 employees. But they are interested in how you can help them. So instead of giving them a history lesson, give them a peek into the exciting future (their future), and let them see how you can make a real difference (to them).
I'm sure if you scratch around the internet, you'll find experts who have other factors they focus on. But for what it's worth, these are my top tips for putting together a great promotional video, and I'll be looking closely at these factors when judging the competition in a few months' time.
Reality TV has taken a big role in raising the profile of entrepreneurship in the UK. But does watching a bunch of self-important investors smugly tearing strips off some poor first-time entrepreneur really show us what it takes to set up and run a small business? Are they conveying sound business lessons or simply mugging for the camera before striding off to negotiate another well-paid advertising contract?
Ok, I’m being deliberately cynical. But I think the major attraction of shows like Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice is the in-built ritual of humiliation. It’s sadism as entertainment. Having said that, I reckon there’s plenty a business owner can learn from watching these shows - even if it’s what not to do in business (eg, don’t pitch to Peter Jones unless you’re REALLY sure of your figures; don’t EVER answer back to Alan Sugar, that sort of thing).
Anyway, we’d like to know what you’ve learned from watching TV business shows. Do they contain proper business lessons that entrepreneurs can draw on? Or are these programmes just pure popcorn entertainment where the lesson for business owners is ‘Don’t ever do it like this’?
Let us know! We'll compile the best responses into an article for our newsletter and credit the contributors.
Please keep your contribution brief and to the point and send it to us by:
Is it better to work with more businesses (in a relatively shallow way) or is it better to work with fewer but in a more intense way (and therefore with more long-term benefit)?
When working in Africa my preference was to work longer and deeper with fewer people - by handing over the tools I was able see more benefit.
But does this theory (better to go narrow and deep rather than broad and shallow) hold in the UK?
Applied to your own business (and specifically to your marketing) is it better to narrow your focus and look for deep knowledge in a narrow field (niche) or is it better to go broader and shallower?
Case Study One: the business coach who only sells to dentists charges four times the going rate because of his narrow focus/niche expertise.
Case Study Two: the 'tart with a heart' business will sell anything to anyone and does make sales but she gets known for what she does and becomes known as a 'jack of all trades'... Gets lots of work but at low rates. "Jump!" the clients say. "How high?" she says...
Do you have the bottle to go narrower and deeper in your niche or is the recession making you more of a tart? How do you think this is perceived in the marketplace?
The customer may always be right, but are they the right customers?
One of the customer’s of my company (SellerDeck) was incredibly picky about how their business wanted to use our software. We are a mass market, low price supplier and we’ve sold tens of thousands of products and services, so we normally can’t make changes for individual companies who typically pay a few hundred pounds each. However, this particular customer was very persistent. So one of our product managers contacted them, spent ages discussing their requirements and subsequently we agreed to make some changes. Responding in this way was exceptional and it cost us much more than we could ever make in sales from the particular guy.
But this customer isn’t at all grateful. In fact, recently they have become even more critical, and have continued to cost us more in support than almost anyone else. Would it have been better if we had said “no” in the first place?
Without sounding too critical, the customer in question doesn’t appear to be particularly successful, and I’m sure it’s not a coincidence. If someone can’t understand the business needs of their suppliers, they probably don’t know how their own customers tick either.
Some clients are very demanding, and whatever you do they are never satisfied. I’m not talking about customers upset with poor service, who need helping. Nor am I talking about customers that need a lot of handholding. Nor about customers who buy the wrong product, who should have their money returned. I’m talking about customers who fundamentally don’t understand the trade-off involved in human and business interactions.
Although the circumstances I’ve described are rare, they aren’t unique. My guess is that this applies to maybe one in two hundred customers. The cost in time and demoralising impact on staff makes it more difficult to give good service to everyone else. As a result, I am coming to the conclusion that for this small minority, we would do better to suggest that they do business with our competitors.
It’s critical not to provide our customer service team with any excuse for bad service, so there are some dangers in adopting such measures. However, applied incredibly carefully to a very small minority, surely it’s time to review the relationship with these sorts of customers?