Boardroom Showbiz

How to pick a team for your
multimedia presentation

Take a look at the figure 568,895,958,758,876,847. Guess what it is ? The number of burgers eaten at a McDonalds store in one day ? The secret code to a Swiss bank account ? The growing kangaroo population in Australia ? Is it the number of computers that were connected to the internet last week. I’m not sure of any of the answers, but let’s work on hypothesis for a moment and assume that 568,895,958,758,876,847 people were connected to the internet last week. That’s a lot of people you can reach from your keyboard, without a spiraling media burn that runs your budgets out of breath.

That’s a thought.

Going by the principle of techsorption – the rate at which companies are absorbing new technology platforms, we will soon have a clear divide between organizations that choose to invest in emerging technologies and organizations that wait to be touched by the ripple effect.

Today, technology combines with skill and expertise to give companies the kind of corporate makeovers that could set the stage for visibility in world markets. Spinning off mergers, partnerships and a global commune that does business at the speed of thought. What we’re seeing today is an extremely high plane of convergence in terms of image, voice, media and formats. Giving digital artists the capability to explore dynamic and undiscovered frontiers of creativity and expression.

How to pick a communications partner

If you’re looking for a handbook, there isn’t one. And we wouldn’t recommend the yellow pages, either. Which means you need a stroke of luck to run into a really professional team. Here are some tips that could help

One good way is to network with your friends in other organizations. This way you get to see work samples, you can check out on costs and the competence of team members. In fact referrals are a number one source on new business. IT related exhibitions are a good way to come face to face with the cutting edge in design excellence and production values. A carefully targeted exercise on a search engine would also be useful. If the team is really good, they’ll show up at the top.

And just as you’re careful about choosing your legal and financial consultants, the time has come to be very, very strategic about your web and multimedia partners. Your future could depend on it.

Look hard. Choose carefully

1 : Expertise
When it comes to making investments, expertise comes right on top. Does the team you want to work with, have wide-spectrum expertise ? What we mean here expertise with an equal emphasis on multimedia and web solutions. Do they give you the kind of confidence that comes with hard-wired domain knowledge ? Can they translate expertise into solutions ?

2 : Technology
Technology comes a close second and spans everything from the hardware environment and support systems, to the critical software tools that drive the development process. What is important here is the milestone index : are they working with tools the industry has left far behind ? Or have they kept pace with the right updated hardware investments ? Another important consideration is the legal aspect. If your team is working with 100% legal software, across the board, you get a good idea of professionalism.

3 : Creative skills
You can have the right expertise and the right technology. But if your team does not have what it takes to infuse creative excellence into their work, it shows. This is one area where eight out of ten studios fall short, because most teams are content with functional throughput. And while creative skills are an essential spearhead in the armory, they need to be honed by industry experience. That is the payoff, and sometimes a key qualifier for any team.

4 : People
The professional arena has become so skill-set intensive, that you have specialists for each domain area in the work spectrum. Right from graphic design, interactive design and web programming, to database programming, network administration and internet strategy. Building a core team these days, is very, very difficult. And sometimes, retaining top talent is harder than retaining a client.

5 : Systems
A design studio can have the right mix in terms of people, expertise and technology, but if they can’t get off the blocks in an organized manner, you’ve got a problem. We’re talking about workstream dynamics – which essentially means giving each project a logical, step-by-step followthrough. From a macro viewpoint this has a lot to do with assigning jobs to specialist teams, working with client feedback, integrating the various layers of operative technology and surviving wafer thin deadlines.

What you need here is synergy and integration of the highest order, because at the end of the day, you don’t just want to put the lid on a job. You want it to be a showcase in terms of technical excellence and creativity.

6 : Costs
Cost of project is probably the biggest hurdle in choosing a good team to work with. Because a good team usually comes with an upscale price tag. The higher you go, the heavier it gets. But there’s a logical way of looking at it. Is the project you’re working on critical to the showcasing of your organization ? Is it part of your communications strategy that’s aimed at new partnerships, new business or winning shareholder confidence ? Do you see yourself using it with minor revisions, over the next twelve months ?

If you find yourself saying “YES”, pick up the phone and call the boys over.

Any product / brand name mentioned in this article belongs to its registered owners. Any reference made is specific to the storyline of the article.

Life before PowerPoint

Today’s 50-year-old senior manager is an interesting blend of background and experience. He spans the emergence of technology over a critical two decades in the corporate world. His first word processor ? Probably a Smith Corona portable. His first presentation system ? The Kodak SAV 2000. (Let’s call him Alok, to make references easy.)

Today, Alok can put together a PowerPoint presentation within 30 minutes, using the templates on his notebook. While that doesn’t sound like rocket science, Alok sometimes goes back twenty-five years, to the time when he was a management trainee. When it took ten days to get a basic presentation together.

What you first did was roll out the presentation on a typewriter. After it was basically okayed by the Boss, you sent it out to your agency or design studio. An art director would then mark out a layout with type styles and send it off to the typesetting studio. All a typesetting studio did was follow the instructions on the typewritten sheet and compose the text on a typesetting machine. The output here was what we called a bromide – which simply means formatted text on photographic paper.

You’re only half-way through on this process.

The bromide output now goes back to the agency and a team of artists cut out the text portions to make individual slide artworks. This is where the text is spell-checked once again and corrections done by actually pasting little strips of corrected words over the misspelled words.

You’re about 60% done.

If you need graphs on the slide, the artist has to manually draw them out. Out here, each slide takes about 30 minutes to reach the flapping stage. That means the bromide is finally mounted on thicker board with a tracing sheet flapping paper. Why tracing sheet ? Just in case you find some more typos.

You’ve touched 80% on the completion scale.

Once the artworks are ready, they’re sent to the client. Which in this case, is young Alok, the management trainee. Alok checks the artworks carefully and shows them to his boss for a final okay. There’s a good chance here, that the Boss finds a few things wrong with the figures on the pie-charts. He does. Twenty slides out of 40 have corrections in them : the figures need to be updated.

You’re still about 80% done.

The art director marks out the corrections and sends it once again to the typesetter.
The corrections come in and the artworks are updated for Alok. This time he doesn’t show it to the Boss. He gives the go ahead.

You’re still about 80% done.

The artworks now make their final run, to the darkroom studio. Where there are copied on a large re-copying camera, by this chap under a black hood. What you now get are small transparent positives that are mounted within 35mm frames. After they’re mounted, the artist has one more thing to do. Pick up his brush and magnifier and hand color the slides with photo colors. After that, they’re placed inside a small box and sent to Alok, with a small note on artwork charges.

Alok ignores the note and gets ready to check out the slides on his Kodak SAV2000 projector. He has to load the slide tray by slipping each of his 40 slides into the respective gates in a sequential order. He then loads the tray on the projector and switches it on – throwing the image on the blank wall in his cubicle. As he goes through the slides using a remote, he’s got his fingers crossed : hope I don’t find another typo. Luckily, Alok doesn’t find any spelling mistakes, but he finds half-a-dozen slides that haven’t been aligned properly in the mounting process. So, those go back for re-alignment.

Alok has now got his presentation ready. He has to call in the Boss, before they make that pitch to the client tomorrow. The lights in the boardroom are dimmed and the projector is switched on. Alok takes the Boss through the presentation, relieved to hear a “very good” every two seconds. The 40th slide goes in and he breathes a sigh of relief. He can now go home to a warm bowl of soup.

As the lights come on, the Boss says, “Terrific job, Alok…I’ve just got one small problem : you might need to expand on slide 19. Can you slip in five more slides ? We’ve got ten whole hours before tomorrow’s presentation.”

Any product / brand name mentioned in this article belongs to its registered owners. Any reference made is specific to the storyline of the article.

Life after PowerPoint

What do you think happens when a client says he wants a “corporate” presentation ? Eyeballs pop, cash registers begin to ring and dozens of multimedia firms move in for the kill.

Welcome to the melting pot of hardsell, soft resistance and budgets that could hit the roof.

Sometimes, all a client needs is a simple, hard-working PowerPoint presentation; what he ends up with is a blockbuster that needs heavy-duty hardware and a mini-theatre with surround sound to view it in. In most cases the client digs his own soft earth, because he doesn’t know what he wants, he doesn’t know what he needs and he may not have the budgets for what he is embarking on.

So the entire pitch becomes an exercise in primary education; you need to explain options, you need to illustrate technology and you need to explain the different levels of a price ladder. This is where the client discovers fears that he probably never had before… like the fear of heights.

A primer for clients.

Things do get tough on the client’s side of the table. Tough, because you’ve got
to be accountable on money spent and answerable on every decision that you make. Most importantly, you’ve got to carry the can, if the project exceeds your budgets and falls short of expectations.

But what can clients do to make life easier ?

* Create an internal support system that provides information, offers assistance and is actually responsible for approvals as the job evolves.

* Make logical decisions on the level of technology that you seek. If you only need a first-rung PowerPoint presentation, don’t go up that ladder.

* Make a sincere attempt to work on objectives, a reasonable time plan and a realistic budget.

* Get all briefs approved by senior executives of the company. A good client brief that goes through its paces is an excellent starting point.

* Encourage the multi-media / design team to help you with the decision making process. Especially to match communication needs with compatible levels of technology

* Get the design team to map out a detailed response plan, with clearly outlined deliverables – concepts, scripts, production plans, post production, playback formats and milestones in terms of schedules.

A primer for design teams.

* Imagine what it could be like to be on the client’s side of the table. Understand the internal pressures of getting an ROI on project investments.

* Work closely with the client to understand marketing plans, communication objectives, project timeframes and cost parameters.

* Explain the intricacies of taxes that are added on to the final cost. In India
for instance, this can be a fairly hefty add-on.

* Help the client understand the technology platforms available, without a hard-sell on high tag options.

* Make sure the entire package includes a hands-on training / orientation session. Include a document that works like a help file.

* Build in a 12-month free support offer. In addition to being a useful value-add, clients will need to make revisions in content and visual support.

Any product / brand name mentioned in this article belongs to its registered owners. Any reference made is specific to the storyline of the article.