The 3am presentation test

I recently overheard this advice on presentations. I can’t credit the source but I love the sentiment.
“You need to be so familiar with your topic that if someone wakes you up at three in the morning and shines a light in your eyes you can still talk about it”

The 5P Business Case – Part 2

Video is an important part of the communication channel mix for employees, but building the business case can be a challenge. To build the case for including video as part of your overall communication infrastructure, cover these five points.

  1. Pain. Find the right opportunity that is causing pain: what challenges need attention, what change is under way, what results need to shift? Is the pain at the top, or is it your employees who need help?
  2. Partners. Find internal sponsors: who has the greatest stake in addressing this issue? What will they invest to see the situation change?
  3. Potential benefit. Put a price on success: What is the value of addressing this issue?
  4. Pilot. Before a TV series is made, producers invest in a pilot to test the concept. This is a solid approach for internal video. Start small to test capability, appetite, and audience.
  5. Prove. Measure the impact of the initiative to build momentum

In the last post, we covered Pain and Partners. Now lets look at Potential, Pilot and Prove.


What is the current situation costing the business? What will solving the problem contribute to the business?

At an enterprise level, doing anything that improves communication pays dividends. Companies with effective communication financially outperform those with ineffective communication. A long-term study has demonstrated this can mean that over a 5 year period, a company with effective communication would return 1.7 times higher shareholder returns.[1]

The same study showed that 70% of highly effective organisations agree that “The use of internal social business/collaboration tools for work-related purposes has a positive impact on employee productivity at my organisation.

In order to build the case, however, it will be necessary to get specific.

By clearly defining the change in knowledge or behaviour, you can calculate a return.

  • Will sales increase with better training? Will the time to learn new products reduce?
  • Will safety improve? Will incidents reduce? What is the current cost? What would an improvement mean in terms of days lost?
  • What is the current cost of all staff town hall meetings?

Not every initiative will have a definite dollar positive outcome. Other organisational outcomes may be valuable too. However, in seeking investment for an initiative, it can be useful to target opportunities where there are both financial and non-financial benefits to demonstrate the result.

In defining the potential benefits, work with your partners from Finance to ensure your calculations are relevant and acceptable in your business.


Based on the problem and the potential benefit, where can you start?

By clearly identifying the business outcome a communication activity is designed to solve, measurement becomes a simpler task. In each of the following examples, identifying the costs of the current state, and quantifying the outcomes provides a simple method of targeting benefits.

Potential Benefits

Potential Benefits

PROVE the case

What just happened? What changed as a result? How did people use the new approach?

Effective measurement is a perennial topic in communication. While top marketers are comfortable with demonstrating traffic, leads and conversions, internal communicators sometimes struggle with clearly demonstrating the return on initiatives.

However, if you have clearly identified the business outcomes, been clear about how video will help contribute to the solution, you are in a strong position to measure the impact.

Analytics packages allow for detailed viewing behaviour to be measured: who watched for how long, where and what did they use to watch, when did their attention shift. These data help shape the approach and provide essential information for looking at the impact of video content. Combined with audience feedback, this information will contribute to the evaluation of a pilot.


Prove the impact

Prove the impact

It’s a wrap – for now…

Video is an iterative channel. It grows and evolves with your overall business strategy. Great stories have a way of capturing people’s attention. If you find the right opportunity and take a strategic approach, people will take notice. You can transform a tactic – a broadcast, a leader message, an employee story – into a powerful strategic tool. Taking a planned approach to building the case and demonstrating the outcomes is the first step in making video an integral part of your engagement agenda and delivering valued outcomes to your business.


[1] Towers Watson 2013 – 2014 Change and Communication ROI Study Report


How storyboards shape your storytelling

Garr Reynolds, better known as PresentationZen is, alongside Nancy Duarte, one of the authorities on presenting and presentations. He posted recently on using storyboards to help craft your story and refine your message. He includes some excellent clips from Pixar’s Bug’s Life and Toy Story storyboard process.

A good storyboard artist is a good storyteller. The drawings do not have to be pretty, but they must have the meaning and the feelings behind the idea –  Garr Reynolds

One of the examples of the storyboarding process Garr includes shows the late Joe Ranft in the storyboard and pitching process for A Bugs Life.

See his full post here Presentation Zen: Storyboarding & the art of finding your story.

Pixar President Ed Catmull on open communication

Communication needs to be between anybody at any time. Outside the structure, and outside the order.

Ed Catmull, President Pixar

In a short video interview, Ed Catmull talks about the challenges to open communication on Toy Story.

via Fastcompany

Ed Catmull, President Pixar

Is Adobe Voice really a storytelling app?

When the interwebs went a little crazy for the announcement of Adobe Voice, the new iPad-based ‘storytelling’ app, my first reaction was skepticism. After all, ‘story’ and ‘storytelling’ are terms that get bandied around a LOT. Rather than be critical initially, I deleted a snarky tweet, went to the app store and gave it a try.

Wow. Let me repeat that. Wow. I created my first Voice in about 15 minutes. I’m not saying it’s going to win a Golden Lion, but as an example of what this can do a tool for pulling together an idea rapidly, you’ll get the idea.

As an occasional gadget geek, I have like shiny objects. But immediately I can see this has some real potential for helping people structure messages, think through what they want to say and get ideas across in a simple way. There are a variety of basic story structures to select from; promote an idea, explain a concept, share a personal experience, and even the classic hero’s journey. There are a selection of visual themes, the ability to draw from a broad range of icons, or the options to draw in files from the cloud, from Facebook or take a fresh pic on the spot. It is a very intuitive interface.

I’m excited by the potential something like this has for capturing ideas and helping people share their stories within organisations. In fact, I predict a Prezi like rush on people putting this to use. I’ll keep experimenting and save a longer post when I get some feedback from other #comms and #internalcomms folk.

In the meantime, give it a try and let me know how you would use this in your communication toolkit.

Note: I have no affiliation with Adobe and this is review is an independent perspective. 

AWC announces Best Australian Blogs 2014 Winners

The Australian Writers’ Centre have announced the winners of the Best Australian Blogs for 2014 and features, and there are a couple of great ones for communication folk to check out.

The winning business blog, Socially Sorted has some great tips on social media marketing, with a healthy balance of resources, tips, tools. In terms of content marketing, it fulfils its own brief very well and has lots of shareable advice I will be striving to apply.

The best writing blog is TwentySix by writer and sometime social media blogger Andrew Hutchinson. He has some great perspectives on storytelling, and is very frank about the process of writing.

The overall winner, The Hungry Australian is a mouth watering food blog from South Australian, Christina Soong.

The full list is here at the Australian Writers’ Centre Best Australian Blogs: Winners 2014 – Australian Writers’ Centre. Congratulations!

Leading the first 100 days

Listening is one of the most important tasks for any leader in the first 100 days.

Today marks 100 days since NSW’s Premier Barry O’Farrell took office, and everyone is talking 100 day plans.  In politics, the term ‘first 100 days’ was used by US President Teddy Roosevelt on entering office in 1933. It is a symbolic period: three months; a season.

For leaders, listening is key to the first 100 days

For leaders, listening is key to the first 100 days

In business and organisations, the concept of the first 100 days was popularised over the last decade following the success of Michael Watkins’ 2003 book The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels

Watkins outlines a number of areas of focus for leaders for leaders following transition – taking up a new role. These include:

  • Self promotion
  • Learning the new environment
  • Adapting your strategy to the new situation
  • Achieving some early successes – and establishing a vision
  • Negotiating agreement with the boss
  • Aligning the organisation
  • Building the team
  • Establishing a stakeholder and supporter base
  • Keeping focused on the right things
  • Using change to maintain momentum

Many new leaders in organisations struggle with the balance of delivering quick wins that are based on the current organisation, not only on what has worked for them elsewhere. During these changes, one of the most important actions in listening. The challenge is for leaders to be honest enough to say ‘I don’t know yet’. The 90 day planning process is valuable because it builds in a period of information gathering and planning based on a diligent approach.

Organisational listening
In addition to being a key leadership skill, there are many ways to listen to an organisation.

While a leader does not need to go to the lengths of Shakespeare’ Henry V or Undercover Boss, there are some ways to listen effectively to the people in the organisation:

  • Visit the places where work is done – don’t summon people to head office.
  • Small groups allow for people to be heard. Don’t gather 100 people and ask them a question.
  • Ask open questions – “What are you working on at the moment?” “What would make that easier?”
  • Be authentic from the outset.
  • Where there may be concerns about an open culture, supplement dialogue with formal research such as independent focus groups or interviews, being open about the purpose and intent.

The Communicator’s Guide to 30 June

Save the date! 30 June is a great time for communicating.

The end of financial year is a busy time for almost every type of organisation. For communicators, there are a few end of year activities that are useful for employees. For leadership communication, it is also a time to consider the messages for the second half of the year. Here are some of the top communication activities to incorporate into your June plans in order to be prepared.

Business Communication Activities

  • Is your employee data up to date? Correct, current employee data is essential for organisations, but it doesn’t take long for records to get out of date. The employee Payment Summaries generated for the financial year are a great trigger for tackling this. If your organisation uses employee self-service or e-HR, remind employees to update their details so their payment summaries can be sent to the right place. There is a strong ‘what’s in it for me’ (WIIFM) factor for employees to correct this information, so this can also be a good time to conduct a related campaign for other data such as emergency contact details or communication preferences such as mailing lists.
  • Be useful at tax time. Consider promoting external links to the ATO within the HR sections of your intranet highlighting anything that may be of particular interest to your employees.
  • Explain legislative change to your employees. In Australia, Paid Parental Leave provisions come into effect from 1 July. There are a range of support resources from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
  • Not now, I’m accounting. Different professions have different peaks and troughs through the year. For your organisation’s accountants, financial services teams and payroll services areas, now is not the time to send an employee survey or long communications about benefits. Be thoughtful about what messages are important, and which ones can wait until the following month for these groups.

Leaders and Manager Communication

  • Celebrate the year to date. For those parts of the business who have a high workload in the lead up to end of financial year, remember to schedule some time or an event for celebration to recognise the effort when everything is over.
  • Set the course for the rest of the year. The leaders of the business should be considering the messages required for the second half of the year and begin incorporating them into their communication activities. The following questions can prompt leaders to think about what messages are required:
    • What has happened in your market or industry over the first half of the year
    • What is the most important thing from a customer perspective? From a competitor perspective? From an investor perspective?
    • What successes and challenges has the business faced so far?
    • What has worked well? Who should be celebrated and recognised?
    • What are the three ‘big things’ to focus on for the second half of the year?

Every organisation is different, so these tasks can vary. Choosing financial milestone dates can be an effective way to encourage even the most reticent managers to reflect on their communication needs.

Follow, Filter and Fold Together

How to use Twitter as a research tool and manage information overload

Catching ideas. Vivid Sydney Launch.

Sydney is doing its best to create information overload through May and June. With the Vivid festival, Creative Sydney, AMPlify festival, Sydney Writers Festival and TEDxSydney (just gone), Sydney Film Festival and a mass of related events, noone has any excuse to be bored.

With so many events, how can you keep track of the things that might be relevant to your industry or creative pursuits?

With Twitter and it can be quite easy. If you haven’t dived into the Twitterverse, this is the perfect opportunity to do so – with a purpose.

Choose the organisations, companies or individuals that are of interest. There are a couple of ways of finding them on Twitter. The first is to search Twitter directly. This can be relatively simple for some organisations, but there can be so many different accounts, spellings and other factors that it can take time to track down the right one. The second, easier way is to go to the websites of the organisations of interest, find their official social media links and follow those.

There are some great tools within twitter that you can use to begin filtering information so that you get more of what is of interest and less of the noise.

Lists. Taking a moment to create some categories for the accounts you want to follow will provide benefits down the track. You can then create a list for each of these major topics. For example, a communicator might choose to have a few lists such as:

  • Agencies
  • Thought Leaders
  • Clients
  • Media
  • Associations
  • Colleagues

As you find new Twitter accounts to follow, take the time to add them to one or more list categories.

Hashtags: The next essential Twitter tool is the hashtag. Take the time to explore and watch how those accounts that are of interest and see what tags are used.

Conferences and the ‘livetweet’. Livetweeting is one of the greatest aspects of Twitter. While there is seldom any substitute for being there at a great conference or event, finding and following the right tags for the event can be a great source of potted wisdom, triggers for new contacts and links to great information sources.

Find the official hashtags for the events and organisations that are of interest. You can create and save these searches.

Fold it together
There are a number of tools that let you aggregate this information.

Twitter clients. There will be a twitter client to suit you depending on your systems, mobile, aesthetic preferences. Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are two examples. These applications will allow you to view lists and searches easily.

The personal touch. The range of Twitter clients are excellent, but how do you make it a little more fun. is an excellent resource that enables you to specify lists, twitter accounts, search terms and hashtags and create a ‘newspaper’ from the tweets.

You have significant control over the content and can then share this information in a range of ways – via email, tweet or webpage. It integrates with Facebook as well as Twitter, so you have a great range of sources from which to draw.

There is a degree of ‘randomisation’ – not everything these sources produce will be included every time. It is still a great way of bringing together the collective content of all the sources that interest you in one space.

BrainBusiness is an example, sourced from the range of organisations, speakers and events underway across Sydney over the next few months.


Induction, undercover: lessons from Undercover Boss Australia Pt 4

For Ray Schliebs, the new CEO of Big4 Holiday Park, taking part in Undercover Boss Australia during his first week at the company was a chance to be inducted into all aspects of the business.

Undercover Boss Australia

Twitter suggests next series of Undercover Boss

Affable Schliebs comes to his first day the role with extensive experience in travel, tourism and hospitality. He is at ease with the employees at all levels and demonstrates an open rapport. Years of experience at the front line of travel has equipped him to be a good listener and to relate to a diverse range of people.

The first three months for an executive is a critical time. In that period, new leaders need to understand the organisation and set about achieving early success that will enable their subsequent agenda. Michael Watkins, author of The First 90 Days, recommends that new executives need to accelerate their learning. By going to a range of parks, Schliebs get to hear from the owners about what is working and what keeps them awake at night, important inputs to the strategic direction of the park.

How can leaders capitalise on being the new kid?

  • Introduce yourself. Managers and employees will interpret your comments, behaviours and decisions from the outset.
  • Get out and about. Starting in the company is a fantastic reason to see the operations. Start the way you mean to continue.
  • Ask open questions. What are you working on? How does that work? What has been working? What would you change? How can I help?
  • Listen. Then listen more.

As my mother would say, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

The human face of organ transplant
Australia has one of the highest rates of success for organ transplant operations in the world, yet a transplant rate that is up to 50% lower than other countries. This episode of Undercover Boss included the story of Quentin, a Queensland park franchisee who has been able to continue a life with his family as a result of a successful transplant. For more information on organ donation, visit Ticking the box is not enough, and Donate Life includes resources for you to discuss your wishes with your family.

Disclosure: I have previously provided volunteer communication services for Transplant Australia and currently for ShareLife Australia.