Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Man from P.O.S.T. - "The Where to Prioitize a Technology Decision Affair"

Despite the fact that for over half of my career technology companies have (and continue to) pay my mortgage - I have always been a long standing, and increasing vocal, proponent of the idea that in deciding on any business process change or innovation the technology must come last.

A topic I devote a whole chapter to in the upcoming THE CONTENT POOL book (end of shameless plug).

At the 2011 LavaCon conference I even ended up getting a quick round of applause during the conference closing panel discussion for the statement that audience members should stop talking about tools and start talking about business need. A sign that I thought that we were making some headway.

Then yesterday I was invited on a conference call for a project that has been ticking over for nearly three years now and is not making any apparent progress. The reason quickly became apparent as conversation quickly got into the weeds about the features / functions and development efforts needed around three alternative technology options.

When I asked the basic question of what was the project's high level business objective, no-one could actually articulate it. Was this a project for the customer communication,, or was it a project to prove that something could be done using existing technology? Again, no clear response.

Over lunch afterwards, a friend reminded me of the acronym POST developed by the Forrester's consulting group. P.O.S.T.

Forrester's created the P.O.S.T. approach as part of developing a corporate social network strategy - but I believe it applies equally as well to the world of content strategy (Of which social network content should be a part anyway).

P. = People
O. = Objectives
S. = Strategy
T. = Technology

Seems obvious doesn't it. Start with those who have a need, figure out the things you need to do to fill that need, develop a strategy to do it, and then think about the tools you can use to do it.

You should be thinking along the lines of "We need to decrease the time it takes to get our content changes into the hands of our customers," not "We need to install Wizgadget3.0."

Or as my lunch companion neatly summed it up -

If you put the "T" first, all your are left with is a P.O.S.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Every Presentation, Ever: A Communication Failure?

I have spent, and continue to spend, a lot of my professional life either giving, or sitting through presentations. I have seen every one of the communication failures parodied in this video.

After I'd watched the video and smiled in recognition, and even winced occasionally about things know I've done in the past. I started thinking about the title.

Is every presentation ever given an exercise in communications failure?

I would submit that the vast majority are - sure there are good ones (see the various TED talks for instance), but most presentations are simply a dry regurgitation of facts and ideas that could be better expressed in much more entertaining and different ways.


By focusing on the speaker, not on the PowerPoint.

Think about the conference sessions you remember most - I bet it was the ones with the energtic, passionate, articulate speakers, rather than the ones with the prettiest slides. I have seen a growing trend amongst top rated speakers and presenters to just use single image slides acting as a backdrop to a particular point as a way of getting the audience to focus on them and the message they are delivering. I even have spoken to several other regular conference speakers about dropping the use of slides altogether, but conference organizers seem to get scared when you say you don't have any slides.

During the course of the year I attend two distinct types of industry events, first there are the technical and business conferences, then as a pop-culture writer there are the the various conventions. For as long as I have been attending science-fiction and comics conventions the default way of communicating with the audience is to have a panel of guests discuss a particular topic in which they have a stated interest, or experience. No PowerPoints, just people discussing what they know and what they are passionate about. The results are invariably both enlightening and entertaining.

Yet business conferences are still dominated by the "person in front of a slide deck" model. - Why? Over the last couple of years I've been lucky enough to be invited in a few business conferences that have experimented with the panel approach (usually just one or two in a program dominated by presentations), and in every case they have been well received, and a joy to participate in.

But it doesn't necessarily need a panel to get that same effect. I mentioned the TED talks earlier - many of the most viewed videos are of a single person on stage, just talking. Sharing ideas with a passion.

Of all the presentations I have ever sat through the most spell-binding was from graphic design guru Edward Tufte who spoke for a whole day on the subject of graphics, and never once used a PowerPoint slide.

Instead of "presenting" information and hiding behind slide decks we should be encouraging expression of ideas, conversations, and discussion. - That's what communication is really about.

Friday, January 6, 2012

That Was The Week That Was ....

I'm not sure I could have asked for a better first full week of the New Year. No matter how I look at it 2012 looks like it's going to be a promising, exciting, and busy year in the world of Content Strategy and Business Communications in general, and on a personal level for 4Js Group as well.

Let's take a look at what made this week such a perfect start to the year.

  • I kicked off the week by delivering the final manuscript for "THE CONTENT POOL" book on Content Strategy to the fine team at XML Press for final copy edits, indexing, and layout. - We are looking at publication in the first half of the year. - As soon as we have nailed down a date I'll post it here and on my twitter accounts. - I'll also be posting updates here as the book goes through the final stages before publication.
  • On the conference front, it looks like I will be speaking at this year's Lavacon in Portland in October. Lavacon has rapidly become on of my favorite events of the year, and I always enjoy speaking there.

As I mentioned, overall a great week - and a great start to the New Year.