Believe me, my newly purchased Ectaco Universal Translator ML320 came in handy when my video technician, who spoke very little English, needed to go to my backup computer on a recent job in Istanbul, Turkey…
Halfway around the world, the speakers are pretty much the same. They point the remote at the screen thinking that they can change the slides this way. They turn the lav microphone off or cover it with their hand, fearing they will be overheard having a private conversation, or worse yet be heard in the bathroom like Leslie Nielsen in Naked Gun. And they turn and read off the screen when the same image is right in front of them on the confidence monitor… alas, some things never change.
The audio visual crew, however, was a whole different story. Not only did the four techs running the sound, audio, and lights speak little or no english, but the contractors from the audience response system company were also native Turks. Initially, I did a lot of pointing and talked very slow. I even drew a picture once to explain to the crew what type of set up I needed.
Everyone was very friendly and as accomodating as possible, however the language barrier proved to be a real challenge. Eventually, though, a lightheartness on the matter took over, when we realized that to pull off the show, we’d better figure out a way to communicate technical phrases by using hand signals and my trusty new Translator ML320… Can you say freeze the screen? I can… Buzlanmak Ekran! Well it might not be the exact translation, but it worked!
What a wonderful, challenging experience and I, not being one to shy from a challenge, had a great time and made some new contacts in a country I had never been to… in a culture I was in awe of. When I ordered toast from the room service menu, I never expected to be delivered the entire toaster! And I learned quickly that I’d better leave my room key in the slot by the door or find myself fumbling in the dark 45 seconds later. Who does that? …rigs a room so that the room key controls the lights!??.
After the show concluded, I did have a rare opportunity to tour the city with my client and experience a little bit of life in Istanbul. Back now, on my native soil, I wish I could have stayed and seen more. I just got used to the Turkish coffee (wow!) and got my sleep somewhat straightened out and the trip was over. I now have to email some pictures to my new “associates” in Turkey, convert some left over Turkish Lira at the bank, and look forward to my next challenge in the world of presentation management contracting.
What a great experience and notch on my growing resume. If you book a job in Istanbul, contact me… I can recommend a great AV team!
Posted by Mary Waldera at 11:40 PM .
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There is an old story, probably apocryphal, about the renowned presenter who was asked what he does to prepare himself just before going in front of an audience. His reply: “I check to see that my fly is zipped.” Good advice? Or missed opportunity?
Shock. Surprise. Humor. Suspense. There are few things that grab attention like an unzipped zipper. And isn’t attention the primary and necessary ingredient in the persuasion process? Without it a presentation is the sound of one hand clapping. Without it a presenter is the guy in the burning room on the tenth floor balcony yelling for help while 2,000 people watch a parade pass by.
Attention is a precious commodity these days. The problem is not that our attention spans have biologically eroded. (We are still thinking with the same 3-pound lumps of gray Play-Doh that we have used for millennia.) The problem is that a large, fast-changing, information-rich and media-saturated society sucks up attention like a seven-year-old downing a milkshake. Our capacity for attention is a constant. The demand for our attention is an exponentially increasing variable. The phenomenon is well-documented and regularly addressed by sociologists, psychologists, biologists, politicians, ad agencies and…what was I saying? Oh, yes. Attention.
Driven to Distraction
Despite all the attention being paid to the attention shortfall, there is no reason to expect the situation will improve. If we wish to capture attention, our only course of action is to enhance our attention solicitation skills. And I don’t mean learning to scream ever louder. Many presenters and presentation professionals pride themselves on their ability to win the attention of an audience. But how many actually take the time to study, learn, practice and improve attention-grabbing skills the way, say, a comic juggler, teenager, fashion model or deranged psychotic might?
I’ve sat in on more than my share of presentations over the years, and in that time I have seen a stunning array of attention-getters: presenters riding onstage on motorcycles, flying in from the ceiling, appearing in a puff of smoke. I have seen prestigious and respected individuals wearing funny hats, wigs and costumes of every sort. Fireworks, cannons, light shows, circus animals, marching bands, chariots, space ships, rowboats, you name it, it’s been used to yank attention. I have seen presentations that start with grabbers, such as “The world will end in exactly five minutes.” (It didn’t) I have seen presenters start by throwing money into the audience. (Real money.) One guy started his sales motivational speech by intimating that he once slept with Kathy Lee Gifford. I once saw a presenter begin by having someone shave his head. (He lost a bet.) Come to think of it, about the only thing I haven’t seen is, you guessed it, someone with their zipper open.
Obviously, the most extreme examples of attention-grabbing tend to be gimmicks or stunts that have little relevance to the meat of the presentation. A purist might argue that a truly great presentation with a powerful message is so grippingly relevant that gimmicks are superfluous.
Good Attention. Bad Attention.
Big event or small, overt or subtle, the real trick, the essence of the craft, is to become expert at not only getting attention, but getting the right kind of attention.
Good attention is the kind that not only peels eyelids back over foreheads and superglues audiences to their seats, but also heightens receptivity and reinforces the message. Bad attention is the kind that distracts the audience in such a way that all they can remember afterward is that the CEO wore a gorilla suit.
I once interviewed a young and successful dotcom founder who at the time sported a full beard. It was just after lunch and as soon as we sat down I noticed a speck of something stuck in his facial forest just beneath his lower lip. I struggled to keep my eyes from darting down to his chin, but the speck drew my gaze the way a vole grabs the attention of a barn owl perched 100 feet up in a pine tree. Whether it was courtesy or cowardice, I resisted telling him, but I could barely keep my mind on the interview. Eventually, he turned his head to pick up something. When the light caught his face at a different angle I saw that the speck was a tiny metal stud in the piercing below his lip. I assume that, as with most body jewelry, he put it there to draw attention. But, in that context, he generated the wrong kind of attention…and never knew it.
If I still have your attention, here is a selection of resources that pay attention to attention. If you have other resources to recommend, please add them in the form of a reply. If you are a presentation developer, you might also care to share one of your most (or least) successful attention-getters.
This site from a course at Webster University and based on the 1986 book Principles and Types of Speech Communication (43 cents on Amazon) by Douglas Ehninger, lists nine fundamental attention-getting factors and a few attention-holding factors.
This academic reference taken from a 1997 book, Designing and Delivering Scientific, Technical, and Managerial Presentations by Peter Hager and H.J. Scheiber (89 bucks on Amazon) has a credible, if mundane, list of opening techniques.
If they are really a tough crowd, why not try this teacher tip on your corporate audience.
The Web, and particularly the blogosphere, sometimes seems like one huge scream for attention. Millions of people wearing funny glasses and making armpit farts. (Okay, yes, I am posting this to a blog, but solely for purposes of professional development.) It may be that we are seeing on the Web the evolution of a new paradigm in attention-getting. This post from Flickrnation offers ten tips to get attention on Flickr. [scroll down] Give it a look. Many of the tips apply to any sort of presentation activity and may well provide clues as to how to snare the attention of the Flickr Generation.
Check out this straightforward quote by Caterina Fake, (her real name?) one of the founders of Flickr. “What is more thrilling than an entire hall of expectant eyes, what more overwhelming than applause surging up to us? What, lastly, equals the enchantment sparked off by the delighted attention we receive from those who profoundly delight ourselves? – Attention by other people is the most irresistible of drugs. To receive it outshines receiving any other kind of income. This is why glory surpasses power and why wealth is overshadowed by prominence.”
Read about ADT (attention deficit trait) in this C/Net News article by Alorie Gilbert.
Or, maybe we should all read Dr. Hallowell’s book: CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap – Strategies for Coping in a World Gone ADD.
On this blog a venture capitalist talks about the Attention Crisis. I wonder if he’s working on an ADD IPO.
In the fields of psychology, education and advertising, attention is one of the most heavily studied human cognitive functions. For those of you who would like to learn more, but have a short attention span, Wikipedia has a brief history of the study of attention and some useful links.
Quote: “The best way to get attention is to give it.”
Thongs get attention. (video)
And, if all else fails, there’s always the zipper.
Posted by Robert L. Lindstrom at 6:08 PM .
From FOX News: Soldier’s Diary: The Importance of PowerPoint Slides in Iraq
“Approximately three days ago, I put together a PowerPoint briefing for my commander. It had the right info, but was not displayed in the proper manner. It’s a lesson I have learned on this staff, and over the last six years in general: How you present information is often just as important as the information you present. When it comes to this job, if your audience, be it your boss or soldiers under you, don’t understand the information you are trying to send across, they might make a decision based on the information they thought they heard, and it can cost lives.” Link
Posted by Tom Bunzel at 12:56 PM .
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