Thoughts about business and economic development in rural areas.

 

July 2009
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Archive for July, 2009

55-38-7 Is this an accurate gauge of presentation impact?

I shared a ride to the airport with one of the attendees from a conference where I had just delivered a presentation on exceptional customer service. One of the points I made referenced the 55-38-7 ‘rule’. I put the word ‘rule’ in quotations because that’s the term that is usually used but I personally think it is a bit misleading. ‘Guideline’ would be better. 55-38-7 means this: when making a presentation, 55% of your impact on the audience is related to visual things…the setting, the speaker’s dress, AV aids, etc. 38% of the impact is related to tonality as it relates to both the actual sound and the accompanying emotions. (Does the presenter speak with conviction, resolve, passion, etc.) The final 7% of impact relates to the words themselves.

Now there are plenty of arguments out there that this entire idea is a bad misuse of the work originally done by Professor Albert Mehrabian, Ph.D. of the University of California back in the late 1960′s. Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D. has an article on this topic that is worth reading. My travel companion raised another issue that deserves consideration. He questioned whether these percentages would be the same if measured today and if they would differ by age groups. Since we now do much more communication via email, twitter and even blogs like this one, aren’t there likely to be changes? An interesting thought and one that I would love to see researched.

But I think we’re missing the real point here. It’s not the actual percentages that are the main issue. It’s the core fact that each of these three areas, ‘visual’ ‘tonal’ and ‘words’ contribute in their own way to effective communication. Remove one or more of them and something, perhaps even a great deal, is being lost. My concern is that we are not doing enough to make up for those losses especially as more of our communication is being done electronically as opposed to face-to-face or even by phone.

Email is a prime example. With the loss of visual and tonal impact we should be spending a lot more time making sure that the ‘words’ are the most effective that we can find and that they are being used correctly. Unfortunately the reverse seems to be the case. Too much is being done in haste and most of it is being done badly to boot.

To provide Exceptional Customer Service we need to do all we can to make each encounter as personal and as effective as possible. That’s why I recommend that associations and businesses include photos of their staff members on their websites. Customers want to deal with PEOPLE and not faceless entities. Exceptional Customer Service is almost always related to a  memorable moment involving an encounter with a real human being. Photos and bios go a long way to help make that happen. Even Twitter gets it by making it possible to include a photo or personal icon along with your message.

So don’t worry about the relative percentages. It can be 55-38-7 or 33-33-34 or whatever. The importance is in understanding that there are many contributing factors and that when we lose even one of them we need to be making extra efforts to compensate. Exceptional Customer Service is too important to be relegated to words only.

Room on the Plate

Innovation can be challenging. It’s easy to say, “Think outside the box” and then try to come up with new ideas. There are lot’s of techniques and processes that can help. Heck there’s a whole shelf of books promoting great methods to help you and your business become more innovative. And the exciting fact is that many of them work. (My personal favourite over the years has been “Storyboarding”.) But the one topic that no one seems to ever address is this, “Where do we find the time and resources to implement these new ideas?”

Yep, one big glaring omission from the process and an obstacle bigger than Megatron. (My daughter took me to the new Transformers movie yesterday so I couldn’t resist.) Oh, I know what the supervisor, company president, committee chairman, Mayor or other grand pooh-bah in charge will say. “We’ll all have to just work a little harder, but it will be worth it. If everyone gives 110% we can make these changes happen.”

Gag me with a spoon. Let’s just ignore the fact that 110% is impossible in that stupid cliche. The real insult is that this attitude supposes that everyone is currently slacking off and adding new ideas and responsibilities won’t really pose a problem. There’s a real morale booster. Now if the PIC (person-in-charge) is talking about adding staff to handle the new stuff that’s a different story…a story we don’t usually hear, especially in challenging economic times. (And they are ‘always’ challenging economic times.)

So what do organizations that want to try new things without adding staff do to deal with this obstacle? Here’s one suggestion that is usually overlooked. Call it the Two-Thirds Rule for Innovative Success. At the beginning of each planning period every organization should conduct a complete evaluation of current activities and rank the effectiveness and importance of each to the organization using the mission statement as the ultimate measuring tool. (You do have a mission statement, don’t you? If you have to dust off a copy or send someone to find one you have problems not addressed in this post.)

Once you have these activities/tasks ranked, draw a line two-thirds of the way down the list. Everything below that line is expendable. They can, and probably SHOULD, go away. Spend your valuable time and resources on things that make up the top two-thirds of your list and then spend time developing and implementing new ideas that will keep your company, community or organization fresh, exciting and growing.

Here’s an innovative thought. Recognize that change and new ideas can’t be implemented until you make room on the plate!