CORPORATE PRESENTATIONS Weapons of Mass Persuasion – The battle for executives’ minds

In perfect world, executives shouldn’t need fancy technology to convey strong message to an audience, but somewhere along the line expectations have ratcheted far beyond flipcharts and overhead projector transparencies. Today’s executives can’t help but judge presenters by the level of technology they deploy to deliver their message.
Increasingly, sophisticated audiences equate standards of presentation to an organisation’s image. In other words, stop presenting with yesterday’s technology and get with the times.

Shining examples
Data/video or multimedia projectors continue to pack punch. Today’s projectors are light years ahead of the big, ugly, noisy boxes of the ’80s and ’90s, able to handle all manner of image sources and often operating without the need for wires. Projector manufacturers are still making them lighter, brighter and quieter. While ANSI lumens – the standard for measuring brightness – is around 1250 for entry-level models, most projectors are now usually between the 2000 to 3000 mark. Contrast ratios are much higher too, as is resolution, with XGA (1024×768 pixels) becoming more popular and SXGA (1280×1024 pixels) or higher available on high-end machines.
All of which means presenters and audiences no longer have to sit in darkened room to enjoy clear, sharp imagery.
Latest market releases include Canon’s new black XEED SX50, which comes with high definition LCOS (liquid crystal on silicon) – technology said to offer major advantages over traditional projection options. These Canon projectors come with higher (SXGA+) resolution, seamless imagery, superior text display and enhanced performance on moving images.
Another new entrant, Epson’s EMP-830/835, backs its lighter 740/745 stable-mate in using the popular three-panel LCD projection system, recognising that three projection panels are better than one.
Moves by projector manufacturers Fujitsu, Hitachi, Panasonic, Sanyo and Sony to join Epson in promoting 3LCD technology worldwide show the technology lives up to its reputation for performance.
There is no need for presenters to get hung up on the technologies behind each particular model although it pays to be aware that longstanding debate rages over the various strengths and weaknesses of liquid crystal display (LCD) versus digital light processing (DLP), the two most common systems used in modern projectors.
Manufacturers continue to produce projectors in sizes ranging from the baby PLUS model that almost fits in the palm of the hand, to stand-up models such as the 1.7 kilogram HP Digital Projector mp3130. Those for whom design plays major part in purchasing decisions could well take look at the Pininfarina-designed ‘binocular’ shaped 3M projectors. We’ve come long way from the square box.
Projectors fall into three broad categories: fixed conference or boardroom models; portables; and ultra-portables, those notebook-size projectors for the serious road-warrior presenter.
Companies don’t need to invest large sums of money to satisfy their requirements. Sanyo, for example, has models retailing for less than $2000.
Key buying considerations include portability, lamp-life (still the most expensive component), fan noise, high-speed wireless function (presenters’ laptops can now be on the opposite side of the room), and the ability to perform PC-free presentations (thanks to special slots on the projectors that allow presenters to run their PowerPoint presentations via memory card).
The PC-free feature minimises incompatibility problems between PC/laptop and projector and, where there are large numbers of presenters, makes file searching easy. It is not uncommon for presenter to arrive at venue equipped only with memory stick.

More tools of the trade
While good projector is vital for doing justice to accompanying images, it can dominate room. Colin Charles, business equipment manager at Tech Rentals, suggests presenters wanting an uncluttered presentation area opt for plasma screen or 30-inch LCD screen.
Charles charts number of significant recent trends in presentation technology. Chief among them is the emergence of portable and rechargeable sound systems using multiple-channel radio frequencies and completely wireless right down to the lapel microphone.
Increasing numbers of presenters are using video cameras during their talks – either for recording purposes (now direct to DVD) or for projecting an image of themselves on to the screen. The latest generation of 3CCD digital cameras, while priced from as little as $2500, can capture high-definition, TV-quality images.
Charles also predicts an upsurge in the deployment of LCD and plasma screens at conference centres and public venues. The sight of curved LCD panel stretching right across busy street four storeys up in Seoul, South Korea – plus the technology’s increased affordability – leads him to believe cinema-size screens will become common feature at larger corporate presentations.

Board talk
Whiteboards and their electronic cousins form the bread and butter end of the market.
According to James Major, company spokesman for Acme Office Supplies, the PLUS M5 copyboard represents one of the most significant developments in recent times. Available in both wall-mounted and mobile variants, the M5 is compact (1175 x 708mm) electronic whiteboard for managers who regularly hold in their own offices small meetings with staff or clients.
Major says the M5 meets previously untapped market demand, with raft of latest features including the ability to download notes onto CompactFlash card or via USB connection to laptop or PC for distribution.
In their most evolved state whiteboards are interactive, with market leader SMART Technologies supplying the market with its SMART boards. These allow users to access and control any computer application or multimedia platform, including the internet, CDs and DVDs, at the touch of the screen.
Smart boards make great collaboration tools for presenters in classrooms and boardrooms, and Rob Love of Manzana Interactive Surfaces reports that the latest software (Version 9.0), which is freely available, goes several steps further in functionality.
“This software runs on all models, even the very first sold 10 years ago,” says Love. “It keeps this technology cutting edge but is as easy to use as flipchart.”
Perhaps the most significant new feature is the ability to incorporate Flash content such as videos, animations and drawings into presentations. Another important enhancement involves better integration with wireless and mobile devices. “Walk into the room with your PC,” says Love, “and the board will quickly recognise your device, allowing you to get started immediately.”
With or without smart board Love believes collaborative interactivity between the presenter and audience members is the key to successful presentations.
He advises presenters to encourage audience members to contribute some commentary during their presentation. “Solicit information that can be written into the presentation [a smart board allows this] to ensure active attention.” Let the audience take ownership of the presentation and watch as buy-in goes up.

Presenting to conference room full of people is not for the faint-hearted. Video Promotions’ Steve King provides some pointers for both novice and seasoned presenters.
Consider the use of teleprompter to aid presentation delivery. This takes the pressure off presenters to learn lengthy speeches verbatim and encourages clear, flowing communication. It also enhances eye contact with the audience and avoids presentations running over time.
• Build in some fun. Comedy and appropriate humour help break up heavy programme.
• Deliver information in innovative ways. Consider using an interview format, perhaps with an MC or confident, extroverted team member chatting on stage with key support office staff.
• Set up an internet/intranet site where audience m

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