1. 8 Tips To Keep Your Audience Engaged

    July 30, 2011 by

    8 Tips To Keep Your Audience Engaged

    speaking

    Holding the attention of an audience is a challenge for any speaker or presenter due to the short attention span of the audience and other factors such as time of the day, topic of the presentation and the visual aids used.

    Fortunately, there are several tips you can follow to draw the audiences’ attention and get them actively involved. In the article below Olivia Mitchell of Effective Speaking Skills, http://www.effectivespeaking.co.nz,  provides 8 tips.

    Ahmed Abbas
    BPIR.com


    What to do when you’re losing your audience
    by Olivia Mitchell

    Your audience’s attention will fade over time unless you take specific steps to keep them engaged.

    Here’s a graph showing the attention of university students during a 50 minute lecture – where the lecturer lost his audience (Reference: Hartley J and Davies I “Note taking: A critical review” Programmed Learning and Educational technology, 1978,15, 207-224).

    attention-graph

    Notice how at 40 minutes the attention seems to go up again (just a little!). I’m guessing that this is the point where the lecturer started his sentence with “In summary…”

    And the students perked up their ears again and refocused to get the gist of the lecture. Here’s what happened – the lecturer stumbled upon the audience’s Attention Reset Button. Although our attention span is limited, we do have the ability to refocus on a task. When you push the Attention Reset Button you’re giving your audience that opportunity to refocus.

    So that’s what you need to do when you’re losing your audience. Push your audience’s Attention Reset Button. Instead of fading to near zero, your audience’s attention will spring back.
    How often should you push the Attention Reset Button
    Plan to push the Attention Reset Button about every 10 minutes. This is a practical rule of thumb which seems to work for most audiences. For example, John Medina says in his book Brain Rules:

     “I decided that every lecture I’d ever give would come in discrete modules. Since the 10 minute rule had been known for many years, I decided the modules would last only 10 minutes.”

    attention-graph-10min

    But be aware that your audience’s attention span will vary according to many factors – warmth of the room, time of day, how much sleep they had the night before, how intrinsically interested they are in the topic. Be prepared to adjust to the needs of your audience. For instance in the morning you might plan for intervals of 15 minutes between each Attention Reset. During the potentially sleepy after-lunch slot you might decrease that to 5 minutes.

    How to push the Attention Reset Button

    1. Tell a story: We’re hardwired to listen to stories. They instantly engage us and require very little effort to stay focused. Even the sleepiest audience-member will perk up when you say “I’ll tell you about a time when this happened to me.”
    2. Make them laugh: Nobody can not pay attention when the rest of the audience is laughing. We want to know what’s funny. The critical caveat is that your humor should be relevant to your presentation.
    3. Make a transition: In the first graph I showed, the students’ attention rose near the end, and I’ve suggested that that was because the lecturer said “In summary…” Now, I’m not suggesting that you should say “In summary…” when you’re not planning to summarize, but you can use transition statements as a signal to the audience that they should refocus. They may have got distracted for a couple of minutes and then found it hard to get back on track with what you’re saying. But if you make a transition statement such as: “So that’s the problem we’re facing, now I’ll go onto my recommendation to address it" it gives them an opportunity to get back on board.
    4. Break for Q&A: The traditional method of ending your presentation with Q&A is a waste of a great way of re-engaging your audience. A short Q&A session during your presentation is engaging because:
      • It’s a change from just you talking
      • Audience members can ask you questions about what they are interested in
      • There’s a live element to a Q&A session that keeps people hooked.
      • Build Q&A into your presentation, rather than leaving it till the end.
    5. Change something…anything: We pay attention to change. You’re probably not aware of the air conditioning hum running in the background, but as soon as it stops you’ll notice it. Here’s what you can change in a presentation:
      • Change the type of visual aid you’re using eg: from PowerPoint to a flipchart or whiteboard
      • Change the spot that you’re presenting from eg: stage to floor, part of stage
      • Change presenters
      • Change where people are sitting in the room
      • Change what audience members are doing eg: from sitting down to standing up.
    6. Get them to talk: Allowing people to process your ideas by asking them to talk to the person sitting next to them is an excellent way of re-engaging them. For example, you could ask them to share with their neighbour “What are three things you’ve learnt so far in my presentation”.
    7. Get them to write: Asking people to reflect by writing is also useful. For example “Write down three things you’ll do differently as a result of my presentation”.
    8. Take a microbreak: In a longer session (anything more than 50 minutes) take a 2-3 minute break for people to stretch their legs, use the restroom and refresh their drinks.

  2. The Collapse of Complex Business Models

    May 23, 2011 by
    Collapse

     
    Clay Shirky is a New York University lecturer and writer he is teaching and writing on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies. In one of his blog posts he talks about the collapse of the great empires of the past: the Mayans, the Romans. They collapsed because they got too big, too complex and couldn’t adapt to a new world and now he believes this is happening again. Although he focuses on media companies and broadcasters, I think you’ll find a lot of things that are relevant to other industries.

    You can read it from here:
    http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2010/04/the-collapse-of-complex-business-models

    Ahmed Abbbas
    BPIR.com


  3. Book Reviews…

    January 22, 2011 by

    Over the past year I have read and reviewed a number of books – it is part and parcel of our job at BPIR.com to keep up-to-date with the latest information. Here are some of the most interesting books I have read. Why not get off to a good-start in 2011 by reading one of these books and applying their insights and ideas.
     
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    Authentic Personal Branding – A New Blueprint for Building and Aligning a Powerful Leadership Brand, Dr. Hubert Rampersad, 2009. www.total-performance-scorecard.com. Hubert has a talent to apply business concepts to personal improvement. In this book, he shows us all how to build our own personal brand—and just as importantly—how to persuasively communicate this brand to the world.

    FAST Action Solution Teams – How to save a million dollars in 2 days, Jim Harrington, 2010. www.qualitydigest.com/inside/quality-insider-news/book-fast-action-solution-technique-fast.html. Jim Harrington is still going strong at 82 years old, his mind and thinking is as sharp as ever and this is his reflected in his latest book. FAST Action Solution Teams is a straightforward book on how your organisation can pick off the low hanging fruit and put in solutions that will quickly reap major bottom-line returns. FAST Action Solution Teams refers to one or two-day study projects that define improvements that individuals performing the study can implement within the next 90 days.

    Hoshin Kanri – The Strategic Approach to Continuous Improvement, David Hutchins, 2008. www.hutchins.co.uk/bk_hoshin.aspx. David has been a leader for many, many years in bringing tried and trusted techniques from the Far East to the awareness of the West. David’s latest book focuses on Hoshin Kanri—a strategic approach that encompasses four key elements of business management, namely Vision, Policy Development, Policy Deployment and Policy Control. This approach, developed in Japan, and used by organisations such as Toyota, was initially popularised by Professor Kaoru Ishikawa. It is a powerful approach, as it particularly assists in strategy deployment, which is often a weakness in organisations.

    Key Performance Indicators – Developing, Implementing, and Using Winning KPIs, David Parmenter, 2009www.davidparmenter.com. I have known David for many years, and could not wait to read the second edition of his book. The book simplifies performance measurement and is highly practical. Its focus is on the correct selection and deployment of performance measures to ensure that all resources and effort are focused on achieving business strategy. In particular, it explains the right way to measure and not the wrong way. Too often, companies claim they have key performance indicators, and yet these are often lagging measures and measured infrequently… therefore, how can they be key?   This second edition includes a discussion of critical success factors, as well as new chapters that focus on implementations issues and 'how to sections' on finding your CSFs and brainstorming the performance measures that report progress within the CSFs, Key Performance Indicators. The second edition will help you to identify and track your organization's KPIs to ensure continued and increased success.  

    No More Consultants – We Know More Than We Think. Geoff Parcell & Chris Collinson, 2009. www.chriscollison.com. This book describes interesting and practical ways to do internal benchmarking through self-assessments and the use of a “River Diagram”. A River Diagram visually shows where there is the greatest opportunity for sharing practices and learning within an organisation. By using River Diagrams, the level of internal sharing can be mapped and increased, thus assisting an organisation to leverage off its internal experience, expertise and practices.  

    The Rudolph Factor: Finding the Bright Lights that Drive Innovation in Your Business, Cyndi Laurin and Craig Morningstar, 2009. www.guidetogreatness.com. The Rudolph Factor details the impressive turnaround of The Boeing Company, with real stories from the people at Boeing C-17 who contributed to its success. Rudolphs, explain the authors, are the 10 percent of any organisation's people who are the true agents of innovation – people who can shine the light exactly where a company needs to go. Since they tend to identify causes of problems (rather than symptoms), they generate sustainable solutions more quickly and efficiently than others. Because their thinking tends to be counter-intuitive, Rudolphs are typically considered outcasts or loose cannons until their talents are needed (often at the 11th hour of a crisis, at which point they often are hailed as heroes).

    In finding these crucial individuals, nurturing them, and putting their ideas to work, your company can achieve consistently higher levels of innovation – and thrive in every economy. The Rudolph Factor shows managers how to spark bright ideas and capture greatness in others. Another great book from Cyndi!

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    I hope these reviews were useful! Please, let me know of any books that you recommend.
     
    Dr Robin Mann
    Co-founder BPIR.com


  4. Steve Unwin on the Spirit of Quality and the Search for Answers

    October 6, 2010 by

     

    Steve Unwin

     

    Steve Unwin provides entertaining yet unquestionably valuable insights to modern life in his Access to Excellence newsletters. In “Illusions – What happened to the spirit of quality?”, he presents the three illusions — time, money, and quality — that may hinder the possibilities of having a better lifestyle.  He questions the “drumbeat of quality” – therefore to do more with less, whether this be less effort, less cost, less time or less waste.   In “The search isn’t for the answer,” Steve addresses man’s persistent need for answers and solutions. He explains that often the outcome does not appear to matter to people/organisations as much as the need to be seen to be doing something (however, incorrect the action might be).  Steve emphasises the need to continually ask questions.

    Other areas of interest in the newsletters are “Children of Chernobyl,” Steve’s way of reminding us of the existence of the people in Belarus; and an offer of a book review opportunity for Six Days, the story of a simple business manager who found a way to view the world in a different light.

    To download “Illusions – What happened to the spirit of quality?” click here

    To download “The search isn’t for the answer” click here  


  5. The management consultancy scam

    September 25, 2010 by

    What is your opinion on Management Consultants? Do you agree with Johann Hari's article for the Independent, see below:  

     "We were proud of the way we used to make things up as we went along", he says. "It's like robbing a bank but legal"

    In the long fake boom of the Nineties and Noughties, we were sold a thousand scams. End government regulation of the financial system! Turn banks into casinos! Pay CEOs 500 times more than their staff! Bow, bow, bow before our mansion-dwelling overlords and the Total Efficiency they will bring! Yet from under the rubble left by these delusions, one of the greatest scams has skipped out unscathed, and it is now successfully selling itself as a solution to the fading of the boom-light. It is probably in your workplace now, or coming soon. Its name? Management consultancy.

    There are now half a million management consultants in the world, and they all grumble that they face one question wherever they go: yes, but what is it that you actually do? They claim to be able to enter any organisation, watch its workers for a short period, and then – using graphs, algorithms, and a jargon that makes quantum physics look like Sesame Street – render it dramatically more efficient, for a fee. They are everywhere: in the US, AT&T (to pluck a random company) spent $500m on them in just five years, while the British state will soon be spending more on management consultants than on upgrading its nuclear weapons.

    Yet the process of management consultancy has always been shrouded in priestly secrecy. Over the past few years there has been a string of memoirs by highly successful former management consultants, finally pulling back the flow-charts.

    David Craig gives a typical explanation of what the consultants Actually Do. After getting a degree specialising in romantic poetry, he was astonished to be hired by a prestigious management consultancy, given three weeks training, and then dropped into major corporations to tell them how to run their oil rigs, menswear stores, and factories, for tens of thousands of pounds a pop. In his brave memoir Rip Off! he explains: "We were proud of the way we used to make things up as we went along… It's like robbing a bank but legal. We could take somebody straight off the street, teach them a few simple tricks in a couple of hours and easily charge them out to our clients for more than £7,000 per week." It consisted, he says, of "lies, lies and even more lies."

    He worked to a simple model, which is common in the industry. He had to watch how a workforce behaved for a week – and then tell the company's bosses, every time, that they had 30 percent too many staff and only his consultancy could figure out who should be culled. If he calculated they actually had the right amount of staff, he was told by his bosses not to be so ridiculous and do his sums again: where was the money for them in a properly-staffed company? The company had to be POPed – People Off Payroll.

    Of course, this advice was often disastrous. His company was sent into a chain of 500 menswear shops. They advised them to cut staff by (surprise!) 30 per cent, and to replace most full-time staff with part-timers. The result? The full-time employees had been highly motivated, because they wanted a career in the company; the part-timers only wanted a little extra cash. So motivation levels in the company collapsed, and with it the standard of service. The company was bankrupt within a few years.

    Yes, you might say, but surely he was just a bad management consultant. The rest must get results. The evidence suggests not. The Cranfield School of Management studied 170 companies who had used management consultants, and it discovered just 36 per cent of them were happy with the outcome – while two thirds judged them to be useless or harmful. A medicine with that failure-rate would be taken off the shelves.

    Matthew Stewart, another former consultant, summarises his high-flying years in the industry by saying: "I felt like a snake oil salesman without snake oil." When he was sent into a company, he was told to use complex formulae to analyse the productivity of its staff, but he soon realised that the results were "nearly random… Similar results could have been achieved by having four monkeys throw darts at a few matrices." Yet, on this basis, he was taking a fortune in payments, and firing thousands of productive people.

    The recession has given a fresh burst to this industry, as corporations beg to be told where to apply the leeches. The number of senior consultants has swollen by 10 per cent in the past year, while the number employed by local government has grown by 11 per cent.

    But there is a growing body of academic research showing that the strategies pushed by these consultancies are in fact disastrous – and hasten the collapse of a company or service. Professor Wayne Cascio of the University of Colorado has studied the relative costs and benefits of POPing your workforce. Corporations and governments are receptive to the idea that the quickest, easiest way to save money is to fire workers. But Cascio has shown that, most of the time, the costs outweigh the gains. Obviously, you have immediately to find large amounts of redundancy and severance pay. But the costs don't stop there. Your workforce becomes very nervous – and a nervous workforce is dramatically less productive and less innovative. The best people leave. The service to the customer deteriorates – so they abandon you even more.

    The facts backing this up are striking. The OECD has studied developed economies over a 20-year period, and it found labour productivity growth was much higher in the countries where it is hardest to fire people. The better you treat a workforce, the better they work. Professor Peter Cappelli studied 122 companies and found that lay-offs most often shrank their future profitability, instead of swelling it.

    Yet this is the antithesis of the management consultancy mindset. Stewart says "consultants are the cattle prods of the modern corporation. The chief message to be communicated, in almost all situations, is that you will be expected to work much harder than you ever have before and your chances of losing your job are infinitely greater than you have ever imagined." It's a dark, dehumanised vision of workers as cogs in a machine – and it's been there from the beginning. Frederick Taylor, the founder of management consultancy, compared workers to "an intelligent gorilla" and said "our scheme does not ask for any initiative in a man. We do not care for his initiative."

    When challenged, the paltry evidence base of this industry soon becomes clear. Tom Peters, the author of management consultants' bible Excellence, snapped at an interviewer who asked about his way of analysing businesses: "Of course, we all know this is to some extent phoney baloney."

    David Craig suggests a simple way to call their bluff. Insist that, from now on, all management consultants are paid by their results. If they promise greater productivity or higher sales, fine: don't pay them until it comes through. Today, almost no management consultancy works on this basis. If they did, they'd all be bankrupt.

    And yet, and yet… you almost have to admire the rancid chutzpah of it. As the management consultant Bruce Henderson once sniggered: "Can you think of anything more improbable than taking the world's most successful firms and hiring people just fresh out of school and telling them how to run their businesses – and [getting them] to pay millions of pounds for this advice?" It's tempting to chuckle at the absurdity – until you realise the cack-handed consultants' scythe could come for you.

    j.hari@independent.co.uk