PRESENTATIONS: Presenting the future - Multimedia presentations can sharpen up your business image as well as save money and effort. Clive Couldwell writes

Business presentations are no longer a mad scramble around the desk trying to find that set of 35mm slides. They’ve grown up. They are now about meeting business objectives via multimedia.

Business presentations are no longer a mad scramble around the desk

trying to find that set of 35mm slides. They’ve grown up. They are now

about meeting business objectives via multimedia.



The CD-ROM has become an essential tool for presenting to customers.



The handling of digital information is more convenient than having to

bother with VHS videos, stacks of papers and photography, which are not

nearly as user-friendly, are much bulkier and deteriorate far more

quickly.



’With CDs, marketers can move graphics around inside a sleek

presentation and in a more compact format,’ says Toshiba’s marketing

manager Andy Bass.



The next generation of super CD, the Digital Versatile Disk (DVD), will

be able to store seven times the capacity of current CD-ROMs, and will

make it easier to digitise huge volumes of information and

presentations.



’It’s a brilliant presentation device with really practical business

benefits and most PCs, certainly in the marketing department, can now

use CDs,’ adds Phil Redding, deputy managing director of The

Presentation Company.



Just over a year ago, the emergence of cheap, portable projectors, and

the gradual drop in the price of multimedia laptops fundamentally

altered the market.



’The floodgates started to open. You were no longer recommending a

multimedia solution that only a tiny number of people could view or

use,’ says Redding.



’Now from your database of, say, 100 screens, you could pick 20, create

five new ones, and suddenly there was your new presentation. You didn’t

have to leave your desk, or become a highly proficient technician,’ he

adds.



Airing traffic



Metro Networks’ national radio brand, TrafficLink, supplies traffic and

travel information to a number of leading commercial radio stations in

the UK.



This could be up to 7000 traffic reports a week. The radio industry has

grown from 56 commercial stations in 1990 to today’s 175, and an

estimated 300 by the millennium. Metro Networks wanted a sales tool that

would sell the TrafficLink brand more dynamically to advertising

directors and marketing managers, and provide a one-stop shop to a

weekly reach of 21.8 million listeners.



Previously, the company’s sales staff played traffic report examples to

prospects off a tape recorder, and showed them paper copies of the

audience figures they could expect to reach, a cumbersome process that

didn’t reflect the true nature of the brand nor all its benefits.



’Patience levels got lower and lower. We wanted a presentation that

could use pictures and sound to show how the ad would ’look’ in the

actual segment itself, and run equally well in five minutes or an hour,’

says James Farmer, Metro Networks’ UK sales director.



’Business presentations have to be as sophisticated as this now. You’ve

got to have something that is sexy and dynamic.’



The Presentation Company put together a team of eight people for the

project. Using Authorware and 3-D Studio software, it was designed

around the concept of a car stereo.



Taking around nine months to complete, it is divided into three main

segments called ’stations’ to fit in with the brand: (LW) Evolution

documents Metro Networks’ growth and development; (FM) TrafficLink

contains everything you need to know about the brand; and (MW) Media

Talk contains customer testimonials.



Logos are used to ’hot link’ to audio examples of ads: ’After two months

of heavy presentations, it has paid for itself,’ says Farmer. ’My

average order value is around pounds 70,000-100,000. I only need one

client to say yes, and it’s paid for itself three times over.’



Space savings



In some cases, CDs can also save money: ’Using multimedia in the

relaunch of a brand, you can distribute 1000 pages of information, a

database of statistics, and 50 minutes of video to marketing reps in 50

countries,’ says Redding. ’If you consider the cost of doing that by any

other means than CD, then you can see how much time and cost you’d

save.’



TNT Worldwide wanted its sales force to present a consistent and unified

brand across 220 countries more effectively.



The medium to convey this, therefore, needed to be flexible enough so

that regionally and locally the content was relevant, could be received

in an appropriate format (eg 35mm slides, OHTs, colour Canon documents

or black and whites). It also had to accommodate the vast differences in

the technological capabilities of its potential users.



Using a CD-ROM, each sales manager has full control over the text, font

and size as well as the choice of 75 visuals from an in-built

library.



They can import their own images to tailor it further. They always have

access to an interactive toolbar allowing them free navigation around

the CD-ROM.



The user can then select his own screens or text from anywhere within

the CD-ROM, put them into the desired order and save that as their own

unique presentation.



’The crucial factor was being able to create a presentation tool that

conveyed the global message in a consistent and integrated way, yet was

flexible enough to take into account the regional variations,’ says Bob

Johnson, TNT Worldwide’s vice-president of sales and marketing.



These days, dynamic presentations are also being made remotely by

linking up with servers via the Internet to access online, real-time

presentations which the client can access again at a later date, via a

secure Internet address.



Delivery systems



’These presentations are produced in HTML and Java and are particularly

useful for Internet and electronic commerce projects, where we use the

same medium for the presentation as we will use for delivery,’ says

Peter Matthews, Nucleus managing director.



The Crosswater multimedia house has joined together with presentation

design company Slide Machine (both part of the Clearwater Group) to

offer a soon-to-be-available bureau service producing tailor-made

presentations that can be updated remotely over the Internet.



Typical applications include presentation of the latest sales

statistics, or pricing. Customised sales presentations, automatically

updated to include customer details, requirements or queries, could be

provided direct from the company computers and telesales systems.



The final presentation medium could take any form which accepts computer

information, from laptops in one-to-one presentations in sales, to

dedicated presentation systems using computer graphics and video replays

in a conference.



’Deciding on the right format for your business presentation will depend

on who will author the presentation and how you intend to use it,’ says

Peter Matthews, managing director of Nucleus, the design and new media

consultancy.



’If there are to be many authors and the content will change regularly,

then you need to consider an easy-to-author software package, which will

improve the quality of the presentation and create corporate

consistency.



If, on the other hand, you need interactivity, and you can control the

production centrally, you could use an authoring environment, like

Director, which provides much higher quality graphics with sound,

animation and video.



’We recently created templates for a global investment bank where

hundreds of people throughout the organisation are continually producing

corporate presentations for use on-screen, 35mm slide, overhead acetates

and in print,’ says Matthews.



’The challenge on a project like this is not only to design a good set

of corporate templates, but to ensure that they work reliably across

various versions of software and various desktop computer and printer

environments, globally.’



One should never underestimate the technical challenges of such an

exercise, even if you are working in a straightforward DTP software

package.



’We tend to use Director for our own interactive presentations and for

clients who want sophisticated results, but Director is not an everyday

production environment like PowerPoint,’ says Matthews.



’We design and programme in Director all the time and can make

presentations interactively using a laptop, or with a laptop linked up

to a beamer for larger audiences, and also produce CDs to leave

behind.’



Redding notes that: ’People are building up their Internet and Intranet

capabilities at quite a rapid rate. This is exercising one’s digital

assets, and allowing people to communicate much more freely and

easily.’



Convergence criteria



It is generally agreed in the industry that, more for technical reasons

than anything else, you might have an Internet team working separately

from any multimedia initiative, but that eventually they will

converge.



’Currently, you use slightly different programs, creative skills and

functionality for the Internet than you use for CD multimedia,’ adds

Redding.



’We have two separate teams at the moment, but we have built them

deliberately on the understanding that they will become one.’



The bottom line, though, is that almost every business has a need for

some kind of multimedia presentation. But they don’t yet know it,

because they don’t understand what multimedia could do for them, and no

one is telling them.



’These developments are being driven by marketing, followed by corporate

communications. A year-and-a-half ago, it would have been IT,’ continues

Redding.



’You’re moving away from the technological challenge to the

application.



Marketing is used to measuring advertising and PR activity, which might

not always appear tangible but which still has to be measured to produce

business return,’ he says. ’Multimedia is exactly the same. It’s second

nature for them to look at it, and assess it.’



HELP WITH THE DIGITAL MIX



New media agency, Revolution has released a CD-ROM guide to help you

find your way through the digital media maze. It looks at developing and

using CD-ROMs as effective marketing tools and illustrates the level of

information that can be stored and how a well-constructed CD-ROM can

help users access the right information as well as capturing data about

the user.



Its second section, covering the Internet, focuses on commercial

benefits. It looks at how the Internet operates, and what it’s best used

for; how Web sites work and the ways in which they can be developed and

designed to make your customers aware of your products and services.



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