Moving out...

In future, I'll be posting on our WorkPlayExperience website's own blog.

This blog will remain here as a resource, but there won't  be too much new stuff here.

See you over there!


Why we do what we do...

Some interviews with WorkPlayExperience

If you like it raw, here's a transcript of an interview I did with the Design Transitions site. I talk about our work methods, and briefly discuss the Jams.

If you play it by ear, here is a radio interview with Markus and I on Gov2.0Radio. It covers our theatrical tools in a little more detail - especially what they meant for the Jams, and in particular the GovJam.

For the video stars, this is me talking to Service Design TV in San Francisco. Some general thoughts on service design, and our toolset.

And for the iPodders out there, here's an interview with Business901 about using theater to gain insight into customer experience.

(Bonus in German: Talking about creativity and play in Contact Management magazine. )

Our session at the Service Design Network Conference in Cologne

By popular demand - quite literally - we'll be running our hit workshop at the SDN conference in Cologne this week. This time, it will be in German...

We'll be talking about the theatrical tools we use in service design. We believe they are unusually effective, insightful, approachable and fun. A customer from a large German company comments:

"Speaking from experience with WorkPlayExperience - it's just amazing how the theater setting immediately creates a different mind set with the participants and thus makes them play, interact and learn more (and better)!" (full quote here)

Pic by Beat Schweizer
If you are thinking of coming, here is what you get for your 90 minutes.

First, it will be very, very active. I don't believe that people learn much by listening, reading or being talked at, so in our session you will be up on your feet, trying things out.

We will be sharing tools that we use successfully with our clients. They are real, they work. We hope you will adopt them.

We use investigative rehearsal in service design work - and that is not the same thing as "practicing" or "roleplay" (which most participants hate, let's be honest). Rehearsal is an iterative, explorative process which taps both creativity and emotion. We'll be showing you how we lead participants into it (even the conservative ones), how we run a rehearsal, and how we use concepts like subtext and dramaturgy to take it to a higher level of co-creation.

The spooky part of investigative rehearsal - and this is part of why theater works - is the way it connects tiny details of the customer experience to the entire service design architecture and indeed to the whole value set of the organisation. At first glance, it can look like a customer experience tool, but it is much more.

This is an updated version of the workshop we gave in Berlin and San Francisco - suitable for people unfamiliar with our work. If we've tickled your fancy, sign up early - each time we run this workshop, it sells out fast. We'll see you on Friday morning.

And if you have any questions, just get in touch. :)

PS. Obviously, there will be NO Powerpoint
PPS. But there may be chickens.

The Global Service Jam and the Flying Shark

Some things you can't say with Powerpoint

So, back in October 2011 the nice folks at the SDNC conference in San Francisco gave us a session to talk about the Global Service Jam with the whole plenum of the Conference. Great - but what can you say in just 10 minutes?

The Jam was en emotion, an experience, a space of play. How can you describe that in powerpoint slides?

Well, you can't. So I gave them a 3-minute brainfake of facts and figures, and then got on to the real presentation. This is what we did.

Adam Lawrence on Global Service Jam at SDNC11 from Thomas Schönweitz on Vimeo.

Thanks to everyone who made this possible, from Caspar Siedel the SD-Intern, to the Kansas Girlie Chorus and the Lawrence KA Shark-Wrangling Team. YOU are the Jam.

The History of the Global Service Jam

An interview with the Jam Initiators.

Thanks to Sophie Renault of the Université d'Orléans for permission to publish her interview. We spoke to Sophie between the first Global Service Jam (March 2011) and the first Global Sustainability Jam (October 2011).

(Questions translated from French, all errors are mine.)

How was the idea of the GSJ born?

Markus is involved in the Global Game Jam movement. We loved the energy of this event and wanted to apply it to our area of interest: service design.

Who is behind the GSJ?

The GSJ was initiated and coordinated by Markus Hormess (who had the initial idea) and Adam Lawrence of WorkPlayExperience, a German-based service design agency.

Markus is German with a background in theoretical physics and process design; Adam is British and has a background in psychology, marketing and theater.

We are a small agency who uses theatrical methods to develop services, mostly for large bluechip customers. One of our basic work philosophies is the theatrical working rule of "doing, not talking" - and this fit well with the idea of the Jam.

For the Jam, we kept our agency in the background and usually appeared simply as "Markus and Adam" - we wanted the Jam to be open, and if it were branded, other agencies would have been less interested in joining. Also, this way was more fun.

What were the steps in the implementation of the GSJ?

The whole Jam was quite spontaneous and was done "between" our other work. A lot of it happened ad hoc.

We had been talking about the Jam idea for a few months, discussing it with a few people (especially EDO, the experience design organisation in Switzerland) , but had no fixed plan except some rules ideas and a vague date. In October 2010 we were at the SDN service design conference in Berlin. In the last few minutes of the Member's Day, we spontaneously wrote up a flipchart with the idea and walked around, asking people to sign up interest.

In the next month, we spoke to several designer friends in several countries who agreed to run jams if it became real. At the ServDes Nordic conference at the start of December 2010, we decided to announce it. We put together a simple website and prepared a Twitter account. We asked the organisers for 5 minutes at the end of the conference and again held up a flipchart, announcing the date and webpage. We simultaneously tweeted the first handful of Jam locations. In the next few weeks and months, Twitter was the main recruiting tool.

What are the strategic challenges of the implementation of such an event?

The Jam was not a strategic project, it was an invitation to play. This is how we usually prefer to work.

So the challenge for the jam was to make it fun, and easy to join. We emphasised the freedom of local groups to shape it as they liked, and the freedom of result formats within the jam. We tried to make it clear that it would be fun, hard work, and a little crazy.

As people joined, we tried to help them communicate their ideas with each other, and just make sure they had space to make them real.

On the practical side, though, the organisation of the upload platform proved a huge technical challenge. Several large-scale professional webhosting companies refused to host it, as they said it was too big for them. Finally, we had to build it ourselves.

Can you explain the choice of "(Super)Heroes" as the Theme for the 2011 Jam?

The theme was chosen by Markus and I after a discussion between the Global Council (five local hosts from Australia, Korea, Turkey, Brazil and USA) and the two of us.

We wanted a theme which would be inspiring to people from any background or field - if they were interested in particular areas of service design, or particular development tools. This meant the theme had to be abstract.

Of our final shortlist of 4 themes, we liked the idea of Heroes with it's overtones of overcoming obstacles, empowerment, doing good, giving, and happy endings. We felt it was important to have a positive, emotional theme for the first Jam.

Some of us were worried about militaristic overtones of "Heroes", so we added the "(Super)-" at the last minute to keep it light, but used brackets "( )" to leave the options open.

What are the strengths of the GSJ? And the weaknesses?

+ People had a lot of fun and worked very hard. We think this was because they felt the freedom, energy and playful atmosphere.

+ The Jam led to a lot of publicity for service design, and gave a lot of people the opportunity to try it out.

+ The Theme was very popular and effective.

+ The Jam gave people the opportunity to work side by side, and led to some permanent contacts - new work groups, friendships, projects. I think that the "doing, not talking" approach made this effect stronger than it would be at a conference, for example.

+ We built a great library of prototyping methods and designs, which is already the subject of academic research.

- Making the end results become real was not one of our main priorities. We were mainly interested in promoting service design, increasing contacts, sharing methods and building a library of prototyping methods. We think that putting more emphasis on end results would have "raised the stakes" and made people less likely to take part. But some participants would have liked to see more of the designs become real, and saw this as a weakness of the Jam.

- Many participants were very busy with their own projects and did not have the time or opportunity to follow the jam on a global level, or share ideas and experiences. Fewer Jammers used Twitter than we expected (this was the main channel for inter-Jam communication) so they missed out on interjam contact.

- We had some technical problems with our home-made upload platform.

How do you define a "Jam"? Why did you choose this formula?

We think of a Jam as we know it from music. In a jam session, musicians come together to practice skills, learn new ones, challenge and build on each other's ideas, meet new people, and have fun. Perhaps some of the ideas will be carried forward, but that is not the main focus. Importantly, they do not come to talk about music, they make it. They are open to working with whatever idea comes along. If it goes wrong, it doesn't matter.

This is the feeling we wanted for the Jam - an emphasis on building something together, spontaneously, fast and dirty, with a low risk.

We think jamming is useful, educational, and fun. It is a good alternative to (and expansion on) what happens at conferences.

Tell me about your other project, the Global Sustainability Jam?

The GSusJ is a sister event to the GSJ. Some GSJ Jammers felt they could have moved further towards real implementation of the projects if they could have researched and prepared before jamming.
We thought that choosing a general subject for a Jam (although not a specific theme) might give people this opportunity to prepare, without losing the spontaneous, creative atmosphere. It would also give us the opportunity to reach a new group of people - in this case the sustainability community - and introduce them to a design-based approach to creativity and problem-solving.
Out of this idea, the GSusJ was born. We chose sustainability because it is interesting, challenging, and always relevant.
We plan to have service design jams in March or April each year, and other, focussed jams in October or November. We will continue this cycle for as long as we have fun.

(Addendum: here's a presentation on the first Jam from the Service Design Network conference in San Francisco. Link. )

(Update: The Global Service Jam and Global Sustainability Jam in 2011 were followed by a Global Service Jam in 2012 with almost 100 cities taking part. A GovJam pilot organised in cooperation with the Federal Government of Australia in June 2012 focussed on public sector service innovation.  The next Jam will be the 2012 Global Sustainability Jam on the first November weekend of 2012. )

You have 48 hours to save the world.

We're jamming again

After nearly killing ourselves with 68* hours of continuous Jamming at the Global Service Jam back in March, we are coming back for more.

200 "Superhero" designs developed by 1200 jammers in 59 cities within 48 hours was so amazing, we want to try it again. And this time, it will be exactly the same, but different.

The Global Sustainability Jam will take place on the 28, 29 and 30 of October in around 50 locations all over the planet. We have a lot of folks who jammed back in March, as well as a whole bunch of new faces.

It's fantastic to see Jams in regions which were absent or underrepresented at the last Jam - with Russia, India, the Middle East (Tel Aviv & Dubai) stepping up for the first time, and a big jump in the number of Jams in Africa and South America.

Unlike the Global Service Jam, this new event is not exclusively aimed at service designers and their pals. We hope to see 48 hours of jamming giving rise to designs for services, yes, but also objects, initiatives, networks, and things we haven't thought of yet. We'll be mixing the design crowd with the sustainability set - and the results should be gripping.

If you'd like to spend a thrilling 48 hours under our eternal motto of "doing, not talking", we'd love to have you. Find out more here. :)

* 48 hours for the Jammers, but 68 for us because of the time differences between NZ and SFO.

"Doing not Talking" image by Kirsty Joan of Snook.

Newsbite2: Service Design in Information Technology

(From a WPX press release)

Global Service Jam initiators WorkPlayExperience presented jamming techniques at Informatik 2011, the computer industry's "class reunion" in Berlin.

The workshop "Experience Innovation through Jamming" allowed delegates to experience firsthand the energy and focus of the Jam format.

The session also included the first public presentation of academic research on the Global Service Jam by Michael Römer, Stefan Thallmaier and Hagen Habicht of the Center for Leading Innovation & Cooperation (CLIC), Leipzig Graduate School of Management (HHL).

Newsbite1 : Educational Services

(From a WPX press release)

A personal interest in education and learning has blossomed into an important business field for WorkPlayExperience, the service design consultancy with a uniquely theatrical toolset.

"We believe in learning by doing, and in crafting mental and physical creative spaces which allow students to discover their way forward", says Markus Hormess of WPX, who is also busy in the FabLab scene.

His colleague Adam Lawrences adds, "It's great that we have been able to explore this field in several extensive projects with Swisscom and other major players, as well as in the planet-wide creative space of the Global Service Jam. Designing education is exciting, challenging and vitally important."

Theatrical Tools in Service Design

On Camera

We've posted videos of our working methods before, but in German.

For those of you without German skills, here we are in English giving a (super-accelerated) sample at the Service Design Network Conference in Berlin this summer.

Beyond Roleplay - Theatrical Tools in Service Design from Snook on Vimeo.

Thanks to Snook for filming!

Get hands-on at the Global Service Jam!

48 hours to design a new service - be there!

On 11, 12 & 13 March, 2011, people interested in service and customer experience will meet all over the globe. In a spirit of experimentation, co-operation and friendly competition, teams will have 48 hours to develop brand new services inspired by a shared theme.

The Friday evening (local times) will see service designers, customer experience folks, students, professors, businesspeople, anthropologists, customers, hackers and actors converge on jam locations all over the world. After meeting up and warming up, they will be given a set of common themes for a brand new service. Based on brainstormed ideas, teams will form. Then it's time to get practical.

The teams will have less than 48 hours to research, ideate, prototype (and iterate) their service using whatever methods they want to explore. A social media thread will make sure that all teams - worldwide - will know what is going on, and who is working on what. Groups will learn together, experiment, and bounce ideas and techniques around the planet.

On Sunday afternoon, each team will upload their ideas in a digital, disseminable form, under a Creative Commons licence. (The idea remains yours, but the world will see how you made it).

Sound like fun?

Perhaps you want to run a local jam? Or perhaps you want to find other people local to you who might be interested? Maybe you just want to enjoy the buzz?

Get on list at

Follow @GSJam and #GSJ11 on Twitter!

The Global Service Jam is a not-for-profit initiative by
Work•Play•Experience and EDO, the Experience Design Organisation.

Jammy logo by Jase Cooper.

WorkPlayExperience live on stage

Tools session at the Service Design Network conference

It's great to hear that our session proposal for the Service Design Network's 2010 conference has been accepted by the organisers.

The conference, entitled "connecting the dots", take place in Berlin on the 13th and 14th of October, with a Member's day on the 15th. Markus and I will be heading a session on theatrical tools in service design - no schedule yet, but we'll keep you posted.

Come and see us there!

PS Great news - Snook ladies will be there too!

Conference graphic from the sdn conference site.

WorkPlayExperience news

Why the hiatus?

It's been a sleepy time on this blog recently, for a couple of reasons.

The first is that Twitter has taken over as my main channel for sharing news and ideas. If you want to stay up to date, just follow me (@adamstjohn) and Markus (@markusedgar) and you won't miss a thing.

But the main reason is that our service experience consultancy and training business (Work•Play•Experience, named after this blog) has been keeping us very busy indeed.

We've been lucky enough to win some very exciting clients, and have been running sessions and giving keynote presentations over a significant stretch of central Europe. If you'd like to work with us, we'd love to hear from you.

As a sample of what we've been up to, German-speaking readers can check out this little article about a workshop for the Swiss customer experience group CEN-Xchange. Thanks to Zürich service design crew Stimmt AG for the invitation!

And here's the video from the article - showing Markus and I and one of the techniques we use for customer insight work.

(Depending on your settings, you might not see the whole width of the screen. Just doubleclick it to go to YouTube.)

Video by the folks at Stimmt AG.
Men at work image by InsideSouthAfrica at Flickr.

Theatrical tools for service experience - an overview

Top practical tips
Theater can give you powerful - and long proven - tools for service design and experience work. Our customers at Work•Play•Experience love them, and I've written about them over the years on this blog. Here are links to some of the best...

Rehearsal and service prototyping

Setting up a safe space (forget this, and you can forget the whole thing)
Running the session (why it's important to break the rules)

Powerful rehearsal/prototyping tools
The director's chair
Subtext (top tip!)

Experience structure and timing
Perfect story structure (top tip!)
Starting badly on purpose
Working with contrast
Thinking about timing

Entrances and moving people through them
Stage design lessons for entrances (important for retailers & UX)
When the backstage intrudes

How to guarantee a hit
The Big Three (just for fun?)

Tool pic by Svadilfari at flickr

Different workspaces... Work•Play•Experience gets down to business

When we are boldly going where no service design agency has gone before, Markus and I find it useful to have different spaces for different tasks.

The Bridge
Adam's loft office - light, airy, equipped with a big table, grand piano and much stuff. Great for big ideas, strategic planning and long term thinking.

Markus' basement office - big screens, fast internet, mega printers and lots of toys. The ideal place to get down, dirty and into detail.

Ten Forward

For unstructured work and discussions, and for clearing up the bits and pieces; Ten Forward is any one of a number of cafés and bars with WiFi where we do most of our free form officework.

The Holodeck
As seen in this post, the Holodeck is our outdoor working platform. Under the open skies and with a riverside view, it's unbeatable for creative work and getting into constructive conversations with strangers.

Do you separate your workday? How?

Top 10 Reasons why Powerpoint is like a bra

Yes, really.

It drives me crazy when people think of their Powerpoint* slides as their "presentation". Really, truly crunchy-monkey-nut crazy. Today, I was so annoyed at this habit that I tweeted:

The tweet rang bells with a few folks, notably Chris Atherton. Well, I do like to ring bells - so, for the list fetishists among you, here are...

The Top 10 Reasons a Powerpoint Slidedeck is Just Like a Bra.

10. It is often used out of habit or insecurity - but there are plenty of situations where it only gets in the way

It's possible to send one by mail, but it is empty and lifeless, so why bother?

Technical troubles will occur at the most embarassing moments

Too much decoration can distract from content

It's certainly pretty, but do you really want someone else's design to cover up your uniqueness?

5. People usually try to fit too much inside**

4. People think they need the support, but forget it's a restriction too

Given confidence, you will often make a bigger impact without one

You can borrow or steal someone else's, but it will never fit like your own

and finally..

It may look basically similar, but you should NEVER confuse it with the Real Thing

Folks, Powerpoint isn't the presentation. YOU ARE.

Got any more? Add them in the comments... Oh, and you should follow me on Twitter...


* Or Keynote, or whatever. I don't care. Slideware. You know.
** Oprah said 8 out of 10 ladies wear the wrong size, usually too small. And what Oprah says...

Customer experience, the jazz way

Lessons for customer experience from a master of voice

Over the last couple of days, I have spent a little time with three exceptional musicians: New York's Refuge Trio, made up of Theo Bleckmann, Gary Versace and John Hollenbeck. I was able to take part in a masterclass vocal workshop with Bleckmann, and several of his statements on singing - like so many showbiz ideas - offer excellent insight for customer experience practitioners.

(We spoke in German, and all this is based on my brief notes, so all quotes are no more than "my best attempt" at capturing the meaning.)

The Master on backstage and frontstage
TB: "When you perform, it can feel like a flat film set. It's like behind me is nothing. But that's not true: the music and the energy is all around me."

In experience design, we often think about frontstage and backstage processes - which is a useful distinction. But the interplay between backstage and frontstage is more complex than just boxes arriving from the storeroom.

Theo's words reminded me that the spaces behind the scenes and in front of the scenes share a common energy - one which customers can sense, and staff can be motivated (or demotivated) by. Remember, the frontstage/backstage boundary is real, but it is permeable to more than just product.

The Master on keeping on track
In one musical exercise, Theo had us hold one note while he played other notes. With notes that were further away, this was easy. But when he played the semitones - the closest possible notes - above and below our note, many of us found ourselves sliding off line.

This common singer's exercise offered parallels to the world of motivation, as is being discussed on Wenovski. Wildly different notes were easy to ignore, but the nearly-the-same notes were pure seduction. Similarly, it's not the grouch in the corner who will demotivate you - he's easy to ignore. Instead, it's the people who do pretty much the right things, but with a little less fire and passion for the customer. Their path - the slightly easier path that looks oh so similar - is the dangerous one, as it tempts us to do just a little less.

It's the same with service design. "All the other companies all do it this way - which is nearly the same. Why don't we?"

Answer: because you need to be exceptional.

The Master on intent
TB: "Know what note you are going to sing before you sing it. Intention is important - otherwise things happen out of fear or habit."

I can think of no greater enemies to good customer experience than fear and habit. Fear can be fear of trying something new, or fear of looking the customer in the eye and making human contact; habit is the innovation-killer of "we always do it this way". And fear and habit together are stagnation and boring or bad service.

Theo's advice here is that intention - knowing what we want to "sing" in advance - is the best weapon against these two.

What "song" do you intend to "sing" to your customers?

Photo by Amanda Stockwell from

Customer interactions and rubber chickens

Why we use theatrical rehearsal techniques in service experience design

If you have ever been to a Work•Play•Experience experience workshop or service design session, you will have noticed that it doesn't look like a normal training day, or even like a normal design space.

It looks a lot like a theater rehearsal - just crazier.

Starting with a bang

The first thing you will notice is that the room is full of odd things, from rubber chickens to toy catapults, from wind-up flipping dogs to Bugs Bunny DVDs. And lots and lots of chocolate. Immediately after you notice this (and just after your first chocolate rush), we will throw you into a high energy warm-up which soon has you laughing and sweating. Today will not be like a normal workday, that is clear. And the usual rules will not apply.

This is a big heap of fun - but that is not why we do it. Our first goal is to clearly break the rules you know, creating a “safe space” which promotes creativity and encourages risk taking. This break with everyday routine is crucial to the success of our work, as it guarantees more innovation, faster learning, more confidence and a willingness to try new personal behaviour patterns.

Once more from the top...

As the day progresses, we keep you on your feet - you will see very few chairs, and the ones you see will seldom be in use. “Doing, not talking” is one of our guiding principles, so there's almost no frontal presentation (we hate Powerpoint anyway) and very little bookwork. Instead, you will find yourself “playing” through “scenes” again and again. And again. And again...

We are exploring alternatives in an iterative innovation structure just like the one used in the most successful software houses. Now and again, we will step in to draw your attention to details of body language, blocking, storyline, microexpressions, subtext and other verbal- and non-verbal aspects. You'll soon be sensitised to your unconscious effect on the customer - and the effect of your service process design - and will see it with new eyes.

Remember, a theater rehearsal is not just "practice". It is a way to actively and accurately model and develop any kind of human interaction. And it works best in a lively, fun-filled environment which gives plentiful opportunity to try new strategies, experience success or failure in a concrete, tactile form, and learn by doing.

No smart answers, just good questions

It feels like play, but "Play" is only 33.3% of our name. We keep the energy level high, and laughter is never far away - most participants never notice that they are working very, very hard indeed. And the rich crop of ideas they develop are their own.

This is crucial. We cannot be experts on every business, so we don't try to be. Instead, we use theatrical tools to get great ideas out of your people - ideas that have been developed and framed by the participants themselves - not by “headquarters” or some unknown “expert”.

How it works

As the day moves towards the final high-energy "BOOM!", you probably won't notice that the design of entire day was based on critical principles of psychology and dramaturgy. The playful atmosphere has promoted creativity and innovation. The deeply satisfying structure of the day gave periods of high energy, periods of reflection and a stream of new experiences. Participants have pooled their expertise and experience, guaranteeing realistic and practical solutions. Their Buy-In is of course much greater, and the ideas have been prototyped and rehearsed already... so they are realistic, practiced, closer-to-home and YOURS!

We really like this way of working, and we think you will too. At the very least, you are pretty certain to enjoy all the chocolate.

Rubber chickens by zoomar at flickr
Sweeties by Amarand Agasi at Flickr

How to rehearse (or not) a presentation

Best of both worlds

How a stand-up comedian rehearses for both flexibility and confidence.

An over-rehearsed presentation - like an over-rehearsed show - can really stink. It can be so automatic that it loses touch with the audience. It becomes a polished set of actions and words and ceases to be two-way communication, a persuasive dialogue.

On stage, we know that the comic aside - the gag improvised when the scenery collapses or a cellphone in the audience rings - is usually the biggest laugh of the evening. It's because the audience knows it was one-off, one-time, authentic creativity. So should we always improvise?

Usually, no. Bluffing your way through Shakespeare (or a complex presentation) on a wing and a teleprompter will not get you far. You need the confidence to know what happens next, the experience to get you through the technically challenging parts. And that only comes from practice. Lots of practice.

Hmm. So - we are in a quandary. Authentic, spontaneous flexibility, or calm rehearsed confidence? What to do?

The answer is this: you should not rehearse your presentation, you should rehearse your presentations. Plural.

When I'm developing a stand-up routine. I have many of my gag ideas on little index cards which I can add notes to, reshuffle, tear in half, or even eat in frustration. I will stand in a room away from the world (this is embarrassing) and rant my way through the cards. I'll try every line ten different ways. I'll try ten different orders. I'll throw cards away, and dig them out of the bin. I'll try missing out this part, and go off on a stream-of-consciousness tangent expanding that section. I'll even try running the cards backwards - seriously, it can teach you a lot.

After a while, I don't need the cards much, and I can play with my material while jogging, driving, or screaming at the top of my lungs while zooming down the Autobahn on my motorcycle. (If you've ever seen a lunatic doing this, now you know it was me. It feels as mad as a brush, but it's very effective.)*

At the end, I have not just rehearsed one routine - I have rehearsed dozens of routines based on basically the same material.

This stand-up rehearsal technique works for presentations too. Play with the pieces and bang them together until you know every angle.

After a while, you will know what the best order is. You can use it for your test audience. But you will not be tied to that order...

You will have all the confidence you need, because you will have mastered your material. But you will also have the flexibility you need. You will know that there is more than one path through the presentation, and that you can cope with anything.

Most importantly, you will be able to adjust your presentation with confidence to genuinely respond to the audiences signals - making it a real two-way exchange, not some polished performance that could have been done by DVD.

Have fun!

*Actually, a shouted rehearsal is a great technique. I know classical actors who rehearse monologues by shouting them from the beach into the ocean waves. Of course, this works best if you have a Victorian greatcoat and rather wild hair.

Photo of some of my index cards by me.

(This post is based on a comment I made last year on TJ Walker's blog)

!!! More great showbiz tips for presenters here.

Cheat the seating for better presentations & parties

Leading the horse to water

If you went your presentations to be effective and your events to rock, you will need to think about where you let your audience sit. Here's why.

Check out the first diagram below - it's the well known scheme of where we ought to sit in a classroom or presentation room. You know - the more front-and-centre you sit, the more information you retain and take home afterwards. Old news.

The second diagram, two paragraphs further down, has no hard research behind it. It's just my own experience from a gazillion shows, classroom lessons and presentations I have given over the years. It shows where people want to sit.

When people come into a presentation, classroom or gala event (let's assume for now they didn't pay for their own tickets), they invariably fill up from the back, and along the aisle. It seems they are looking for a swift exit, or trying to avoid direct contact to whatever is happening at the front. Even the keen ones, unless they are die-hard fans, avoid the front row, preferring the midfield.

Now compare the two rooms - the consequence is obvious. Unless every seat is taken, your audience will tend to sit in the seats where they will benefit least from their presence, and your efforts as a presenter.

And that is only the first downside of this trend.

A successful presentation is all about atmosphere (you are there to shape emotion, remember?). For a good, infectious buzz you need to have your audience up close and bunched together. If they are all spread around the back of the room, you are going to be struggling to reach them.

To avoid wasting both your time and the audience's, borrow these tricks from the hospitality industry.

First, choose a room that is as tight as possible for your predicted numbers. Then, encourage your audience to fill from the front, perhaps by:

- using pleasant soft lighting at the front of the room while the rear rows and outer edges remain dark
- standing at the front of the room, welcoming attendees there and offering them seats
- or, most simply and effectively, reserving the rear rows until the rest of the room is full. *

The result of your audience management will be a better buzz and more effective use of everyone's time - a winner all round.

* the sneakiest way is to simply set up fewer rows of chairs than needed, then fetch "reserve" chairs from another room when it gets to standing room only. Wow, the event was a surprise hit!

Instinct helps you move people

... so stop thinking too hard

Watching the extras to the Bourne films on the train, I came across this piece of advice which every service manager should take to heart.

"Often when you are a director you are trying to free everybody from thinking too hard. Because if you think too hard, you're not instinctive.

The power to move, the power to excite, the power to propel people - is instinctive.
(Paul Greengrass, Director)

As a manager, what can you do to free your people from thinking too hard? Remember, it's easy to make things complicated. Simplicity is dang hard, and freedom is scary.

But you need them both to engage customers and release creativity.

Playful design wins

Game-based approach to architectural design

Here's a fascinating report on a new design methodology thesis by Christopher Totten.

Totten used games as powerful tools in cooperative architechtural design projects. The games had two functions:

A simple, self-designed board game guided the design process in a Cabal-type system: "Three or four player/designers play cooperatively but each have their own piece on the board. Each of these players takes on a different design role .... rolling the die to move around the board and respond to the directions ... to make design changes, draw new cards, lose turns, or run playtests. "

At turns, the actual building design took place in Google SketchUp or Valve's Hammer Level Editor: "Using a game engine such as Hammer allowed players to explore their buildings while they were designing them; since it lacks a traditional "orbit" tool but allows the in-program camera to be moved through the model with game controls; as one would move through a game environment ... "

Mr T. reports three main benefits of this game-based approach:

1 The board game / Cabal system helped circumvent many of the social or group-dynamic problems normally encountered in cooperative work.

2 The video-game design testing encouraged a high degree of focus on the emotions and experience of the building user.

3 Playtesters also reported that their designs were different because they felt they could make more creative moves while in the play environment of the game. Their designs were more complex and stimulating than those produced with more traditional techniques.

So, fewer arguments, higher user-centricity, and more exciting designs... sounds good to me. This is a great example of successfully using the power of play in a complex business environment.


PS I particularly liked this report on one virtual house: "The playtesters conceived the house as a path of rooms that offered sporadic views to the landscape around the house, leading up to the ultimate reveal of the river on the large porch."

Now, that sounds just like the narrative structure of the next Hollywood blockbuster...

Play house pic by barnabywasson at flickr

Start by cheering up the customer

Starting out right

David Zinger posted a nice overview of his time with impromaster Keith Johnstone. There's a lot worth reading there, but I was especially struck by one side note:

Start by cheering up the audience.

Now, replace "audience" by "customer" (that's one of my favourite hobbies), and we have some powerful medicine. If you set out to start every contact by "cheering up" your customer, you will automatically find yourself:

... being present in the moment.
If you are fully tuned in to the customer's feelings here and now, I promise you will not find yourself thinking about the stack of 27B-6 forms waiting on your desk.

... empathising with the customer's expectations.
A customer comes to you with a particular emotion based on what they think is going to happen next. To cheer them up, you are going to have to read - and beat - that expectation.

... caring about first impressions made by your site, location or appearance.
Everyone knows that first and last impressions are crucial. How do your physical surroundings (colour, light, signage, access) contribute to cheering up the next customer?

... being human.
True smiles can only work over a true person-to-person connection. Humour is the same. Without giving at least a glimpse of the person you are, you are not going to spread cheer. So be yourself - you might enjoy it.!

So, here's a challenge: cheer up some customers as soon as you meet them today.

And here's another: cheer them up even more as they take their leave.

Happy face shot by litanmore at flickr

A Stand-Up's guide to presentation technique

My personal top ten

Business people love my presentation coaching. I'm an actor and stand-up comedian, so they find my approach refreshing as well as highly effective. Here, in a nutshell, is what I teach them:

10 Close the laptop
Do not plan your presentation by opening PowerPoint and typing your first bullet! Instead, spend time thinking about your audience. Who are they? What do they want? What do they already believe?

9 Throw out your material
It’s a huge mistake to start by collecting material. Don’t ask yourself what you have, ask yourself what your audience will need. Avoid facts and figures - choose powerful images, human stories and genuine emotion instead. These “soft” options are proven to be more effective than any hard numbers. And cut every word that is not truly useful to your audience.

8 Take what’s left and cut it in half
Yes, in half, at least. You should never speak more than five minutes - three is better - unless the people are coming just to hear you speak or you are a paid professional speaker. (And if you think your presentation is “just five minutes”, it is probably about 12. Time it, you’ll see. ) Finish early - they will love you.

7 Don’t start at the beginning
Comedians, rock musicians and James Bond start their shows with a huge bang, and finish with a bigger one. In between, they present a sequence of highlights, getting more impressive all the time. This “Boom!-wow-wow-wow-BOOM!!” sequence is ideal for your presentation (and for any service process). So start with a really strong point - your second best one - then drop down and build up towards your very best “BOOM!” point at the end. Take questions at the bar.

6 Burn the beamer
Look, people’s eyes are attracted to light - it’s why we stare at the fire, the telly, the ocean - so if you use PowerPoint you are distracting from the real presentation - which is not your ruddy slides, it is you. Ask yourself: would Martin Luther King or JFK have benefited from bullet points? (Er.. no pun intended. Well spotted, Ms Pollard!)
(If you have a huge room, you might need a beamer. But use it to project live video of yourself, or for powerful images. Avoid wordy slides and lists - if your slide has more than seven words on it, you are in big trouble. And switch it off as often as you can. Hey, try the “B” key!)

5 Set yourself on fire
This is incredibly important - we look at light, so the brightest object in the room must be you. Get a spotlight on you, and get every other light in the room dimmed or switched off - including the beamer. Insist on this.

4 Don’t read
Never, ever, ever read your presentation. It sounds unnatural, and people need to see your eyes to trust you. Keyword cards are ok, but you won’t need to look at them because you have rehearsed so well. You were planning to rehearse (with a test audience) weren’t you? How much is the time of all the people in the audience worth?

-13 Do something crazy
Do something to surprise your audience. Give them a reason to remember you. For example - don’t hand out business cards, but print your number on bundles of €5 notes and throw them at the audience.

2 Get carried away
This is the big one. I don’t care how you slouch, how you stutter, how badly you dress and how much you fidget with your hands - if you truly, utterly believe what you say, you will convince people. Be yourself and let your passion show. (And if you don’t feel passionate about what you are presenting, please go home and stop wasting our time.)

1 Cancel the presentation
Presentations are there to persuade - not inform. Use them to move emotions, and sway decisions. If you just want to inform, then e-mails, articles, web based training, workshops or personal discussions are proven to be better. Too many presentations are information orgies. So cancel them, and do some work instead.

Magic lantern shot from Magic Lantern Show at flickr.
Article previously published in German in the FrankenPower magazine.

Book your own presentation coaching here.
You should follow me on Twitter here.

Using elevators to impress

Giving captive audiences a lift...

Elevators (or "lifts", if you're a BritSpeaker like me) are massively underused resources. Even in these days of fitness awareness, if your building has a people-lifter it will see a lot of use. And people in elevators are a captive audience.

So why not show how cool you are by entertaining them, like in this wonderful elevator artwork by Marcello Brambilla for the Standard Hotel in New York?

Remember, it's a fine line between entertainment and invasive advertising. Crucially, your audience here is a captive one - so you don't need to grab their attention. Coax their interest instead, and take it slow - like Marcello Brambilla does here. Don't push product features
- tell a story. (It could be one featuring your product or service, but only use it if it's worth telling in itself.) Or just choose something that reflects who you are, or reveals something about your people.

And it needn't be a professional video installation either. What about just making your elevator the official company art gallery, with a different "artist" in charge each month? Your people will surprise you if you let them, I promise.

My mother, a teacher, always says "walls have to work". That's even more true when it's walls that people like to stare at. Who knows, you might even get them talking...

Video via BoingBoing and from Vimeo.

Change the scenery and boost innovation

Move the meeting to the Holodeck...

Want a cheap and easy way to boost the effectivity of your creative sessions (and in fact any meeting)? Just change the scenery.

My collegue Markus and I felt like a change for our brainstorming session this week, so we headed across the street and into the park where the local town have provided this brilliant performance/meditation/party/picnic/being space.

A pen, a pad of Post-its, and our meeting room was ready. There were no chairs, so we kept thinking on our feet. We weren't alone - but chatting to other space-users kept the mood light and the ideas flowing fast. In the end, our latest plans for world domination benefited from the presence of a couple of bikers, a theology student, two old ladies, and a dog.

Changing your physical surroundings is once of the best ways to increase the output of creative sessions. So take your crew out of that dang meeting room and hit the cafés, museums, parks and rooftops. You'll see the benefits fast, I promise.

And perhaps your people might even look forward to the next meeting...

Pics by Adam's ancient Motorola phone

UX > CX > HX?

Which way next?

Once, there was UX, or user experience. An emphasis on how the user interacted with your product.

Then we zoomed out to CX, or customer experience. Looking at the customer's entire interaction with both the product and the company - from using the product to reading the ad to calling support to paying the bill.

What's next? HX, or human experience?

Considering the interaction between the company (and all it's agents, whether "working" or not) with all the humans it interacts with - whether "customers" or not?

It will be fun finding out.

Whither weather vane pic from Greg Hefner at flickr.

Never give in...

If you love what you do, somebody else will love it too...

Winston Churchill gave a famously short speech to schoolboys, where he said:

"Never give in. Never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense."

If you believe in what you do, and love doing it, he is right. Here's proof:

I love the way that the dancer directly appeals to the crowd at the start, but is ignored.

The more he just gets down to doing his thing, the more interesting he becomes. And he just never, never, never, never gives up - until his energy is finally irresistible.

Everyone can be a star - if you let them

Mark Hurst put me on to this terrific wedding video. It's great fun, but it can also teach us something...

Presumably nobody in this clip is a professional performer, but they all give amazing performances. Why?

* Because they are doing something that feels new.
* Because they are allowed to play around while doing it, which makes it fun.
* Because the only pressure on them to "get it right", is their desire to do a good job for their friends.

LOCKDOWN Projects are onto a winner here. They took an oversubscribed service (wedding videos) and shook it up with a great idea. Then they made the idea work by trusting average people to be stars.

What could your workplace learn from that?

PS I hope Brian and Eileen's marriage is as good a party as their wedding was, and I hope that LOCKDOWN get rich and famous rather fast.
I have a feeling they will.

If you liked this, try...

Affinity blog group

I've been fiddling with the jolly knobs at Google Analytics, and have worked out that the readers referred by these five blogs spend longest on my site, look at the most pages, and bounce least often.

In other words, if you enjoy this blog, you'll almost certainly enjoy these:

The Customer's Shoes
Pow! Right Between the Eyes!
Design for Service
Fortify Your Oasis
Humor that Works*

The list includes several of my own favourites - if you want more, look for the feed of my own regular blog reading about halfway down the right-hand bar... just after the chicken.

* A newish blog, which can slant the Google stats, but certainly recommended.
Group hug pic by fridgeuk at Flickr.