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Roger Downes discusses making presentations in december? humbug!

December is always a strange time of year. Most companies try to motivate their employees for that "final push", that final last gasp effort to raise the fourth quarter and overall annual profit margins. They dangle the bonus carrots in front of them in an effort to gain that extra momentum. Throw the Christmas parties and tell their employees how happy they are with what they've achieved, but what they might even be able to achieve if they improve this and that the following year.

It's a strange time, because as an employee you feel you've reached a point where you deserve that winter break. You deserve some time off, you know whatever you do now won't effect your bonus a great deal, and your only motivation are the passing minutes that pull you ever closer to your last working day of 2010.

Whilst across the table, it's a strange time if you are an employer. At some point following the end of December, and most definitely in the weeks that follow there after, an accountant is going to present you with figures that will either make you shine like a angel in front of your board, or prep you like a turkey about to get stuffed.

So what role can presentations play to help you avoid a roasting when the confetti is swept away come January? And how can you show your employer that your efforts in December will pay dividends in January?

Presentation Article and Advice about Creating Content

Making Presentations in December?...Ba Humbug!

Roger Downes, Presentation Consultant,

Our search for the greater good

Strangely enough both as an employee and an employer we share the same role. And whilst the various levels of responsibility may not be the same, and as consequence, salary and benefits, adjusted to match. We are commonly working towards a single goal. Be it profit in a commercial enterprise, education at a school, health care in a medical institution. We work commonly for the greater good of the organization to achieve its success on as many individual and shared levels as possible.

So in search of our greater good, does anything good really come out of standing in front of a group of employees and expecting to motivate them with the same old "Now is our last chance to ensure our bonuses for this year"?

In hindsight, I would imagine no more so than it would be for the group of people being addressed to sit staring at clocks, knowing that every minute that passes is another minute closer to opening another "pair of socks from aunt Jane" come Christmas morning.

For in reality, whilst the impact of our efforts in December is often limited in comparison to the overall results of the year. Our work In December can easily plant the seeds that we can already begin harvesting in January.

Up close and impersonal

If you've ever seen the modern version of the film, Scrooge, played by Bill Murray, you'll remember the scene where his secretary is asking what he should send to various people for their Christmas bonus. Whilst many would hope for monies, this high flying, money no object TV executive, orders her to send Terri toweling bathrobes. He does so in a self-satisfying manner, knowing that the bathrobes themselves are of little value and may easily be deemed worthless.

This is the feeling I get every year when December comes and I receive the floods of corporate cards, and "Thank you for choosing us this year", emails that are as personal as logging onto a web page and being greeted with "Welcome John". I know it's only a system so why try to pretend it's a human being?

Why send me a Christmas card when even the signatures are printed?

What effort does this show? And more importantly what impression does this provide me of that organization? Too busy to even sign a card? Or perhaps, too impersonal? Perhaps it would have been better not to send any at all?

Business is not as usual

Sadly, the majority of corporate communications received during December, whilst warm and seasonal, are by and large speculative and optimistic. They refer to the end of the year, to the hopes for great success for the following year etc., and rarely refer to anything tangible, pressing, or immediate.

In addition to these communications, are those that show such poor timing that one is left wondering if the organization sending these communications is aware of business at all. For example, sending Christmas related marketing products to an organization in December is like asking an Eskimo if he needs more snow. The majority of Christmas related marketing activities and merchandising for any organization is already in full swing by October and certainly produced by November, with December being merely the harvest.

Use the season to jolly but constructive

Last year as an experiment, I decided to contact each of my clients in December. Instead of sending them a Christmas card with the hopes for world peace and love renewed. I decided to make a small personal presentation for each.

I commissioned a unique corporate PowerPoint template that embellished our logo, and I began to think through what our organization had achieved with each client during that year. I then went further to consider how each of those developments could be expanded and what obvious benefits they could bring for each client and what opportunities these developments would enable them to grasp.

I decided that instead of leaving my clients with a blandly impersonal, "Wishing you all the best in the new year", I would rather leave them with my thoughts for how we could stride forward when January arrived, which after all, according to the calendar, was only in ten days time. Much less in actual fact than a summer vacation, and yet in the eyes of many one would think it was months away. Visiting any supermarket in the few days preceding Christmas will confirm this. People shop groceries for a month whilst stores close in actuality for only one or two days.

Give time to mature

With my presentations complete, I attached each to each relevant client and sent it to their address in the second week of December.

"In the second week of December?" I hear you ask... "What is so important about that?"

Well, to answer your question, sending it at that stage allowed the client time to read the presentation before concluding for the Christmas break. But more than this it also allowed them to consider my thoughts, chew over some of my ideas, note my intentions, and relate to my beliefs for the following year. In short it gave them time to consider new possibilities and opportunities for the following year and begin already today to consider proposals for developments of tomorrow.

Many of the clients replied briefly to my mails with "Many thanks...i'il look at this over Christmas" etc. and many replied instantly and began discussions already to add more meat to the idea bones that were now laid out in my various presentations. But the early response was light and mainly polite.

You've got mail

So January came and I returned to my desk. But this year something was different, for a number of colleagues their explanation was somewhat fantastical. I had returned with the luck of the Irish, now carried a rabbits foot in my pocket, had nailed a horse shoe over my desk, had sold my soul to Santa. But the reason was far less complex, and much more measurable.

During my first week, I was bombarded with calls. Whilst the majority of my colleagues were getting to grips with 8am and office routines once more, I had already met budgets for January and February, in fact things had begin to line up nicely towards April.

And it didn't stop there, several projects developed to such an extent that entirely new project teams were required to handle the account.

I had for all intensive purposes become somewhat of a rainmaker. Yet I was not a man empowered with secret powers, nor one with mob relations or political sway. I had simply chosen to go against the norm and use the season not to conclude the year, but precipitate new opportunities for the one to come.

And the moral of the story is...

As any good story goes, a moral usually lies beneath. And unlike many stories of moral value, this is not one of urban myth or fairytale.

In using my time at the start of December to consider my relationship with each client and examine the business opportunities that currently existed, might exist, and could later unfold, I created a unique presentation for each client to illustrate and communication each case.

There was no printed Christmas card. There was no Christmas related merchandising December style sales product push. There was only simple. Clear. Defined business possibilities laid out in foundations upon which revenues and value added scenarios could be built for my clients.

In response to our search for our common goal:
  • I had enabled my clients to report to their employers and their boards already in December ideas and thoughts for business developments for the following year.
  • In parallel I had provided my organization with the platform upon which to instantly gain revenue and develop greater business opportunities already at the outset of the New Year. Opportunities which may otherwise have taken much longer time to develop, or may perhaps not have developed at all should other activities have developed for the client before my proposals.
  • I had given my clients the opportunity to recognize and identify possible initiatives of interest at a time when their time was more widely available, their willingness to consider at its greatest, and the space, during the Christmas break, for those ideas to mature with the client, possible.
  • I had provided my employer with positive, optimistic, upbeat, and more importantly real project initiatives and estimates that he was able to take forward to the board.

So to those of you still reading, pull out your Rolodex, look at your clients and spend some time to consider how you can help their business develop next year. There's still time, and you are still able to make the greatest impact of all.

And when you explain to your boss or board what you are doing, and what you will achieve, let's hope they realize your value can be measured far beyond that of a bathrobe. But then again, for many the idea of doing anything more than simply sending the corporate card in December or being proactive is just Ba Humbug!
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