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December 15, 2010

Nick Eve:What a performance!

The chief executive of f2f communications company Pumphouse reveals the look of horror that crosses his client’s faces when he talks about introducing elements of ‘theatrics’ in their events. Yet it can hold the key to whether a conference is successful or not – and doesn’t have to ramp up the costs.

Reduced budgets are simply not an excuse for CEOs to content themselves with bland meeting spaces when aiming to deliver a corporate message. Whether their audience is employees or customers, the fact remains that the space in which they deliver the message can be, and should be, creatively thought through to convey the correct motivational feel and capture the audience’s emotional attention.

Theatrics by its very definition implies over-the-top and dramatic. Bring it into a conversation relating to a corporate meeting or an event and looks of horror are frequently exchanged. There is a real belief that because we are in a recession no one should have too much fun, be light hearted or, heaven forbid, be too creative. Business is a serious affair and in this current market no frills should be allowed to spill over.

This is an interesting paradox. The more we trim out all the extras and get back down to the bare bones of business, the more we are actually undermining some of the core values of a corporation or a brand. We are, by nature, creatures who respond to stimuli. Put us in a blank room with a light bulb, a few chairs and a desk and talk to us for 45 minutes, then ask us to convey the enthusiasm we have felt during this ‘meeting’.

So theatrics should either be re-named or be given a new definition, particularly in the context of invaluable tools in meetings and events.

Dumbing down
The next perception about theatrics that should be knocked on the head is that they are costly to implement. Creating the right impression  is a vital part of engagement and does not need not be expensive. There is no point in gathering a group of people together to tell them of some bold corporate forward thinking strategy, if delegates feel that the messages being conveyed are completely at odds with the subliminal signals conveyed by look, feel and quality of delivery of the presentational tools.

We have set up conferences and been involved in corporate meetings across Europe and the trend is constant; there is a real pull towards 'dumbing down'. Even in instances where budget may not be so much of an issue, there is a belief that to scene-set might convey the wrong message. Putting thought and effort into a project, whether it’s a meeting or presentation, goes a very long way towards conveying the message first and foremost that the audience is important, that they are valued and that the message about to be imparted is powerful. Setting the scene means saying all of that without the speaker even opening his or her mouth.

Exceeding expectations
The feedback we have gathered from events clearly shows that if delegates were expecting 'a lecture' and instead are treated to a tailored 'event', they come away feeling motivated and engaged. Likewise, where delegates have indeed been given a 'talking to', they often come away feeling more negative and less enthusiastic  – at best quite matter of fact.

Even in these times of needing to advocate consolidation, corporate communities both internal and external must recognise the power of engagement and  this can often involve a degree of theatrical creativity to help get the message across.

Nick Eve is chief executive at Pumphouse.

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