The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Member Blog: 6 tips for making your business presentation more interactive

By Richard Barnes, Founder and Creative Director at Buffalo7

What if we told you that your audience’s attention level will normally plummet within the first ten minutes of your business presentation? That’s a scary thought – especially if your most important messages come later on – but it’s absolutely true according to Prof. John Medina in his book Brain Rules.

The brain needs a break from focusing on one thing. So if you want to keep your audience engaged, you need to be introducing new components that regain and retain their attention.

You can achieve this by making your presentation more interactive; try incorporating some of the following tips into your presentation to keep eyes off smartphone screens and on you.

1) Hook Your Audience In

‘Hooking’ is often used by teachers to generate learners’ interest in a topic by feeding them snippets of information that capture their imagination and precipitates the desire to learn more.

When your presentation arrives at an important part, deliver a hook statement or question that immediately creates interest. Then dive into your content to explain how you arrived at your key conclusions.

2) Always Tell a Story

Stories have always been a huge part of human culture since our earliest beginnings, and for good reason: when listening to a story, multiple parts of the brain are activated, increasing attention and retention.

Stories are much more effective than dull recitations of facts, so give your business presentation a clear narrative structure with a beginning, middle and end. Introduce conflict and provide a powerful resolution that reinforces your key messages.

3) Focus on Visuals 

We’ve all suffered through speakers reading from slides containing 12-point black text against a white background. Don’t be one of those presenters.

Instead, make visuals the forefront of your presentation. Our brains process visual information thousands of times faster than text alone, making it much easier to communicate difficult ideas and concepts using imagery. And support these with smooth, subtle animation that helps your message flow.

4) Involve Your Audience Directly

Getting your audience involved in your presentation makes it interactive in its truest sense.

Ditch the one-way conversation by asking your audience questions, taking live polls, and splitting them into groups to complete short tasks. These kind of activities work especially well with a ‘hook’, enabling your audience to become invested in your topic. You can then discuss audience responses and feed them back into your key presentation points.

5) Try Non-Linear Presenting

It won’t suit every setting – like if your presentation is very focused on a single topic and set of messages – but non-linear presenting can bring with it some distinct advantages.

Instead of putting off questions and promising topics will be covered later, you’ll be able to respond to your audience’s interests and needs in a very immediate and interactive way. Try dividing your presentation content under a few topics and create a PowerPoint navigation that allows you to jump between them – you can then take a more collaborative approach to presenting.

6) Use Body Language to Your Advantage

Non-verbal communication forms an important part of how we construct meaning, but you don’t need politician-style media coaching to make your body language work in service of your presentation.

Simply make things more interesting for your audience using gestures to enhance what you’re saying. For example, use dynamic movements to motivate your audience when delivering key points and calls to action. Or take advantage of calm, deliberate motions to remove barriers and focus attention on specific information. Above all, mix things up to appear natural and credible.

Buffalo7 is the UK’s leading PowerPoint Presentation Design Agency, creating premium presentations for some of the world’s leading brands. Its recent clients include Sony PlayStation, the Guardian, Unilever, Budweiser Budvar and UEFA Champions League.

For more information, visit:

Friday, 8 April 2016

Member Blog: Is content at the heart of your marketing? It should be!

By David Wright - BSA Marketing

I have written previously about website development often having too much focus on design and the look of a site. I believe at least as much focus should be on good content, and once a site is published, the focus on regular, new content marches on....

Marketing needs content - and content can be hard work to produce!

In my experience, lack of content it is the single biggest reason why website projects die before completion. I have even heard of clients paying for websites that never actually get published due to a lack of content!
Is your website at the heart of your marketing?

It is certainly true that good content needs to be the heart of an effective website. Regularly adding new material keeps your site fresh and relevant to your business. Once you have created your content there are great opportunities to leverage your hard work!

The internet, and the wider world, offer numerous options to publish (and re-publish) your work:

Social Media
Guest Blogs
Magazines, both on and off-line

Just like you, social media platforms, external blogs, magazines etc. all need quality content and if you are producing relevant articles, there are often opportunities to get your work published by others. Your work is seen by a wider audience but there is an issue; these external media are all transient. Pretty quickly, your content gets overtaken by new stuff and disappears into the depths of the archives. This is why (IMHO) it is inefficient to write your content purely to be published on a platform where you don't have influence over the flow of new content.

Don't waste your work - always use it first to build your own, managed archive on your website. Your content is then all available for your visitors for as long as you choose.

It is also a great resource when talking to prospective clients. You can link them to relevant articles, case studies etc. reinforcing your credentials and demonstrating how you can help them.

An added bonus

New content also keeps your site fresh and up to date meaning it reflects your business as it is now, not just how it was when you launched your site. Even better, search engines love new content!

Many of you will know I am not a fan of too much focus on 'classical' search engine optimisation but there is no question that regularly adding well written, relevant content to your site can have a significant positive impact on search rankings.

No need to wait for people to find your content

Just because you publish great content on your website doesn't mean people will see it! Let people know what you are up to and invite them to your site.

E-newsletters are a great option to engage with your existing contacts. By linking to content on your website you can keep your e-newsletters short and easy to scan. When a reader clicks from your e-newsletter through to your website, they also have opportunity to take a look around and get to know you better.

A limitation of e-newsletters is that you can only send them to the people you know. This is where social media, guest blogs etc. come into the picture. Your can reach out beyond your own contacts and engage with a wider audience - though you should always try to find an audience where there is a 'fit' with your business.

Simply trying to spread the word to as many people as possible starts to sound like spam!

Top Tips...

Here are my top tips for keeping your website at the heart of your marketing:

1. Be proud of your website. Make sure it tells your story. Want people to visit and browse
2. Regularly write/create new content and always add it to your website
3. Make sure all your content is properly categorised. Make it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for.
4. Build a network of relevant external publishers and keep delivering quality content to spread your word even wider
5. As always - stick at it!

To finish off, here is a great post from professional services marketing specialist, Ian Brodie, which adds another angle by suggesting that published content can also be effectively integrated with 'performed' content such as seminars and presentations.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Member Blog: Workplace Relationships - What happens if things go wrong?

By Zee Hussain - Partner, Simpson Millar Solicitors LLP

Office relationships often present employers with a headache. It is a sensitive area, and requires the employer to strike a careful balance between respecting the personal affairs of the individuals concerned, and managing any potential issues from a business perspective.

1. Why should employers care about workplace romances?

The mere fact that two employees have a romantic relationship is not an issue for employers – but the potential consequences in the workplace can be a valid concern. One of the employees might be in a management position over the other, creating conflicts of interest. The couple might engage in inappropriate behaviour in the office. And, if the relationship breaks down acrimoniously, it’s possible that the employer might face a claim of sexual harassment by the aggrieved party. Sensible employers will seek to guard against these eventualities.

2. Does a romantic relationship exist?

There is no legal obligation for employees to inform their employer of their office romance; though conscientious employees may decide to do so, many couples will want to keep the fact of the relationship private. There’s nothing to stop employers asking about a suspected relationship, but – in the interests of good workforce relations – this should be done sensitively. For example, employers should avoid quizzing individuals collectively, or being intrusive about the details of the relationship. Overall, the employer will have to take a view on whether or not it is worth raising the subject, bearing in mind the particular circumstances and facts.

3. What action, if any, can the employer take?
Short of introducing a policy on workplace relationships, or requiring the employees to sign a ‘love contract’ (see below), employers are entitled to point out the standard of conduct they expect from their employees. It would be acceptable to remind employees that any personal relationship should not impact on their professional conduct, such as on business trips. For example, the employer is entitled to ask employees to refrain from inappropriate conduct in the workplace.

Employers should be wary of taking any form of disciplinary action, unless the employees’ behaviour essentially amounts to misconduct or a breach of contract. If one employee in a couple manages the other, it may be possible for the employer to change reporting lines, or even job functions, to avoid the conflict of interest – though this must be done carefully and with due process.

4. Can an employer ban workplace relationships?

An outright ban on workplace relationships is extremely likely to be seen by the workforce as draconian and excessive. Even if a ban were imposed, and an employee acted in breach of it, the employer may well be acting unreasonably in taking disciplinary action.

5. How about a policy or ‘love contract’?

‘Love contracts’ – agreements where the couple agrees contractually with their employer that the relationship is consensual – are often used in the US, as a guard against sexual harassment claims. They are far less common in the UK, due to the difference in harassment laws. Employers are, however, well advised to introduce a sensible policy on workplace relationships. This should spell out what is expected of such employees. Where an employee breaches the policy, the employer is more likely to be able demonstrate that they have acted reasonably in taking action.

6. What happens if things go wrong?

Where a break-up impacts detrimentally on the workplace environment, employers are entitled to respond – though they should so proportionately, and only after giving due consideration to all available options. Rarely will an employer be able to fairly dismiss an employee following a break-up, unless there are other factors involved – for example, where an employee commits misconduct as a consequence. Where dismissal is an option, this should only follow an appropriate investigation or review process. Employers should always consider practical alternatives, such as redeployment, or negotiating a settlement for departure.