Porpoises and fast hummers


Getting your message across at sales conference time.

Yep, it’s coming round to that time of year again. The Annual Sales Conference. Like an end of year exam, it’s an entire year’s planning crammed into a half hour presentation. So don’t waste it! A great strategy communicated badly is like playing Chinese Whispers. Rather than ‘Focus on the needs of your customer’, you could end up with ‘Porpoise only feeds on your fast hummer’. And no one wants to see that.

Here are four things to keep in mind in preparing for your sales conference.

1. Be empathetic

It’s easy to get caught up in corporate tactics. How and why are the company doing this? Of more value is, why should our staff do this? What’s in it for them, professionally and personally. Like branding your company, a well considered and designed brand for your conference should establish an empathetic connection with your colleagues, motivating them to follow through on your strategy for the next 12 months.

2. Keep it short, clear and impactful

Ten minutes is as long as most people can hold their attention on any one thing (brainrules.net). So it’s important to keep them emotionally invested in your presentation. One way to do this is to use produced video to pull at their heart strings, or make them want to leap out of their chair with excitement. Punctuating presentations with an emotional trigger through video or imagery can spare your colleagues conference whiplash*. 


3. Use visuals rather than text

When people hear information, three days later they’ll only remember 10% of it. Add a relevant picture and they’ll remember 65% (brain rules.net).

Take the time to generate relevant visuals to reinforce your message. Remove all but the key words from your powerpoint slides - or remove them all together and just show a clear infographic or image.

4. Wash, repeat

Ever heard of a theory called ‘Spaced Repetition’? It’s about repeating things at increasing intervals to cement long-term memories. You can use it to remember peoples names, but you can also use it to cement your key messages in the minds of your colleagues. Use soundbites on gameday, then follow up with the same relevant, branded content to ‘repeat’ the message. Emails, leave-behinds, even merchandise, can drive your messages home long after the last after-party canapés have been devoured.

– / –

Now’s the time to get in touch if you’d like us to give your strategic messages a boost, with event theming, presentations, video production, sales collateral or promotional items.

* Jolting of the neck muscles due to sudden awakening from sleep during a presentation.

Interview with a Freckle: Johnny Le

Johnny is the newest member of the Freckle team.   
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  After a few weeks of settling in, we thought we would sit down with him for an 'unterview', and get to know the person behind the CV.

Johnny is the newest member of the Freckle team. After a few weeks of settling in, we thought we would sit down with him for an 'unterview', and get to know the person behind the CV.

What do you tell people you do at awkward speed networking events?

I’m a visual communicator that specialises in branding, print and digital design who also knows my way around a camera. Outside of this, you’d probably find me on a bike, in a cafe or cooking in the kitchen.

Where were you before Freckle and why the change?

Before I started at Freckle, I worked as a designer within the property industry, creating branding and marketing collateral for property developers and small home builders. I also had a semi-illustrious career as a construction site photographer until I was replaced with a drone.

Sadly, the previous agency I worked at had to close down, but in a way it was a good opportunity to escape the property bubble and find out what else was out there in the world of design. The opportunity at Freckle was too good to pass up so I quickly jumped on it.

What are your greatest strengths and ‘quirknesses’?

I’m a naturally curious person who’s always looking for new and exciting things. I enjoy the experimenting in my design process, finding new approaches to create something unique. My quirkiness would have to be my absolute hate of velcro, it’s the nails on the blackboard for me.

Everyone has a good app idea, what's yours?

Sometimes I find myself in a “Ready, Steady Cook” situation at home, where I have a bunch of random ingredients and no idea what to make with them. My idea would be to enter those ingredients into the app, which would then come up with some recipes base off those ingredients. It’ll be a great way to save food and money. 

What could Freckle clients ask you about, that you could expertly talk about for three hours?

I could probably talk my head off for hours on the different types of paper stocks, print finishes and print production processes. I’m a big fan of tactility in design and how it can be used to create a deeper connection to a visual concept.

You're on death row, what's your last meal?

It would definitely be a bowl of ramen from a shop called Shin Shin in Fukuoka, Japan! I travelled an hour and a half on the Shinkansen to try it when I was travelling in Japan and it was the best I’ve ever had.

What will your ‘Freckfest’ talk be titled?

I’d call my Freckfast Talk “Connecting in a connected world”. In a world connected by social media, I’ve noticed that we’ve become distant in our face to face social interactions and have increasingly become socially isolated. So I want to explore ways we can get that face-to-face social interaction back.

Interview with a Freckle: Jacquie Synnott

Jacquie is the newest member of the Freckle team. Following her job interview and getting settled in, we thought we would sit down with her for an 'unterview', and get to know the person behind the CV.

Jacquie is the newest member of the Freckle team. Following her job interview and getting settled in, we thought we would sit down with her for an 'unterview', and get to know the person behind the CV.

What do you tell people you do at awkward speed networking events?

I manage the daily workflow between our designers and clients, ensuring all jobs are looked after and effectively run from start to finish. When I’m not doing this, I’m probably at home taking photos of my cat.

If you weren't at Freckle, where would you be?

Before Freckle I was working as a full time Graphic Designer at a large Australian architecture firm called Architectus; creating in-house visual communication pieces including HR campaigns and property marketing collateral.

During this time (and for some time before!), I wanted nothing more than to work in production management, at a small branding agency and focus on freelance graphic design projects in my spare time. When the opportunity at Freckle arose, I grabbed it!

What are your greatest strengths and ‘quirknesses’?

My strengths lie in the technical aspects of design. From creating technical drawings to technical spreadsheets… I enjoy the methodical process of design problem solving.

I also know my way around a table-top hand loom! All thanks to a bad flu and access to YouTube just over 3 years ago, I’m now a proficient hand weaver. I guess you could call this my greatest ‘quirkness’!

Who aren't you?

Out of all the things in life that I am not, I would have to say I am not the type of person who confuses purple for blue.

Where do you see yourself in 5 minutes?

Replying to 3 emails at the same time, whilst dreaming of dumplings for dinner.

... 5 days?

Planning a trip to South East Asia to make the dumplings a reality!

Are you a Mac or a PC? Dog or cat? Tea or coffee?

I am a cat sipping on a takeaway coffee in front of a MacBook, and I know many people who can vouch for this.

What could Freckle clients ask you about, that you could expertly talk about for three hours?

Around two years ago I worked at a creative production design studio in London specializing in the design and installation of retail window displays and pop-up shops. This is during the time when my love for production design blossomed. If a Freckle client was to ask me about the creative production involved in an event or retail space, spanning from signage to installation manuals to props, I would be able to chew their ear off on the topic! Firing off questions such as “Is it legible? Is that at eye level? Is it adjustable??” so on and so forth…

What will your ‘Freckfest’ talk be titled?

With all the construction and general development happening in Sydney as of late, I’ve become extremely interested in urban design within big cities. I think I would base my Freckfest talk on a great book I’m reading called Happy City by Charles Montgomery. This isn’t set in stone though; you’ll have to wait to find out!

Branding: this time, it's personal

When someone in an elevator asks me what Freckle is about, I say something like:

"We’re an agency that designs brands, campaigns and events."

The concept of brands in particular is what first got me excited about working in design. I started by dabbling in Photoshop, and went on to study advertising. I found advertising oddly inspiring. Perhaps this was because I suspected there was another angle to it than just manipulating society in order to sell them junk food and get rich by destroying their health — something about finding truth, or revealing hidden value in brands to change perception en masse — and indeed I found this attitude in Todd Sampson and our other mentors once I got into my studies. At Freckle we have this origami analogy: you take a piece of paper and ‘reveal the hidden value’, in transforming it into an animal.

I had the same suspicion when ‘personal branding’ first became a meme. What if we took time-tested concepts from brand strategy and applied them to the brand that is you? The idea is promising — but how far could you push it before the analogy broke down?

It seemed that for the most part, personal branding meant something like “Always wear the same quirky tie to networking events”. Frankly, that seemed a bit lame to me. We have probably all had the experience of chatting to someone at a professional event, and feeling like you never quite get past their well-rehearsed sales small-talk playbook. I always walked away from those interactions feeling a little ‘icky’.

Is personal branding more than just wearing a funny hat?

Is personal branding more than just wearing a funny hat?

Was personal branding limited to some kind of persona adopted by public speakers? I wondered if the Freckle approach to branding could work. Something about revealing the hidden value of ourselves. Now, that seemed a lot less icky as a goal. Empowering, even?

At the latest Creative Mornings Sydney meetup, I heard our approach validated by the (potty-mouthed) 'brand guy' himself, Richard Sauerman:

“There isn’t a brand persona ‘me’, and a real ‘me’... they’re the same fucking person.”

Amongst other projects, the brand guy runs personal branding workshops along similar principles as the Freckle way: looking to reveal the best of ourselves… and not just with a quirky tie.

Richard Sauerman at Creative Mornings Sydney.  Creative Mornings is an international community of professionals. The Sydney events happen every month on the last Friday in the Workshop, Redfern.

Richard Sauerman at Creative Mornings Sydney.

Creative Mornings is an international community of professionals. The Sydney events happen every month on the last Friday in the Workshop, Redfern.

How to create your personal brand strategy

Brand strategy can easily be over-complicated — but in thinking about a personal brand we learned that you can get the ball rolling pretty quickly. If you’re starting with the attitude that you’re just trying to reveal the positive traits that are relevant to your goals, then chances are you already have a couple of items that come to mind. You know who you are, at least roughly. Mental blank? Sauerman would suggest that you might be letting anxiety get in the way ("Don't be bland… popularity is for mediocre people”). Make a short list. How can you align your communication to these traits? Now you have a personal brand strategy.

Personal brand checklist

  1. Write down your strongest personal traits
  2. Choose your ‘favourites’, the ones that align with your personal/professional goals
  3. For each favourite, brainstorm how a person with these traits might behave
  4. Select some behaviours that feel authentic for you to commit to

Example: yours truly

As a graphic designer, I thought about the traits that creative professionals are valued for. Some sprung to mind immediately: they have imagination and humour, they’re willing to fail, and they’re open-minded. Does my CV reflect these traits? I have created a CV that begins with long-form prose, and has no ‘past employment’ section. Of course, this is not appropriate for everyone but works well for my profession and skillset and, most important, feels authentic to me.

Example: Doctor Jason Fox

Having previously mocked quirky clothing as a personal branding tactic, I mention should Doctor Jason Fox, a public speaker, writer and consultant, who is an example of how to do it right. The difference is that it comes from an authentic place: his professional appearance is an extension of his personality.

Doctor Jason Fox: quirky style done right.

Doctor Jason Fox: quirky style done right.

Branding strategy is about consistently presenting the best parts of your product/service/group; seen in this light, personal branding is not something limited to entrepreneurs, or even to business goals. Is the world hearing what you’re trying to express?

Do you have a personal brand? What is it and how do you communicate it? As designers of intelligent communication, the Freckle team are always curious about how our readers reveal the hidden value of themselves or their teams using branding strategy, so feel free to drop us a comment or an email.


Don’t get charged with Death by PowerPoint: A simple hack you can use to unboring your next presentation

Image courtesy of  Halans Photography

Image courtesy of Halans Photography

Is the news really just b-grade entertainment? Do you suffer from Phantom Cat Syndrome? And what is the correct way to peel a banana?

I heard the answers to these questions and more at the Oxford Art Factory on a warm spring night last week, during the 17th Ignite Sydney evening. The event felt like a shorter, rowdier version of TEDx Sydney, featuring 14 speakers and three bars that never stopped serving.

Speaker Hugh Saalmans gave us the hard truth that the world is ending, and explained how we can prepare for the apocalypse. To cheer us up, Chloe Boreham showed us that life is full of little loving moments, if you look for them. Life saver Lucy Schott revealed her dark secret: she is terrified of the ocean. Doug Suiter told us the story of a cat sleeping in the centre of his bed, forcing him to contort himself around his favourite pet, only to wake up to find no cat, and a needless back ache (an apt metaphor for obsolete habits dying too late, he posited).

As always, an eclectic bunch of speakers populated the Art Factory’s stage, the only commonality between them being their passion for a chosen niche topic. Ignite Sydney carefully chooses the speakers to capture a broad spectrum of topics, and anyone can throw their hat in the ring to be in the running. The catch? You must use a 20-slide PowerPoint presentation, and each slide gets exactly 15 seconds of fame. If you do the maths, that’s a neat 5 minutes to get your message across. to quote Ignite curator Stephen Lead: “Enlighten us, but make it quick.”

Sounds challenging? Your delivery and timing would need to be on point, no doubt. But on the other hand, it’s a strange reality of the creative process that this kind of limit can elicit a more imaginative approach. Ignite's presenters were unknowlingly receiving a masterclass in design: putting constraints around a project can help you push through creative blocks, and make the end result that much more unique.

Indeed, technical tinkerer Michael Kordahi gave several examples of ‘beautiful constraints’ during his 5 minute talk about the hacker mindset: Jerry Seinfeld famously imposes the personal restriction of never swearing during his standup routines (a constraint that perhaps many of us would struggle with!). Then there's Brian Eno, who created the infamous Windows 95 startup sound, but was lacking inspiration when the brief came to him. “We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah-blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional, this whole list of adjectives, and then at the bottom it said: and it must be 3.25 seconds long.” This final, bizarre constraint made him laugh, and stirred some imagination up too: he ended up submitting 84 tiny tunes in response to Microsoft's request.

But you don’t have to be a legendary comedian or composer, nor a hacker, creative professional or public speaker, to benefit from this technique. Next time you need to make a presentation, consider imposing some constraints. What if you had to get your point across in only 5 minutes? What if every slide was on a 15 second timer? The constraints need not be time-related, either. Designer Jarrod Drysdale imposed an arbitrary constraint when designing his online course: he had to use the colour green.

And, of course, take inspiration from other great presentations and check out the next Ignite Sydney event! It won’t disappoint: I drank… and I learned things! I learned that we all suffer from phantom cat syndrome from time to time; that peeling a banana ‘from the bottom’ is the best way; and that mass media news really does make more sense if you imagine it as entertainment. Moreover, I learned a great hack to make my own presentations faster, more fun and more engaging.

What beautiful constraints do you use when you need to get creative? What other hacks help you to ‘unboring' your messaging? As designers of intelligent communication, the Freckle team are always curious about what works for our readers, so feel free to drop us a comment or an email.