“Ideas are useless unless used.” —Theodore Levitt
Suppose your boss approaches you and says, “Company morale is down. I’m giving all employees an hour off work and inviting them to the cafeteria to enjoy free banana splits. I want you to give them a short pep talk before the sundaes are served.” How would you go about your task?
Here’s what I’d do, hypothetically.
1. Determine the audience’s need.
- Especially if you’re not an employee, you’ll need to do research. Look up what the company’s industry is facing. Look at customer reviews of its products or services. Interview employees.
- Decide how you’ll fill their need.
Banana splits: As an employee, I knew the morale problem was associates’ fear of infringement on their work from other departments and management . My pep talk needed to show employees how essential all areas and levels were to the company’s survival.
2. Get an idea.
- While you’re brainstorming, don’t eliminate ideas because they sound ridiculous.
- Play with the ideas that grab you most. Which could give a fresh spin? What can you squeeze from that outlandish idea?
Banana splits: I couldn’t give up the silly idea of basing my pep talk on a banana split. What wisdom could I squeeze from the sundae? Maybe I could compare the structures of the company and a banana split. I hoped a banana-split story would delight my audience longer than a speech full of business-speak.
- Researching your idea may jumpstart a new direction for your idea.
- Or you may discover gems that enhance your message.
Banana splits: My research unveiled facts that played well with my comparison idea.
4. Prepare your presentation.
- Start your talk showing you understand the audience’s present situation.
- Tell them how things could be.
- Present your solution in a manner that appeals to their emotions.
- Tell a story.
Banana splits: I recognized the difficulties the employees were experiencing. I explained my research suggested the product quality, customer service, and ads came across to customers like dog biscuits and threatened the company’s survival and their jobs. I assured them they could shine like a banana split, if they changed how employees treated each other.
I told them the banana split’s boat-shaped dish, designed by David Strickler, the inventor of the banana split in 1904, represented the company’s mission.
Banana’s were first imported into America in 1902, making them a relatively a new treat and were in demand in 1904. The banana halves that supported the rest of the banana split represented consumer demand.
The mainstay vanilla ice cream symbolized production. The strawberry scoop denoted product development with its fruitful ideas, while the chocolate ice cream signified energized marketing.
The three syrups (chocolate, pineapple/wet walnut, and strawberry) characterized the areas’ tasks and expertizes. The syrups oozed together in the banana boat. This sharing of tasks and expertizes would improve their products, service, and image. Yum.
The whipped cream signified management, who had associates covered, providing them resources and breaking though red tape.
And what topped the banana split to represent the CEO? A marshmallow? No. Too soft and would get lost against the whipped cream. A nut? Who’d want a nut leading them? A bright red maraschino cherry? Now, that stood out! Many people didn’t like maraschino cherries. But the CEO was hired not to be liked but to lead.
I called for the banana splits to be served and asked everyone to feast their attention on their sundaes. Wouldn’t they enjoy being part of something that had such beautiful synergy—the whole outweighing its individual parts?
Hypothetically, they cheered and dug in.
What bizarre presentation idea worked well that you could share?
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This approach reminds me of the time a teaching leader put rice and walnuts in a jar to help us understand priorities. Walnuts represented the important things in our life, and the rice represented the rest of the things. If you put the rice in the jar first you can’t fit all the walnuts in, but if you put the walnuts in first there is room for the rice too.
Matthew 6:33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
Our BSF Teaching Leader did the same demonstration for us each year. Thanks for the example, Marcia.
I would start with the boss and understand why he thinks morale is down. Then I would ask what his expectations are in terms of results of the meeting. He is the one that needs to establish your objective by “really” defining the problem.
I might then brainstorm, as you said, with a few selected employees and state what the objective is. Then I would discuss any issues with other employees to see if the results of the brainstorming was on target, AND will meet your objective of satisfying your bosses objective(s).
Also, what I’ve found with most employees is how is the company doing and where is the company headed. The more they know, usually the more comfortable they are in a work environment. So, the more you can provide status of objectives of the company; the direction / vision the company is headed, and how the employees can help is important. Of course there will other issues your brainstorming session will provide. Interesting article–thanks
Scott, spoken like a true business executive. Thanks for sharing.