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The Perils of Copy and Paste

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The Perils of Copy and Paste

If there's one thing we British dread above everything else it's embarrassment. We can stand losing at sports we invented; it's the humiliation we struggle with. We didn't really mind that Robert Green couldn't win a game of catch, but we'll never forgive him for letting those upstart transatlantic revolutionaries believe they're our equals. We'll eat sautéed cockroach in a restaurant, and assure the disinterested waitress that "everything's lovely, thank you".

Because otherwise people might Look.

Which is why presentations baffle me. How do you feel when you know your audience is so bored that they're considering eating their toenails? Can you really be entertaining, witty, urbane and persuasive when you feel like Howard Hughes doing a last-minute replacement speaker spot at Nuremberg?

Two words that changed their meaning somewhere in the early nineties have a whole lot to answer for: their names are Copy and Paste.

Try this for starters: how many people does it take to produce a new brochure? I’ve seen brochures that have involved input from more people than the client actually has on the payroll. Aside from the armies of designers, consultants and copywriters, we also show draft copies to the sales department, marketing, accounts, the cleaning staff, the bloke at the golf club who knows a bit about marketing, and next door’s budgie. Meanwhile the corporate identity police have the agency’s visual strapped in a chair in a basement while they positively vet the Pantone references and… ha! I thought so! The white space around the logo isn’t exactly one third of the height of the third “J”!

The new website tends to develop a similarly inflated supporting cast. Steven Spielberg made Saving Private Ryan with fewer people and in considerably shorter time. In fact you can replay the scenario for pretty much all of your marketing exercises. God can make a universe in six days. Humans can make more humans in nine months. The impossible we can do at once. Marketing takes a little longer.

Unless we're going to turn up in person.

All your marketing time and expense led up to this. Someone actually wants to listen to you. So the day before the presentation you start thinking about what you're going to say. But you're a bit busy, so you'll get your friends Copy and Paste to help. OK, so this means that your new customer's going to listen to a bunch of stuff that only marginally applies to them, and get to hear you saying "actually, that last point there isn't strictly true anymore", but they'll also catch the odd glimpse of their main competitor's logo, so that's alright isn't it?

No it bloody isn't. If you're British, this sort of embarrassment is as painful as watching Noel Edmonds perform King Lear. With Jimmy Krankie as Cordelia.

Presentations are arguably your most important communication. You're there in person, and you're going to get listened to. So don't waste the opportunity by recycling something you spent five minutes putting together a couple of months ago. Create something new, relevant and persuasive.

And if that feels too comfy when you present it, you can always moon the audience at the end.

You embarrassment junkie, you.

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