By Freeman Murray Chick, Chairman, The Exedra Ltd and Liveryman Dr Sunila Lobo, Trustee of the Parallel Learning Trust.
This year the Worshipful Company of Marketors' Education & Knowledge Development Committee (EKDC), together with a team from our corporate supporter Accenture’s Interactive arm, comprising Aaliyah Inglis-Mangal and Nityasha Pillai, participated in the Livery Schools Link Annual Careers Showcase event at Guildhall, London on 29 June 2021. Part of the London Careers Festival, and with audiences of primary, secondary and pupils aged over 16, the event was designed with multiple objectives of connecting students with a wide range of sector employers, inspiring and fuelling students’ imaginations, and beginning to explore Apprenticeships, further education and careers opportunities.
The Marketors’ contribution was a brief introduction to marketing and how it has changed over time followed by talks on careers in marketing, covering what careers are available in marketing, what they involve and how students might find out more, explore opportunities and, eventually, how they might enter the profession.
For the second year, the 2021 event was delivered on a virtual basis, with a series of 20-minute presentations being delivered and (as far as was possible) discussed in group Zoom calls.
In planning and executing the talks, it soon became clear that the challenges of compressing a wealth of information into a 20 minute presentation to be delivered in a virtual environment to very disparate groups with very different levels of knowledge and expectations (as well as, of course, the unpredictabilities of Zoom call conferences) were only the most obvious of issues that needed to be faced.
Preparation. Though a commonplace challenge in pandemic days, preparation was hampered to some extent by participants working from home: collecting, collating, sharing and editing materials remotely, then drafting, redrafting, agreeing and rehearsing presentations at arm’s length.
Audience. The reality of the degree of diversity of audiences was profound and implications on presentation immense. The same presentation (there was no opportunity to change between 20-minute sessions) had to be applicable and appropriately pitched to groups from primary schoolchildren to GCSE level students, and had to include pupils with special needs.
Content. The breadth and depth of variety of career possibilities within marketing (and of charting a career therein) is of course tremendous. A balance had to be struck between presenting sufficient different options to give some indication of all that is possible, while at the same time providing enough detail in each to show realistically what each option entails.
Materials. In the event, presentations relied heavily (and to good effect) on use of visual examples and video content, both to manage presentation of complex content and, especially, to make that content engaging and understandable for our disparate audiences. Once again, though, the challenges of physically separated presenters uploading content, switching decks and coordinating presentation should not be underestimated.
Nevertheless, by the day of the event the Marketors / Accenture team felt well prepared and confident.
And then the unpredictable happened
In the days immediately leading up to the event, a wave of class and school closures swept the country as a result of Covid quarantine and isolation measures. That wave peaked the morning of the Careers event, leading to considerable uncertainty as to quite who amongst our disparate sets of different audiences would actually be attending and listening to presentations.
Neverthess, albeit to slightly smaller audiences than had once been envisaged, the presentation was judged a success! Audiences appeared engaged at time of delivery, with questions on various aspects including the starting salary for a marketer, and both in terms of immediate feedback on the day of the presentation and after post analysis feedback. The Livery Schools Link, pupils, and attending school staff all reported positively.
It seems worthwhile, then, to pause to consider what the team felt had been learnt in terms of presentation preparation and delivery through this exercise. Even if established truisms, all seem worth restating:
- When considering disparate audiences, take the time to isolate and to clarify what they have in common; make that common ground the context for communication strategy rather than management of how various audiences may differ.
- The greater the number of challenges you face and the more complex they appear, the more you are forced to the core of essential elements of communication. Once identified, make that core visible and prominent in every element of the presentation.
- Never underestimate the value of visual and audio-visual material in communicating complex subject matter and/or to disparate audiences. EKDC could begin developing new multimedia materials with the help of WCoM’s in-house marketing team, with this in mind.
- The more difficult the environment in which you are forced to work as a team, the greater the need for clarity, discipline and process. This project followed a tight schedule of e-meetings between EKDC Marketors and Accenture Interactive team members to coordinate and collaborate presentation shape and structure, slide preparation and presentation delivery.
- It’s almost never too early to begin presentation rehearsals and run-throughs to ensure content can be delivered in the time length allowed. And it’s almost never too late to call a halt on run-throughs to minimise the risk of technical or human error.
From the experiences of this exercise it would seem that not only is it possible to maintain a good result in face of difficult challenges but, given the right discipline and direction, it may even be the case that the tougher the challenge the better the result.
This is the first time the Marketors have collaborated with our corporate supporter Accenture on a joint project. On reflection, both parties’ objective of creating awareness and disseminating information on the opportunities available in marketing/digital careers was achieved and the project can be deemed a success. We look forward to more such projects in the future.
Sunila Lobo Murray Chick