Setting Yourself Up for Document Processing Successes
In July of 2007 the feature article focused on creating a plan for presentation production processes – always a good idea. This article discusses ways that a team might build its individual and collective presentation-development skills.
Goals, roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities need to be in place before a production process in order for any meaningful assessments or lessons learned to be gained at the end.
Preproduction meetings can be as formal or as informal as you please, but they need to establish the activities, expectations, and tone for an upcoming process. A team that understands the overall goals and individual responsibilities is obviously much more likely to hit a deadline with a superior presentation in hand.Preproduction discussion topics should include:
- Developing or handing out a contact sheet and calendar. The backward schedule (complete with drop-dead deadlines and interim reviews) that was developed as part of the preparation for going into a presentation-production process needs discussion about how it is going to be executed. Where will the reviewer(s) be (out of town, at client, home, in office) and how will the document for review be transmitted? Arrangements need to be made with the client as well if they are in the review process. How confidential is the material? Are secure faxes needed? If a hard copy is being reviewed, are messengers needed? None of these decisions can be made unless a contact sheet and calendar for the team members is created. Iffy situations also need a Plan B.
- Assigning roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities. Researchers, writers, proofers, graphic artists, office services (if hard copies are reproduced and bound), all need to know "the plan." Client contributors' responsibilities and deliverables need to be understood, as well.
- Developing or handing out a style sheet. It's important for everyone to understand the shape(s) the presentation will take. On-screen presentation with vertical whitepaper handouts as a leave-behind document? It's also important to provide the correct spelling of important names, titles, acronyms, industry terms, client terms, client preferences, etc., to those who will be crafting the presentation. Style sheets help to alleviate a lot of the end-of-process proofing and provide a preestablished checklist for how terms need to be capitalized, spelled, and used.
- Discussing the venue. Are there any issues that affect the presentation or distributing the handouts? It is a good idea to contact the host prior to the preproduction meeting to find out the size of the room, number of attendees, whether sound equipment is available, whether the presenter controls the presentation or it is being controlled by a audio/visual staff, and so on. This information may well affect the established plan and changes can be discussed.
Postproduction meeting (postmortems)
Teams that are committed to continuously building efficiency and effectiveness skills can conduct postmortems at the end of each process. They are most important for a newly formed team (which has the most "settling" to do), but even seasoned teams find the exercise helpful. Discussions during the postmortem can include the following:
- Debrief whole team. Many of the team members were probably absent from the presentation. It's a fine practice to bring closure to the whole team and share how the material and messages were received.
- Celebrate successes. It's always a good idea to acknowledge the things that went well. Successful new or changed production approaches that may have been suggested at the last postmortem need to be discussed and applauded. Valuable contributions from team members need shared.
- Identify areas for further refinement. No matter how successful a team is at getting a presentation developed, there are always ideas to investigate that can make it better. If not, good for you. Just celebrate then.
- Entertain ideas about expanding or reducing team members' responsibilities. Diminished or increased team-member availabilities can be shared. Areas of interest or newly acquired skills can also be discussed.
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These two meetings that "bookend" a production process will affect team effectiveness and efficiency and will raise the quality and impact of the resulting presentations. They also bind the whole team together, since it is probably rare that full, extended team meetings take place on a regular basis. Don't overlook these valuable opportunities.