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Article

IT Personnel Hit Hard by New Flu Outbreak

Are you vaccinated against an insidious new pandemic: the dreaded F-5 Flu?

The newest target population is IT presenters, and the geographic scope of this nascent disease is now global. Rapid onslaught of symptoms include the inability to focus and then agitation. Physical symptoms are fidgeting, then heavy sighing, culminating in the urge to scream.  The final symptom is Cerebral Mortis: the brain just shuts down.

The original or parent disease is DBP: Death by Power Point, but a recent variation, the F5 strain, is gaining strength especially in the IT community. What is this new mutation of Death by Power Point?

Embedded  Content
The new strain embeds video and MP3 files into seemingly innocuous engineering slides.  And in some populations where broadband is endemic, researchers have even seen streaming live web content. But the final result is the same: audience and presenter are left with an empty feeling of disappointment.

How and why did F5 turn into an IT pandemic, and what can you do to vaccinate yourself against this ruthless flu strain? Let's chart its course and prevention.

Phase I: Initial Infection
The CDC (Center for Disingenuous Content) has tracked how the F5 Flu has spread and morphed.  Its parent, Death by PowerPoint, started as a simple way to express ideas, but soon mutated into a prescribed formulaic approach. Because it seemed process-oriented, it hit the IT community hard.

In its early form, DBP manifested itself as three bullet points, but quickly grew to over a dozen bullets with an added image or graphic.  Sadly, once it hit a target population of engineers and IT personnel, DBP took on even more deleterious symptoms: huge charts mapping an entire ERP installation and organizational charts of 50 IT staff, all with names, titles, and job responsibilities—all on one slide.  The following is an example of one of the worst cases the CDC has seen.

Warning: this quad-chart slide is highly graphic:

The end result on the infected presenter was rote reading, and audience members soon evidenced glassy-eyed symptoms.

Phase II: F5 Morphing
The next phase of the disease was the insertion of clip art, thankfully, a short-lived itinerant phase, but the next iteration, the  highly contagious "special effects" took on a nasty turn: flying words, spinning pictures, animated charts, and slides appearing with sound effects. This is the genesis of the F5 strain: the need to hide behind effects because content or delivery is lacking.

Anecdotal evidence suggests a network engineer, to impress a sales crowd, embedded soundtrack music from Chariots of Fire into a presentation on Network Management Systems.  This initial carrier is classified as CNET1 (Chariots Network Engineer Transmitter) and what followed set the stage for the current epidemic.

Phase III:  Viral Distribution
The CDC tracked the spread of the Chariots of Fire presentation as it morphed to include an insidious video: an engineer receiving a security alert, then running in slow motion toward a server farm in a field of flowers.  The memetic music looped throughout four slides, exposing an auditorium of 900 IT personnel to multiple AV sources. They were now infected with the concept of using video and music in PPT, and F5 soon went viral.

Final Phase: Pandemic Propagation
The CDC has now amassed startling evidence:

•    Presenters embed YouTube videos in two out of every 10 presentations.
•    Organizations now hire production companies to create slick movies highlighting customer testimonials.
•    Graphics firms charge tens of thousands of dollars to add museum-quality images to slides.
•    At large events, a title slide now has associated  Lady GaGa "Just Dance" lyrics to pump and energize the crowd, and
•    CIOs and CTOs now use live demos as part of their presentation.

Prognosis: Continued Proliferation
The prognosis for the F5 strain is not good.

As IT departments take on a more critical role in their organizations, technology presentations will gain even more momentum within business units, where sales teams are frequently exposed to more high-end production values. IT will feel continued pressure to compete with glitzy sales presentations  The question remains: is there a way to stop the F5 or vaccinate against it?

Prevention: Vaccination
A pandemic always begins with one carrier, like CNET1. A single source is also the most efficacious way to begin eradication of a pandemic. 

Vaccination starts with one individual.  One speaker who realizes that slides should complement speaking, not take the place of it. One speaker who just talks solo without a deck.  Mass vaccination begins when that speaker has a great story about the benefits of IT, connects with the audience and presents a compelling case about the value of technology.

The ultimate vaccine is a confident spokesperson telling a clear IT value-story that captivates an audience. The listeners spread that concept, F5 becomes less powerful and mutates into a version we can all only hope for: the ESC strain.

More Stories By Loraine Antrim

Loraine Antrim is co-founder of Core Ideas Communication, a communications consulting agency focused on presentation development and media training for C-suite executives. Core Ideas enables executives to package and communicate relevant and compelling messages in their presentations and interviews. Loraine's expertise is killing butterflies. You know, butterflies: the feeling in your stomach before you have to present or speak in public. Loraine works with executives to create a powerful story, memorable messages and an authentic delivery style. Confidence kicks in, and butterflies scatter. Nice work killing butterflies! You can contact Loraine at: manager at coreideas.com