Respect The Authority of The Resource

Hat tip to Nina Simon for calling attention to a post about how the Barnes Foundation is working toward changing their user experience. Even though the Barnes Foundation art collection was moved from a residential area to Philadelphia, efforts were made to replicate the close quarters environment of the original house. This complicates matters because it is easier for more people to access a place whose interior space hasn’t increased.

(There have been decades long conflicts related to Albert Barnes’  detailed instructions about the way the collection is displayed which informed the design of the new space.)

Shelley Bernstein, Deputy Director of Audience Engagement and Chief Experience Officer for the Barnes Foundation wrote about the poor impression people received before they even entered the door.

We had a no photo, no sketching, no bags, no coats, and “stay behind the line” policies. All of these things were well intentioned and all were in place in the name of collection safety — a very important thing — but, still, it was a lot of “no” to those we were trying to welcome. And we were trying to tell visitors about all these “nos” before they would enter the collection.

[…]

You can see this surface in online reviews, “… had to be told the exact etiquette before entering which makes it feel like they treat their visitors as if none of them has ever set foot in any other major museums/collections before(???)”

Bernstein set about trying to change how all these rules were communicated as well as exploring which policies could be changed. While she originally intended to scrap the no-photography policy, she realized with half the rooms only having 100 square feet that people could occupy, allowing free rein on photograph wasn’t going to work. So they piloted different policies over the course of a year to see which worked best in their environment.

Perhaps most importantly, they created staff training materials for interacting with visitors based on a process known as Authority of the Resource (ART), that the National Park Service uses in their training. This approach makes citing the rules the last step rather than the first. Even better, Bernstein has shared those materials, which includes signage and the National Park Service discussion of the approach, for others to reference.

Authority of the Resource (ART) shifts the focus away from the concept of enforcement power and toward the requirements to preserve the resource. There are obviously going to be people who don’t give a damn and want to do what they desire, but it does shift the initial interaction away from “because I said so and I am the authority figure.”

From the Park Service’s article.

“…the visitor ends up thinking about laws, regulations, badges and the ranger’s presence rather than focusing on the natural authority inherent in the requirements of a healthy ecosystem.

[…]

“…the AR technique goes one step further and asks the ranger/manager to subtly de-emphasize the regulation and transfer part of the expectation back to the visitor by interpreting nature’s requirement.”

Here the the Barnes Foundation training pamphlet. Clicking on either image will take you Bernstein’s Dropbox copy of the document.

Are They Taking A Picture Of Your Powerpoint Because They Like It Or Because They Can’t Read It?

In his reflections on attending the 2018 Nonprofit Technology Conference, Drew McManus noted how many presenters at the conference packed too much text on to Powerpoint slides. He observes the text was so dense and the font size so small on some slides he had to take a picture with his phone so he could magnify it to legibility.

I immediately knew I needed to pull out a post Seth Godin made earlier this month on that very subject. In discussing how to most effectively use a Powerpoint presentation, rule one was not to read the slide content aloud and rule four was to see rule one.

Additionally, he wrote:

2. But even better, remember that slides are free. You can have as many as you like. That means that instead of three bullet points (with two sentences each) on a slide, you can make 6 slides. Or more. The energy you create by advancing from slide to slide will seduce most of the people in your audience to read along to keep up. Slides that people read are worth five times more than slides that you read to them.

3. Better still, don’t use words. Or, at the most, one or two keywords, in huge type. The rest of the slide is a picture, which I’m told is worth 1,000 words. That way, the image burns itself into one part of the brain while your narrative is received by the other part. The keyword gives you an anchor, and now you’re hitting in three places, not just one.

5. Many organizations use decks as a fancy sort of memo, a leave-behind that provides proof that you actually said what you said. “Can you send me the deck?” A smart presenter will have two decks. One deck has plenty of text, but then those pages are hidden when the presentation is performed live.

I think people in the arts can really appreciate these points because they understand the value of pacing and using images to convey your message. There may be some reticence to do so for fear of breaking some rules of business decorum. Godin is basically giving people permission to flex those skills.

Just remember that too much flash and spectacle can detract and distract from your core message.

I love rule five. I had never considered having an enhanced version of a slide deck that you could send to those who requested it until I read this post. If you read my post last Wednesday, you know this is exactly what Drew did when he made the version of the presentation Ceci and he delivered available with all the background notes.

I was a little tickled to see that Godin’s post in early April about paring down the content of Powerpoint presentations was itself a pared down version of a post he made 11 years ago. That post in turn, was pulled from an ebook he wrote four years earlier. A little practicing what one preaches!

That is also the secret to delivering good presentations–practice and revisions. Practice and revise multiple times before the first presentation and then continue to do so every time you revisit the content.

As with so many things, there is a tendency to believe an effective speaker possesses an inborn talent and genius for a turn of phrase. One of the benefits of having so much video and audio content available online is that when you watch or listen to a favorite speaker, you have many opportunities to note how they continue to weave familiar content in and out of their addresses and evaluate how they are improving over time (or getting a little stale).

Yes! Long Awaited Good, Bad and Ugly of Tech RFPs (Far More Interesting Than It Sounds)

For over a year now I have been excited about the session on writing Requests for Proposals (RFP) Drew McManus and Ceci Dadisman are presenting today at the NonProfit Technology conference so I figure I am pretty much obligated to write a post about it.

(Also I begged Drew to put up a mini-site with the presentation)

I should note, I am not attending the conference. I am just responding to the mini-site Drew has put up with the session content.

Wait! Before you ask yourself why you have read five sentences into a post about something as boring as a request for proposal and haven’t clicked away yet, let me assure you this is valuable info.

The more non-profit organizations depend on websites, social media, email, CRM software, ticketing systems, etc to cultivate relationships with their constituencies, the more it is necessary to make effective choices about the way technology facilitates these interactions.

I have been involved with a number of requests for proposals before and while it is an onerous process, there are some upsides to using it. As well as some downsides, both of which Drew and Ceci cover in the slide deck on the mini-site.

The mini-site covers all the steps, from gathering staff input to define your needs to communicating with different vendors to deciding what process to use. Project Evaluations are an alternative to RPFs, but have their own pros and cons.

The mini-site has a self-diagnosis questionnaire to help you decide which approach might be appropriate to you. (Note the emphatic disclaimer that they aren’t collecting any info on you, including placing you on a cold call list because “that would be a serious d**k move”)

Drew and Ceci solve one of the most frustrating parts of viewing a slide deck outside the context of the live presentation– trying to figure out what the bullet points on a slide really mean– by making their presentation notes available alongside each slide.

Since part of the title of the presentation promises to tell you about the stuff tech providers don’t want you to know, you will probably want to pay attention to those notes for this slide.

Here is a sample of some of the notes for this slide:

  • Tech conflict resolution (troubleshooting borders).
    • Some providers are all too happy to let someone else do the dirty work of quality assurance and troubleshooting or blindside you with unexpected fees to carry those tasks out.
  • Lack of flexibility and/or extensibility.
    • They may deliver on your project requirements but they may not play nice with other providers or make it easy to maintain.
  • Free, unsupported third party scripts/plugins.
    • Free scripts aren’t bad, but is the provider willing to support them or conflict resolve down the road. Ideally, a provider should provide a line item list of plugins, extensions, scripts, etc. that come from free and paid resources.
  • Non optimized performance (A.K.A.brute force programming).
    • This is all kinds of important in a post net neutrality world.
    • Talk about programming bloat where things work great on launch but performance grinds down over time.
  • They outsource coding but present themselves as a full service developer.
    • It’s increasingly common for design and branding agencies to project themselves as full web developers when the reality is they outsource coding.
    • Examine the difference between coders: frontend UX developer is not the same as a platform programmer.

If any of this starts to concern you, you may want to explore the whole presentation. Not just to raise your awareness about the problems that may arise, but to also become familiar with constructive approaches to the process both for your staff and the people with whom you may end up working.

You Have To Know How They Define Community Before You Can Tell Their Story

I don’t know what inspired me to do so, but last week I visited ProPublica’s website and learned that Free Street Theater and ProPublica Illinois were teaming up to offer theater-journalism workshops across the Illinois.

What caught my eye was that they put out a call for invitations to communities in manner reminiscent of the process Marc Folk said The Arts Commission of Toledo employed when soliciting feedback from different n eighborhoods of that city.

In addition to going to Toulon, IL, Free Street and ProPublica Illinois will be visiting Urbana, Carbondale/Jackson County, Rock Island/Quad Cities, and Rockford during May. So if you live in or near any of those places, check it out.

They did a trial run at the end of March in Chicago and have posted some of their reflections already. One of the things they recognized immediately was a need to do a better job of making people aware that they were having these workshops.

In the course of playing various games, they discovered that the terms people use to define their community, including how they defined community, had some bearing on how they composed the narrative about themselves.

We played a game in which we were asked to line up according to how strongly we agreed with various statements, from “We are living in a war zone” to “I love ice cream.” You’d be surprised at how many interpretations there are of what a war zone is, and how many people have strong feelings about ice cream.

In small groups, we talked about a time we each felt misrepresented in a news story, and how that directly affected us and our communities. It led to revealing conversations about how we each defined “community.”

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At the end of the night, we returned to the sticky notes to ask: What do we want the story of our community to be? This is an important question — for us and for this project — that journalists rarely ask. But they should. If journalists don’t know how a community views itself, journalists don’t know what that community has at stake when it is represented or misrepresented.

If we never bother to ask — in real, concrete ways — it can seem like we don’t care. Journalists know how to fact-check names and statistics. But how often do journalists fact-check the underlying narrative of a community?

Since there is an ongoing conversation in the arts about how people want to see themselves and their stories depicted in performances and other forms of creative expression, these reflections by ProPublica reporter Natalie Escobar should pretty much be shared by those identifying with the arts and culture community.

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