ed●u●tain●ment (ĕj′o͞o-tān′mənt, ĕj′ə-)
 n.

1. The act of learning through a medium that both educates and entertains.

2. Any of various media, such as computer software, that educate and entertain.

Throughout the years of honing our customer experience, one of the most effective models for communicating with our clients was modeled after a classroom/tudor relationship. When attempting to educate and socialize our clients to the financial planning or preparation process, a great deal of teaching is required before action can be taken. So we took a page out of some of the more successful grade schools in the area that were using interactive whiteboards to create near-entertaining ability to display technical content, while teaching at a low-grade level. Just like our clients have limited training in our field of finances, it seemed like mimicking this model made sense.

We have also adopted the “non-office” office which means that the only furniture present in our ideal personal offices is a conference table and a smart-board (our favorite is from smarttech- Kid proof and reliable now 10 years!). Our thinking here isn’t novel, we just determined that creating an environment where advisors should be spending most of their time in meetings and teaching their clients and/or having meaningful and relevant conversation was the best use of their time. So why not have an environment that focuses on just that as opposed to paper pushing?

We found some very interesting dynamics in this set up over the years. The first was that having a smartboard or digital display virtually eliminated the need for paper copies of a presentation. With the exception of applications necessary and Asset-Maps for every participant with a stack of pens on the table, we were enabled to do PDF or live generation of analysis on the digital screen. When it was interactive and could be used to draw, grab and zoom, or edit in real time, there was a “wow” factor that was unmatched by any competition. This forced everyone to be looking at the same thing that was controlled by the Advisor managing the screen. There is little opportunity for participants to read ahead when you don’t have a stack of reports laying on the table while someone else is talking. We did find a distinct difference between having the large screen as the only screen used, as opposed to a laptop mirroring to the big screen. The reason for this is that when an advisor was sitting behind a 12-inch plastic barrier of their own screen, there was a physical disconnect between the customer and the party typing/presenting. In an environment where we are trying to connect and relate, we have continued to find a degradation in the customer buy-in when using a screen that the client cannot see directly, and often the party typing is continuously looking down and disconnected visually from the meeting participants. Smartboards eliminate this problem because everyone is looking at the same content and there is complete transparency to the manipulation of content or analysis which the participants are now an unrestricted party to. The exceptions to this phenomenon has been all-in-one computer monitors that lay flat so that everyone can see the same screen that contains the content. We have successfully implemented the Lenovo Horizon 2s for this experiment.

Another significant impact we realized was having an advisor stand before a white board and speak to clients and prospects while standing and directing attention to themselves and then the content. This elicited two unmatched benefits in the digital meeting. First was that we are all conditioned to sit, listen and learn from an authority standing before a blackboard from an early age. Many people automatically gave us the credibility that we were teachers and therefore competent in a way they only subliminally understood. Second was that the speaker was always standing while speaking and this use of physiology generated more energy and interactivity than anything else we did besides fill everyone with Nespresso coffee. The outcome of this environment is a more interactive educational and yes, entertaining, customer experience that is practically unmatched today after a decade.

The single best set up we have used is the Smarttech smartboard (non-lcd overlays). As previously mentioned, they are the most rugged and least likely to fail (or have the presenter fail) in meetings. This does require a projector, however mounting theater-style projectors in the ceiling is quite affordable with a dedicated or a line-in computer loaded with all the software. The newest line of smartboards uses an integrated short-throw projector built into the top of the board for one integrated touch-screen and projection system. This does put total dependency on the projector working and the smart board working so I have elected to keep the systems separate. I am on my second projector already and like the ability to upgrade the projector component every 4-5 years. We have a dedicated computer tied into the smartboard (everyday Windows desktop) and we keep another large screen 27” connected to it on the other side of the room just in case we want to run two screens (control and display). Most of our daily work is done on the monitor sitting at a credenza set up like a traditional desk and the ability to have informational windows up on the monitor while having a presentation or display on the smart board can be an effective setup for multitasking or researching mid meeting. In addition we use a combination wireless keyboard/trackpad that is rechargeable. Keeping the number of peripherals (keyboard AND mouse) to a minimum is essential. We found that when items go missing, the whole experience is compromised.

We have used this set up now for some time and found that remote screen sharing meetings are exceptional in this set up. Not only does it promote the standing and energy presentation that is necessary in a remote meeting where attention span is low (we don’t recommend video calls- so presenters are relegated to content clarity and voice control as their only communication methods). Standing comes through most calls with greater energy. Writing large on a screen is easy with a smart board and is often legible as opposed to scribing text with a mouse which is virtually unreadable. The advent and familiarity with iPad and touch enabled screens makes the smartboard already effectively pre-trained. The pens on the smartboard are often color coded and most children can figure out to just pick up and use them.

Other tech we love for travel smart-board meetings:

Thoughts on Apple computing: We love Apple. Its a great stock, phone, tablet, computer and snack. But we have continuously been frustrated by the lack of full computing capability with touch screens in Apple’s product suite. Only the iPad series of products are effective for digital meetings but few Apps exist for drawing overlay on multiple formats such as HTML, PDF, other applications, etc. Despite having often superior user interface, their execution of marked-up web environments is second rate to the tech we do love. iPads often require the use of a virtual meeting application (Gotomeeting, join.me) in order to mark up a shared screen with one’s finger or stylus. Again, display standards for connecting to a projector or screen rely on the AirPlay functionality which is best achieved through AppleTV and yet again, like chromecast, this requires a common wireless network.

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