10 Steps to a Successful Multimedia Presentation

The Woodlands, TX - March 1, 2003 -  Companies large and small are discovering what America Online realized years ago - CD-ROM demos really do work. It's not just software demos that are scoring big these days, a large array of options exist for companies. Electronic Catalogs, Interactive Product Demos, and Corporate presentations filled with eye popping 3D graphics, video, and animation can help you communicate your company's message in ways that are not possible with traditional media.

If you are considering one of these new media tools for your company, follow the advice in this 10-step guide and you will dramatically increase your chances of success.

  1. Determine the Objectives and Project Specs - What are you trying to accomplish? Write your objectives down, and define success from both your company and your client's prospective. Make sure your objectives are realistic, attainable, and measurable. Determine the specifications for the program, such as operating system (Mac or PC or both), and Minimum operating requirements (ex: Pentium 800 with 128 Megs of RAM, a 50X CD ROM drive and Sound). It is important to ask before you begin, "Are most of our clients using the latest and greatest computers, or are they a generation (or two) behind?"
  2. Determine the Budget - Properly planned, most CD-ROM demos will pay for themselves out of the profits or the cost savings they generate. Make sure your budget is adequate for the objectives you have set. If not, changes in either the budget or the objectives will be necessary. Do not forget to budget for the "hidden costs" (CD-ROM Duplication, Packaging, Postage, Fulfillment, Support, Changes etc.).
  3. Create a Flowchart of Program - Will your presentation be linear (similar to a PowerPoint slide show), or non-linear (more like a visit to a web site where the viewer can move from a main menu and drill down for additional information or branch to a topic of interest)? Will you launch the viewer right to the program, or provide them with an opening introduction as an overview of what's to come?
  4. Storyboard Each Section of the Demo - With a simple flowchart in hand, begin to design each screen of the program. Plan the interface (review a number of other demo's to get ideas). You may need to create a main menu screen and screens for the sub sections of the presentation. Interface design is both an art and science. The best interfaces are intuitive and a pleasure to use. Many presentations today use professional voice actors to read a script that reflects the information on the screen. If you want a voice over, you will need to write a script as well. As you block out each screen of the program, think about the content of the section. Will you need photos, video clips, animation sequences, sound effects, forms, web links, etc.? Each of these items is known as an "Asset," which will need to be collected or created in the next step.
  5. Collect or Create the Necessary Assets - If you enjoyed scavenger hunts when you were a kid, you are going to love this part of the process. Do you want a video of your president to open up the presentation? You will need to digitize a clip from the corporate library or shoot a new one. Do you want to include one of your printed brochures? You will need them in an Adobe Acrobat (.PDF) file format. Sound effects may need to be recorded, or you can buy a library of effects and music from a number of sources. Are some of the photos you have used in the past looking a little "dated?" One by one, you'll collect each of the required assets, and this is often where the projects slows down. In most cases you can work with the assets you have while collecting or creating the ones you need.
  6. Build it Yourself or Hire a Multimedia Development Company - Although creating a multimedia CD-ROM can be a daunting task, most of the tools you need to do the job are available off the shelf. Even so, the software and hardware you need to acquire are expensive and not for the faint of heart. On the other hand, hiring a multimedia development company will require you to spend some time educating them about your business, while they help you understand the media, its possibilities and limitations. If you decide to farm the work out, develop a project specification that includes your flowchart and storyboard, and send it out to several local vendors. Look carefully at the quality of their work, their customer list, references, and their current workload.
  7. Create a Rapid Prototype of the Demo - A Rapid Prototype is like the skeletal frame of a building. You can move around it and get a good feel for what the finished product will be like. If something is not working, it is much easier to fix it now. Get someone to review the demo who has not been involved with the project. Just hand them the CD-ROM, and watch how they use it. Resist the urge to offer any help, but instead, step back and take note of problems they encounter. If they are not corrected now, you can be sure your prospects will have the same problems later.
  8. Build the Program - Then Test-Test-Test Finish the work on the prototype and you'll have a "Beta" version ready for testing. The rule of thumb for testing is to budget one-third of the development time for testing. Test the program on new and older machines, on a variety of operating systems (Windows 98, 2000, XP etc.), and generate a list of "bugs" or edits that are reported back from the field. Fix each item on the checklist, and then repeat the tests until you have a stable program you are satisfied with. This final version of the program is known as the Gold Master, and you can use it for duplication.
  9. Design an Enticing Package - No matter how exotic your multimedia demo is, if the prospect doesn't take the time to pop the CD into the computer, all is lost. Not long ago getting a CD-ROM in the mail was unique. While there is still a certain novelty, it is important to make sure your print piece cuts through the clutter. Before sending out an expensive CD-ROM package, clean your list by mailing an inexpensive post card as a teaser pre-announcing the CD-ROM. First class postage on the post card will insure it is forwarded or returned if it's undeliverable. Make sure you print installation instructions and contact information on the inside cover of the Jewel Case or CD-ROM jacket.
  10. Follow Through - Track the results to determine if you were able to get a good return on your investment. Did you achieve your original objectives? What did you learn from the experience? Call a small sample of the prospects you sent the demo to and find out from them exactly what they liked or would hope to see changed in a future version.

    New Media demos are a powerful way for a company to tell its story. Whether it is a CD-ROM today, or a next generation DVD, any company who masters this medium will create a real competitive advantage over those who simply rely on traditional media.