Recently, I thought I made a mistake. But I was wrong. OK, a little humor helps to move us through challenging times. But I really did almost lose a deal by presenting too much information to a church board. This church wanted new lights, sound and video equipment. The board asked me to provide lots of options, so I did. But when I met with this fine group of men, they expressed that they had experienced “information overload” when reading the proposal.
Thankfully, I was able to save the situation and win the contract, but it required determining new methods of evaluating technologies and then organizing the data in ways that enable us to create presentations that can be understood easily by worship leaders (not an easy feat).
After thinking long and hard about this “information overload,” I began to equate information overload with noise. Information overload and noise cause the same problem; both hinder effective communication. The solution? Reduce noise so the message is understood. This is a simple construct that all of us wrestle with daily.
Let’s think about this for a bit. I know that many of you recently attended the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Convention in Las Vegas. If you were to speak honestly, I believe that you would admit that your brain hurt from engaging the enormous amount of new technologies. I am sure your legs hurt, too, from all of the walking. Then, for those attending InfoComm this month, you are being bedazzled and overwhelmed with the latest, greatest technology that will certainly make the world a better place. However, I am sure that you are experiencing a lot of “noise” and “information overload.” Nevertheless, it is our job to push through the noise and make sense of as much of the ever-changing gear as we can.
I confess that there are times when I am weary from making sense of the constant change. I have grown tired of “feeling the need” to update my iPhone every 18 months (or less). And when developing new proposals, I am often tempted to simply say, “Give them an SM58 and let’s move on.” Yet, I certainly understand the “need” and the desire to own the latest, greatest version.
In fact, this need is actually the motivation that allows us to reinvent our industry every few years. It keeps food on our tables by giving us opportunities to offer upgrades and updates, and new systems. For example, five years ago, we installed a sophisticated video security system in a House of Worship (HOW). The system still works as well as it ever did. The system was quite expensive. But it is not IT based.
At the time of the install, the client did not feel a need to have an IT-based system. Now they want a campus-wide security system that enables security officers to monitor the grounds and buildings from nearly any computer with an internet connection. Of course, we are happy to create this system. But, oh my goodness, as you know, there are so many types of equipment that are available today compared with even five years ago. For example, there are fixed cameras and pan, tilt and zoom (PTZ) cameras. Plus, there are standard-definition video cameras, high-definition cameras, infrared cameras and more.
There are many types of digital storage devices and archive systems. We also have a lot of mixing board options, lighting options, speaker options and projector options. We are blessed to have so many options! But no doubt, sorting through the maze of products causes me (and many of you) to experience a lot of noise. I really understand better what those HOW leaders told me about experiencing information overload.
So what can we do to learn about much of the latest and greatest gear without experiencing that overload in our business? I am sure you have developed approaches that work well.
If not, I created a short checklist that has helped me a lot. This is not necessarily rocket science, but it is an applicable process that works.
-First: I ask questions and listen to the needs that HOW leaders are expressing. Thus, I keep an ear to the ground to understand those needs, and then gather information that is current and relevant to addressing them.
-Second: We work hard to organize the information we gather. We no longer maintain filing cabinets loaded with brochures and data sheets, but we do keep an extensive database of products that we use often, and then track any changes that occur with these products.
-Third: We rank these products based on how frequently we use them.
-Fourth: When making a presentation, we limit the number of options we present to the client so the HOW leaders don’t experience information overload.
-Fifth: We don’t feel like we are compelled to propose a new product when proven products still work well. The road-tested SM58 is a perfect example.
I believe that we can reduce information overload by engaging materials that are most relevant to the needs of our business and clients. I also believe that we must make sure that our proposals are clear and concise so that “noise” does not hinder our ideas. That is what I believe. Please tell me what you believe.