1. The Westin
2. The Savannah Board of Tourism
The three members of my thesis committee (all of which I have to consider individually)
3. George Head
4. Mike Devine
5. Ruth Hutson
6. The rest of my graduating class
7. family, friends and other students who come to a special thesis presentation the Thursday before graduation
In a previous post I identified these seven audience member types as crucial to developing my thesis presentation. Essentially I will be giving multiple presentations at once to multiple audiences, making delivering this thesis particularly difficult.
I need to get to know my audience a bit better in order to sort out how best to communicate with them, but I need to do this without explicitly speaking with them about what they expect. I could simply ask everyone what I should do, but that would totally defeat the purpose of learning how to craft a message based on limited information leading to perceived insight. Each audience type has a different way that they view the world, and each will have different expectations from me, and I need to do my best to anticipate this on my own. Once I fully understand their needs to the best of my abilities, I can craft my assets and deliverables to meet those needs.
Firstly, I will need to pitch the broad concept to both the Westin Hotel as well as the Savannah board of tourism. While these two groups will not actually be at my presentation, I still need to consider them my primary audience. Beyond that, I will have to draw a broader ring around that proposal, having to pitch the idea of pitching the idea to my professors on my thesis committee. They are the ones who have the knowledge and expertise to know if the proposal (and entire concept underlying my thesis) is viable. Then, to add another layer of complexity, I will have to draw a greater ring around that, presenting to the other students graduating with me, as well as the students and families who come out to a special open house.
I think that’s everyone. I hope…
I will need strong visual communication to deliver pertinent information, and I will need to devise a couple “wow” factors, but this also is tricky, seeing as how the same thing that will wow the Westin or the Savannah Board of Tourism is not necessarily the same thing that will wow students and faculty. Each message I deliver will need to be somewhat different from one another.
I would like to look at each audience individually. It makes the most sense to me to go backwards through my list, so I will begin with:
7. Family, friends and other students who come to a special thesis presentation the Thursday before graduation — On the Thursday night before graduation, the graduating class is putting together a special open house presentation for our families and friends, as well as any other students who wish to attend. The purpose of this is to give those of us who choose to present a chance to shine, but more than this, it is a chance for students who will begin working on their own thesis in the coming months to see what is involved.
Except for a few people, this group is entirely unfamiliar with my thesis, and will only be there to see the show. My presentation, if I choose to participate, will be one of several and will likely be a very truncated version of anything that I present to my thesis committee. I don’t need to persuade them of anything, I just need to give them a punchy show, and then get out of the way so that the next presenter can show off what he or she has done.
6. The rest of my graduating class — This group is very similar to the first, with a couple notable exceptions. Some of them may attend my actual thesis presentation, but likely all of them will be there for the Thursday night open house since many of them will be participating.
They are similar to family and friends in that I don’t need to persuade them of anything. One big difference between this audience type and the previous group, however, is that they will know exactly what my thesis is all about. At this point, everyone in my graduating class has heard me talk about my project endlessly, wrestling with it and desperately trying to come to terms with how to proceed, so they will already be coming in with a somewhat solid grounding in the material. I would like to impress this group, but that is easier said than done. They are all tremendously talented designers and storytellers, so they will not be fooled by goofy tricks or by something they have already seen me do in the past. I will need to hit them with something a little different.
Another big difference between this group and the last, one that works very much in my favor, is that they will all be exhausted. Everyone in my graduating class has been working on their own thesis projects, so they are likely to be as brain dead as I will be. If I can throw in one or two particularly memorable moments, they will be left with that as their primary takeaway.
Now I move on to the three professors on my thesis committee. Not to discount the previous audience types, but this group is much more important as these are the people who need to officially sign off on my paper and project so that I can graduate. I have actively avoided talking with this group about the specifics of my project, instead just seeking general advice, as a way of trying to train my brain to anticipate their expectations. First on the list is:
5. Ruth Hutson — Ruth is my projections professor and a no nonsense (well, maybe some nonsense) lighting designer who lives and breathes theater. She is a person who knows how to get the job done, even when dealing with the most wildly unpredictable variable of them all — theater people.
Since the focus of my thesis has shifted to be more of a rumination on presentation than a projections show, I have not had the opportunity to make use of her lighting expertise in the way I had anticipated. However, just having the opportunity to work in the projections lab and to watch her working in her element has really added some solid grounding to my thesis as a whole.
She will want to see that I have at least thought through the logistics of the projection show on a base level. She won’t be looking for lighting schematics, but she will want to see that I have considered projector placement, coverage possibilities, and that I have design thinking that demonstrates a core competency when it comes to the possibilities and limitations of both the software and hardware.
4. Mike Devine — Mike is a veteran illustrator and concept artist who spent time working in theater and film, as well as working for Walt Disney Imagineering. Most notably, he worked on Tokyo Disney Sea, the theme park that many consider to be the greatest in the world. He has an extraordinary eye for visual storytelling, and can spot plot holes instantly. What makes him so special is the fact that he can fill those holes just as quickly with such an obvious simplicity that you are always left thinking, “why in the world didn’t I think of that?!?!”
For Mike, I will need to make sure that my visuals communicate my intent effectively, and that they are correct for the phase of the project. I also need to make sure my storyline is as tight as I can make it, since I don’t want to make an early mistake and lose him to distraction for the rest of the presentation.
3. George Head — George is an Imagineering veteran and the chair of the Themed Entertainment Design program. He spent his career working in many departments, often ones that he created. He formed the show quality standards department to help maintain design integrity over the passage of time, as original intent can get lost as the parks change. Another of George’s job functions saw him occupying the space in between Imagineering and park operations, trying to convince one side to make better stuff while trying to convince the other side to take better care of the stuff they had. This drove him to push for sustainable products (particularly the water-based ride vehicles, or, as they are often called, “boats”), a practical solution that would lead to better quality products while at the same time call for far less maintenance.
All of this experience makes George uniquely qualified to judge the logistics of a project without losing sight of the real reason why we build these things in the first place. He will want to see that I have thought through entry and exit points, as well as how people will move through the space, and that people are moving to the correct space. Above all else, he will want to see that having a show in this location, in this format, and at specific times of the year makes sense.
Finally I come around to the last two audience member types, the ones that I would actually be talking to if I was looking to get buyin on the project. I know the least about these audiences, but based on context clues and a little deductive reasoning, I can take an educated guess as to what their mindset might be.
2. The Savannah Board of Tourism — As I have said before, Savannah is very protective of itself, being the city that was too beautiful to burn. The city has a firm grip on everything that happens, exerting control, both reasonably and, to many, unreasonably, over projects that alter it in any way. The board of tourism has a strong hand in this, and must walk that fine line between actively working to attract new tourists and leaving things just so. If it is going to tip one way or the other, it will always fall forcefully towards preservation over innovation.
If I were to stand up in front of the board and start talking about pixel mapping, they would be utterly confused. I must present them with the broad concept, and in order to even peak their interest, the board of tourism will need to have a few of their questions answered: Does a show like this honor this history of Savannah? Is it in line with what Savannah is all about? Have other cities (besides the big, fancy ones) done anything like this? Does this show bring in new tourists? Does it keep them here for a little longer? Does it bring them back again?
Without going too much further into it, this all leads straight into:
1. The Westin — The Westin Hotel is quite similar to Savannah in that it is looking out for its best interests. Its interests, one would imagine, are far less complex than Savannah’s. It doesn’t need to maintain the history of this or that, it just needs to bring in customers. And so it will have a similar set of questions that need answering: Does this show bring in new customers? Does it keep them here for a little longer? Does it bring them back again?
If I can answer these questions, or rather, if I can present them with the correct information that they can answer these questions for themselves (Andrew Stanton’s theory of 2+2), then I can bring them right along with me, involving them, making them the hero of this story. If that happens, maybe, just maybe, they will become so enamored with the idea that they will forget to ask the most obvious question there is — how much will this cost.