My apologies for the blog silence this past week. You can usually count on two posts per week from me, but last week I was in the Happiest Place on Earth – Disney World.
It was an experience like no other. While my wife and I have yet to enter the joyous stage of parenthood, my two brother-in-laws both have young children ranging from 8 years to 6 months old. My goal for this post isn’t to document our trip (probably not what you’re looking for) but it’s important to note that we went with children, since it completely changed the way we experienced Disney, particularly the way they present themselves as both a magical place and a well oiled machine of a business.
Disney does it right.
Walt Disney was known for his vision of creating a magical experience that did “right” everything that other parks had done wrong. One of Disney’s more well known “secrets” is the underground system of utility corridors (Utilidors) below the Magic Kingdom (old video here).
These Utilidors allow the Magic Kingdom to remain magical while the behind-the-curtain action takes place below the surface. The most aspect of the Utilidors is that they allow cast members, particularly characters, to move from one area of the park to any other without being seen. This is imperative to ensure that characters and cast members only appear in their appropriate areas of the park. In other words, it wouldn’t make sense to see a Buzz Lightyear walking through Frontierland, or Captain Jack Sparrow through Tomorrowland. Disney wanted to make sure the presentation always made sense, because the experience is the most important aspect of Disney World.
The Utilidors also allowed the nitty gritty to take place below the surface, like trash collection (via a high-tech vacuum system). The Utilidors also contain common amenities like a cafeteria, bank, and even a hair salon. Seeing cast members do these every day things among the visitors in the Magic Kindgom would ruin the experience, so Disney wouldn’t allow it. Think of how this applies to your presentations. What information are you including that should be kept under the surface as to not ruin the experience for your audience - bullet points maybe?
Underground tunnels aside, the true memories come from the interaction with the cast members (awesome name for employees), particularly the characters. Cast members are NEVER allowed to break character. If you ask Alladin where they normally hang out after the park closes, he’ll politely tell you he heads back to the castle with Jasmine. Even the villains present themselves as the real thing, yet in a way that doesn’t scare the pants off kids who want a picture with them.
Cast members follow Disney policies and procedures to a tee. We spent a great deal of time just sitting around while the kids waited to meet characters and I always watched the cast members closely. I wanted to see one of them slip. I wanted to see them slack in their presentation. Maybe break character for just a split second, or give an unruly customer a snide remark. It never happened. They were ALWAYS presenting.
So what’s the big idea? Be like Disney and turn your presentation into an experience. Here are a few ways you can do that:
- Use your visuals wisely – keep them vibrant and on-brand
- Keep the unnecessary details below the surface – try putting your bullet points into your notes section and just leave the image
- Know your content inside and out – Try asking a character a question related to their movie and see if you can stump them. I bet you can’t
- Always create your presentation with the audience's interests first, yours last
- Whatever your vision is, stick to it and don’t compromise – If you’re passionate about it, then others will be too
Visiting Disney World gave me a whole new appreciation for presentations as an experience. Have you visited Disney? If so, what were your experiences? How did they change they way you looked at things?