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Missing Link: Richard Mulholland

Are you boring your audience to death? This team has a different approach – and it’s working

Juliet Pitman

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Richard Mulholland of The Missing Link

Missing Link’s payoff line this week (it changes on a regular basis) is “Don’t hire us because we’re fun and interesting– hire us because you’re not.” It’s a powerful sell to corporates who are looking to avoid the usual tedium of presentations that serve no better purpose than to put audiences to sleep.

Because let’s face it – sometimes the boss is not the most interesting person in the world, or indeed the best one to deliver a message to an audience; some things are just better left to the professionals.

And never was a team more well equipped to provide professional, innovative presentation strategy solutions than this one.One visit to their offices (if indeed they can be called such) gives you a hint of the uniqueness and creativity that’s on offer.

Founder and managing director, Richard Mulholland’s office is a bedroom with a bed, couch and bookshelves. You enter the main office via a bathroom. The open plan reception and design section looks more like a bar than a work space and the client presentation room is a beach replete with beach-sand, deck chairs and a viewing screen.

Clients sit here, barefoot and in their suits, sipping cocktails while watching their presentations. Other offices are decorated according to each team member’s taste and personality – there’s everything here from unicorns to Goth and skate themes.

As a perk, the company pays for staff to get tattoos. It’s an unconventional work environment, to say the least. But it’s also one that speaks volumes about the collective creative talent housed within its walls.

It’s interesting to note however that, while the Missing Link team might be as far from “corporate” as you can imagine, they manage to strike exactly the right balance to enable them to service big-name clients like Nokia, Coca-Cola, Liberty Life, Standard Bank, Deloitte & Touche, Absa, Consol, Broll Property Group, Stanbic, Medscheme and Dimension Data.

And these are only the clients on the books this week. Mulholland has a policy of only referring to companies as clients if the teamis currently busy on a project for them. “Anyone can do one job for a company and call them a client, even if it was just a once-off thing,” he explains.

This said, most of the companies he lists represent repeat business. Missing Link’s reputation among the corporate world is so good, in fact, that Mulholland, who heads up sales, hasn’t had to make a cold call in years.

“We try to make it easy for people to talk about us,” he explains,adding, “We rely on the fact that if we can make the experience of working with us good enough for you, you’ll tell a friend.” The strategy works; all of the company’s new business is as a result of referrals from satisfied customers.

Missing Link only focuses on presentation solutions, unlike many competitors who offer presentations in addition to event management or advertising concepts. “We focus solely on the best way to get the message across,” says Mulholland.

And while creativity obviously plays a key role in achieving this goal, he’s acutely aware that because a presentation is creative, it doesn’t mean it’s getting the message across. “Too many companies that offer presentation services focus on pretty pictures and creative concepts, but they don’t pay any attention to how or why people process information.

The picture, while highly creative, may be completely irrelevant to the message you’re trying to put across.”So what makes for a great presentation?“Keeping it short and to the point is probably the most important thing. Presentations shouldn’t go on for more than 20 minutes if you can help it.”

He says one of the biggest mistakes corporates make is to try and tell their audience everything just because they have them in one room – instead of sticking to the key message. The other boring presentation culprit is incorrect use of visual aids. “I don’t hate PowerPoint – in fact I think it’s a phenomena ltool. It’s just badly used,” says Mulholland.

“People need to learn that visual aids are not supposed to serve as speaker’s notes, or text for the audience to read.”“You owe it to your message not to have a boring presentation. People can’t process information when they’re uninterested,” he concludes, adding that, at the end of the day, it’s about being nice enough to your audience not to bore them to death.

So if you notice people nodding off the next time you drone on in a presentation, perhaps you need to admit that there are more fun and interesting people in the world than you. And if you place any value on effective communication, giving them a call might not be such a bad idea.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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