Interactive CD-ROM brings 401(k) presentations to life
Few issues are as universally important to employees as their companies' 401(k) plans and, as a meeting topic, few generate more dread. With all the talk about performance, diversification, investment goals and tax liabilities, 401(k) presentations are renowned for leaving audience members with glazed eyes and stacks of handouts to toss onto their I-should-read-this-but-who-am-I-kidding piles.
This was the scenario that JP Morgan/American Century Retirement Plan Services wished to change. The St. Louis-based company has 19 presenters who spend 60 percent of the their time on the road conducting 401(k) educational meetings at client sites.
In the past, these presentations have often consisted of overhead transparencies and handouts but according to the company's Melissa Folger, retention was a concern. "When you give handouts, it's like saying, 'this is all you need to know,'" she says. "All the information contained in those handouts makes it overwhelming, and people don't get involved."
The company turned to look-and-feel new media (816.472.7878, www.look-and-feel.com) to develop a more effective presentation tool.
JP Morgan/American Century had a well-defined set of messages it wanted to deliver, explains look-and-feel's Mark Logan, but the company needed to use a more visual approach. look-and-feel researched its client by gathering handouts and employee surveys and watching the 401(k) meetings. Eventually, the service bureau came up with an interactive CD-ROM presentation that graphically illustrates the four major points of the talk.
According to Logan, the CD-ROM is easy to use; presenters simply plug their notebook computers into their projectors and begin. "Navigation is largely hidden from the audience," he says. "It allows the presenter to show a linear event, moving seamlessly from story point to story point."
Using the CD-ROM, the presenter leads audience members through the main points of their company's plan, including the effects of inflation and compounding interest. Visually appealing illustrations explain these normally complex issues in simple-to-understand terms.
The CD-ROM was tested on focus groups before finalization, and Logan says the results were encouraging. "With the visual factors, audiences were able to recite key messages after the presentation."
After this test and some brief training, the CD-ROM was rolled out to JP Morgan/American Century's 401(k) presenters.
The CD-ROM was an immediate hit. "There are more places for the audience members to participate and ask questions, and the questions the presenters are getting are more astute," Folger says. "You can see the light bulbs going on throughout the presentation." She adds that with better-engaged audiences, the questions are getting tougher which is prompting JP Morgan/American Century's presenters to become more proficient in their subject.
JP Morgan/American Century and look-and-feel new media are upgrading the presentation to allow presenters to pre-sequence their talking points and insert customized information into templates that match the program.
* Julie Hill