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Step into multimedia.

Multimedia is taking baby steps in some arenas, giant steps in others, but it's clearly moving into all corners of computing. If you're not already, you will be using it eventually.

Multimedia weighed in as a U.S. $626 million business in 1991. In five years, it's expected to be a $12 billion business. By that time, some experts predict multimedia will revolutionize home communication to the same extent as the VCR.

Right now, the business sector is the fastest growing market. It already has taken the lead in innovative approaches to education and training. It's having a noticeable effect on merchandising and public information.

Actually, you're probably already into multimedia, mixing text and graphics on your computer screen. However, the term multimedia is used these days when referring to moving images and sound -- and that means adding hardware and software.

You don't have to break the bank. For as little as about $3,500, you can buy into multimedia. If you already have a computer, you may just need to upgrade what you have.

That's clearly the approach Apple is taking for the Macintosh. Its QuickTime technology allows any computer of about a Mac II power-level or higher to manipulate multimedia just as you would edit text or cut and paste a graphic. Apple's stance is that multimedia is for anybody who is trying to get out a message.

You can, for example, include several seconds of a movie in a word processing document. The added visuals and sound are sure to make an impact -- especially now as a novelty -- and add meaning to the text. Another use: You can animate the projected growth on a spreadsheet.

Just copy this new-style communication on a floppy disk for distribution. Or, as simply as you can print text and graphics to a laser printer, print your multimedia project to videotape. Another option is to upload your project to a notebook computer for presentation anywhere.

That's what Donald Cohen did for Colorado National Bank. Cohen is founder and CEO of Cimarron International Inc. in Denver. Cimarron, which specializes in multimedia production, created a presentation for the bank to attract professional athletes as customers. It was created with Macromedia Director multimedia software and various Aldus programs for manipulating visuals. The entire presentation runs on an Apple PowerBook portable computer.

In just about two minutes, before meeting with a prospect, the salesperson can customize the presentation with the individual's name and sport. The prospect can further customize the program by indicating an interest in conservative or aggressive investments. The spreadsheet behind this customization is invisible to the prospect.

Radio news audio, television news video, and scanned newspaper articles set the stage in this presentation. Audiovisual testimonials from other professional athletes are used, too.

Cohen is demonstrating this application around the United States for the Intelligent Electronics network of computer resellers. He tells the Apple story, and Bruce Dawson demonstrates his creations on IBM capabilities on the tour. Dawson is manager of multimedia design for Maritz Communications Co. of St. Louis.

Since IBM is ubiquitous in business, that platform is ideal for corporate training, and Dawson has developed some massive presentations. Upfront costs are high, but when you add up the travel costs and time off to bring a large group of business people together, multimedia is less expensive than conventional training. Learning is enhanced, too, as Dawson, a Ph.D., documents.

He claims an average 15 to 25 percent improvement in learning, a 49 percent reduction in time to deliver material to be learned, at a cost savings of 64 percent.

A well-designed training program makes excellent use of multimedia. Icons can guide the learner through the lessons. Video can show a process better than written words can explain it. Immediate feedback can motivate the learner. Tests can even be fun, trading true/false and multiple choice questions for problem-solving adventures not unlike popular video games. A click on a word can reveal a dictionary definition or a correct audio pronunciation. A calculator can be right on screen for figuring. A touch to the screen on an illustration can bring up an encyclopedia description of what it represents. Sound and pictures can give impact to positive reinforcement for good work, or supporting material can flash on the screen when a concept is missed.

Educators already have refined these processes for communicators. It's up to us, now, to apply them to business communication -- guiding the audience through the information, allowing them to get more in-depth material when needed, making it easy to assimilate and inviting to explore.

When is multimedia right for your communication project, not just a gimmick for attention? Cohen considers these guidelines: Multimedia works best for individuals or small group presentations; with material that needs easy updating; when animation will help convey the message; when integration of graphics, text, video, and sound are important; and when there is user or presenter interaction with the material.

If your project matches three out of those five, it's time to consider multimedia. Try it with baby steps or giant steps, but do move forward.

Sheri Rosen, ABC, owns ConsultRosen Enterprises, 1468 Nelson St., Mandeville, La., 70448. The firm specializes in corporate publications and computer applications for public relations.
COPYRIGHT 1992 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Computer Sense
Author:Rosen, Sheri
Publication:Communication World
Article Type:Column
Date:Nov 1, 1992
Words:873
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