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Give Your Presentation Life: First Kill Your PowerPoint

Serial entrepreneur Kenny Dichter brought more than his fiery brand of entrepreneurial evangelism to the Wichita Aero Club’s April meeting. He also presented a flesh-and-blood reminder that the best presentations maximize storytelling and connection. They also restrict visual aides to a critical few. And definitely do not include reading from a PowerPoint.

The Wheels Up CEO and founder spoke to a packed room that ranged from such believers as Textron Aviation CEO Scott Ernest sitting at the head table to skeptics who question Dichter’s ability to deliver on his vision of 10,000 members by 2020. (Membership numbers around 3,000 to 4,000 now, he said.)

Textron Aviation CEO Scott Ernst with Wheels Up CEO Kenny Dichter. In 2013, Wheels Up placed the largest turboprop order in business aviation history with an order of 105 King Air 350i aircraft. To date, the company’s taken possession of 58. Photo credit: Brett Schauf with Visual Media Group.

Of course, Wichita, the Air Capital, wants to believe. Wheels Up has taken possession of 58 King Air 350i aircraft to date, Dichter said, and intends to support the twin-turboprop brand in the coming years. “We’ll keep the King running and relevant.” Perhaps even more pleasing to Ernest’s ears, Dichter said, “500 Kings can be in North America 10 years from now.” He spoke less about the 15 preowned Citation Excel/XLS light jets Wheels Up leases from Textron, but they must be a welcome complement to the fleet for those trips beyond the short-haul range of the King Air.

As you give presentations, here are some lessons we can all learn from Dichter.

Remember the power of sound bites. “Wheels Up is more Netflix than NetJets,” Dichter said about his program, which doesn’t actually operate their program aircraft, but rather dry leases them to Gama Aviation, the exclusive FAA Part 135 operator.

Connect emotionally. “I have the same feeling walking up to a plane today as I did 28 years ago starting out.”

Tell stories. “I was basically the steward,” he comically said, about his first flight from DC to LA on a Learjet 60 with sports agent David Falk.

Make the complex simple. Dichter, who founded jet-card pioneer Marquis Jet in 2001 then sold it to NetJets-owner Berkshire Hathaway in 2010, boiled down the NetJets Marquis card by saying, “I started out with Richard Santulli offering a fractional, preloaded card that took away residual risk for people flying under 50 hours.”

Get your audience to root for you. Dichter positioned himself as the underdog as he talked about “begging” Richard Santulli to do the deal and being “turned down seven or eight times.”

Sprinkle in specifics, including names, to humanize your story. He said “Warren (Buffet)” encouraged Santulli to do the deal, which “generated $5 billion in 10 years.”

Engender confidence. Dichter mentioned other successful ventures, including Marquis’ continuation with thousands of members today.

Be direct. Dichter talked about Wheels Up’s tiers of membership: Corporate, with a one-time $29,500 initiation fee and $14,500 annual dues starting year two; or Individual, with a $17,500 entrance fee and $8,500 dues after the first year.

Make a case for your place in the marketplace. “We’re in the hospitality business,” Dichter said. “Thanks, United, for doing us a favor.” Dichter made the connection with United’s ongoing PR woes to how poor airline passenger service creates a demand for private aviation solutions.

Illustrate your points. Ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft haven’t made a profit yet, but we all understand how they have changed the landscape, broadening the space. He foresees something similar in aviation.

Wichita Aero Club President Dave Franson with Wheels Up CEO Kenny Dichter. Photo credit: Brett Schauf with Visual Media Group.

A little audience pandering is okay. A few of Dichter’s crowd-pleasing statements: “Wichita makes ’em; we take ’em.” “There’s no bigger cheerleader for this city than me or the Wheels Up team.” “The first electric plane won’t be made in San Francisco; it will be made in Wichita.”

Communicate a positive vision. “I think we have a lot of runway.”

Leave plenty of time for Q&A. Dichter took a question about who’s been Wheels Up’s best celebrity. He quickly said Serena Williams because of her gender, ethnicity and being such a champion. Then he related it to Wheels Up – that they now have more women who are the lead passenger or lead on the account.

Build relationships with reporters. Dichter called out reporters in the room by name and engaged with them. “Earmuffs, Molly (McMillin),” he said about a joke he made about Wheels Up’s aircraft. He called them JILFs. I’ll leave you wondering about that one.

This column ran in the April 20th issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News.

Meghan Smith Takes to TV for AIGA Portfolio Forum

Meghan Smith appeared on KAKE News to talk about the AIGA Student Portfolio Forum happening April 7th and 8th. Design students are invited to grow their portfolio. They will have the opportunity to meet 20 design professionals from the Wichita community and learn about how to better their portfolio. There is also a portfolio competition where students have the opportunity to win scholarships. The keynote speaker at the 2017 AIGA SPF is Leif Steiner from Moxie Sozo in Boulder, Colorado.

Watch the segment here:

Greteman Group launches, SmartParts, a web-development product, after three years of R&D

WICHITA, Kan. – Wichita-based marketing agency, Greteman Group, has launched SmartParts, a website theme that streamlines the web-development process. Its backend code serves to save both time and money. The agency estimates in many cases it will save clients 20-30 percent on backend development. SmartParts combines best practices in prototype, responsive development and content management systems (CMS) for sound web solutions.

“SmartParts grew out of clients’ communicated needs for the best possible creative and functionality at the best possible price,” says Sonia Greteman, agency creative director and president. “We listened.”

Clients increasingly must do more with less as their teams get streamlined and marketing departments are tasked with ever-greater responsibilities. Their websites have become critical, dynamic tools for guiding prospective clients through every stage of the buying cycle: awareness, consideration, preference, purchase and repurchase. Having a website that’s always up to date becomes crucial. A CMS site that can be easily updated with events, special offers, blog posts, newsletters and more becomes paramount.

The agency started with a foundation of web knowledge that dates back to its first website 24 years ago. It began research and development for SmartParts three years ago. SmartParts consists of custom-programmed, fluid templates that improve upon the conventional WordPress content management system (CMS). The agency built the theme to be lean and intuitive, which minimizes the need for plugins that can be vulnerable to security breaches and random updates that play havoc with your site. They can also slow down a website, which is both bad for SEO and the user experience.

SmartParts is used throughout our website process, creating efficiency without sacrificing responsive design and avoiding me-too websites that look like everyone else’s. (Example: drag-and-drop builders such as SquareSpace.) Beginning with the prototype, SmartParts enables the agency to collaborate with clients and navigate the site as if it were fully designed. They can offer input early on rather than waiting until the site is almost ready to launch before having a chance to give feedback and Clients are able to see the site come to life, grow and take shape.

A key benefit of SmartParts is enjoyed post website launch. Unlike proprietary CMS systems out there, SmartParts gives clients the control to manage their websites internally. Plus, they need not have knowledge of programming. SmartParts was built with the end-user in mind for quick site loads and mobile optimization.

Being the Change

“In the early ’90s, we designed one of the region’s first agency websites. It only had a few pages. There was little text. The navigation was so subtle finding your way around became a game. It had no SEO because Google didn’t exist. Nor did Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or YouTube. You accessed the site through painfully-slow, dial-up modems. We persevered and evolved,” says Greteman.

“Today, every project we touch is digital or has a digital component. We haven’t just changed with the times. We’ve been the change. Responsive design, search-engine optimization, data-driven marketing, email campaigns and social-media management. We dive into analytics to see how well everything’s performing – and adjust as needed. SmartParts is a part of our digital progression. One our clients will love.”

From Development to Implementation

Greteman Group created its first SmartParts site for Slawson Companies’ NewMarket Square commercial development. It launched in March. Collaborative meetings with the Greteman Group and Slawson teams determined everything from site architecture to information hierarchy. The main client request was for a store directory that was easier to update and would grow with NewMarket as the center continues to add stores.

“Using SmartParts allowed us to develop the site more efficiently, so we could design and build a custom solution for NewMarket’s directory map,” says Jordan Walker, Greteman Group digital director. “Our solution delivers a color-coded, interactive directory  that is unlike most major retail centers. Slawson’s team says it’s so easy to use. As new properties open, changes can now be made in minutes rather than hours.”

“Like many websites, ours was born out of necessity and then evolved over time,” says Jerry Jones, Slawson Companies vice president of commercial development. “Our old site became cumbersome, not user friendly and a challenge for us to update. The new site elevates the user experience exponentially – both externally and internally.”

The Case for SmartParts

So, why not just use off-the-shelf WordPress themes? Well, if you’re a young person setting up an online portfolio, need a site for a short-lived special event, have little or no budget, or generic suits you fine, you probably should.

If, however, you’re a mid-to-large business reliant on a professional, functioning, put-your-best-foot-forward site, don’t do it. Off-the-shelf can be problematic if trying to integrate with other services, such as donor databases or customer portals. It can be difficult and time intensive to customize and have overly complex administration screens, because they’re trying to cover every scenario possible. That’s what happens with themes built for anyone and everyone to use. You often end up with lots of unnecessary code and unneeded features that bulk up and slow down the site. Sluggish site speeds result from a host of files automatically loaded onto every page – rather than customizing and only loading the ones in use. Off-the-shelf solutions force you to sift through lots of sections to locate the things you actually want to change.

“We think through how our clients will be updating content and whenever possible, we keep the code hidden so they don’t have to worry about learning a new language or breaking something as they complete updates,” Walker says.

“Bottom line, if you’re looking to stand apart from your competitors, a website can be instrumental in building credibility and customer loyalty. It is incredibly hard to do that with an off-the-shelf solution that is built for everyone. SmartParts helps us deliver outstanding return on our clients’ website investment.”


Covered by Wichita Business Journal on April 5, 2017.

Welcome to a Drone-filled World

The future can terrify or thrill. Fortunately, the vision set forth at the March meeting of the Wichita Aero Club did more of the latter.

Speakers Ben Marcus and Bob Brock proselytized about the wonders already here and others yet to come in the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry. The change, they said, will be transformative. Yes, there are privacy and security concerns, but what opportunities.

Unlocking the Future of Flight

Marcus, CEO of AirMap and earlier cofounder of jetAVIVA, and Brock, the nation’s first state-level director of unmanned aircraft systems, painted a picture of possibilities. Think of a device that can today be made with a 3-D printer in less than an hour – or bought at Best Buy. A device that can fly up, down, forward, backward, even upside down. That you can cloak and put lights on.

They posed the question: What can you do with a flying erector set? They talked about the mind-bogglingly endless uses – search and rescue, disaster management, package delivery, aerial photography/videography, safety inspections, border patrol, law enforcement, wildlife monitoring/poaching prevention, storm tracking/forecasting, even agriculture.

“A farmer with 35,000 acres has a lot of need for eyes,” Brock said.

Kansas Department of Transportation Director of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Bob Brock | Photo: Kevin Swinicki Visual Media Group.

Brock said UAS has the potential to be a $13.6 billion industry and has more than 770,000 drones registered in the United States now, greatly outnumbering manned aircraft. In the past three months alone, registrations increased by 100,000. The pace is moving fast. And we need to move even faster to keep up. Wichita Aero Club President Dave Franson mentioned he’d heard that the proliferation of UAS and the people piloting them are projected to grow by a factor of 10 by the end of the year.

It’s been mandatory to register drones since 2015. The FAA requires hobbyists to get a single ID for all the drones they operate, while commercial operators must register each drone separately. The FAA’s hard at work to help create new standards for identifying, tracking and detecting unauthorized UAS. Director Brock agreed that to build a UAS industry in Kansas, “We may need to raise standards.”

Kansas wants to seize the opportunities afforded by UAS | Photo: Kevin Swinicki Visual Media Group.

Training a New Kind of Flier

The goal is to train people to become commercial drone operators, not pilots, Brock said. He said future needs will be less for pilots in command than for more autonomous operators who manage fleets of drones. He threw out 20 as possible fleet size.

AirMap CEO Ben Marcus | Photo: Kevin Swinicki Visual Media Group.

“AirMap is making drones part of everyday life,” Marcus said. The company, based in Santa Monica, California, does this by offering open-source software for airspace management and drone navigation. It supports more than 100,000 drone flights daily with airspace intelligence and services to support safe flying and communication with others in low-altitude airspace.

The aviation industry initially was cool to the idea of UAS and the air-traffic-management issues it brings. So, it’s no wonder the biggest laugh from the Aero Club came from Marcus’ comment about the Dutch police training eagles to bring down drones. And Brock noted that he may be fine with Amazon Prime delivering a package to his home via drone, but what about the 16 houses it must fly over on the way; can the drone avoid someone shooting it down? A change in thinking will need to take place for some.*

*That goes for dogs, too. A family member in rural Missouri recently heard a drone outside her two-story bedroom window, then got a text from Amazon saying she’d just received a delivery. When she went to retrieve it, she discovered the big, buzzing thing from the sky had driven her German shepherd into attack mode. And the package was no more.

This column ran in the April 6th issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News.