Digital · Email · housing · tech

Are you on a Digital Journey?


Last week I spoke at the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru’s Housing Conference in Cardiff with Nick Atkin, Group CEO of Halton Housing on the subject of ‘The Future of Housing Technology’. This is a great subject to cover, not least because there is so much more we could be doing as a sector to catch up and embrace the future.

What were the key messages?

During our session, the main messages included:

  1. Digital is here, whether we are part of it or not: Generation Z are connected from birth. To gen Z customers and staff, being connected is a part of life, much like breathing. It is not an optional extra.genZ
  2. Going digital can save an organisation money in the long-term: Organisation’s like Nick’s have shown that moving tenants onto digital platforms saves organisation’s money. Fact.
  3. Tech is cheap and everywhere: I have blogged about it before, but the ultra cheap and better than its price £30 UbiSlate tablet represents so much. I called it a game changer in my blog post for a reason.
  4. The mobile device is key: We talked in our session about people always being on their mobile devices. You only need to walk down a busy street to see how many heads are down looking at their phones while walking (this guardian article calls them smartphone zombies). Scary, but true.

What about NWH?

My North Wales Housing CEO Paul Diggory was sat in the audience during the session and reflected that it was nice to see all our digital accomplishments in one place, including:

  • One-page Digital First Strategy;
  • Reviewed, renamed and relaunched My NWH (tenants portal);
  • Digital annual reviews for the past two years;
  • Recently launched Email Charter.

What I find amazing is that, despite the above, I feel we have only really scratched the surface of what we could do digitally. But at least we are on our digital journey. For the leading digital organisation in the Housing sector, look no further than Nick’s organisation, Halton Housing. They came number 1 in the Visceral Connected Housing Study 2015 (again) for a reason.

Final thoughts……

The Q&A session at the end of a session is always interesting. One question which really struck a chord, was whether as a sector, Housing looks far enough into the future at what the next digital/technological developments will be. The short answer is, definitely not.

Bear in mind that as a sector we are still generally getting to grips with everyone being connected, the networked individual and the 24/7 offer, we are not even close to fully future gazing about what is possible.

Another key point is that there is a lot of interest in the sector around digital and technology. The conference session was packed out and attendee’s seemed genuinely interested and engaged in what we were saying. So much so that a few conversations around digital technology in the Housing sector continued on much after the session finished. We need to harness this interest for the good of the sector, share our successes and failures, and continue the debate.

So to the real question: Is your organisation on a digital journey yet? If not, you might just get left behind……..

For more details on the above points and move, copies of our conference session Prezi’s are embedded below:

And here’s Nick’s:

housing · Social Media

Five tips for using Prezi


I first heard of Prezi on Twitter. I must confess, the first few times I saw the word Prezi it didn’t really register with me. But then Nick Atkin, CEO of Halton Housing Trust, tweeted a link to a Prezi he was giving later that day at a conference. I clicked on it from my iPad, not really being sure what to expect. I duly downloaded the iPad Prezi viewer, but alas, I couldn’t really work out what the Prezi was really about. I now know that I had made the mistake of trying to manually zoom around the Prezi, meaning that I was looking at large areas of blank space. It still wasn’t clear what Prezi was for, although in face value it did seem interesting and different, and I do have a habit of needing to investigate new and innovative ways of communicating.

First tip – ‘don’t try outwitting a Prezi – it will only end in tears’.

Due to my first experience, I left it untouched and unresearched for a while, but then with more and more tweets referring to being such a great thing, I had to look into it further. On signing in to Prezi and checking out a few of the recommended Prezi’s, I was hooked! It was amazing what could be done – words within words, whole scenes, zooming in and out – the possibilities seemed endless.

Then I was asked to give a 5 minute presentation at #tai2013cymru – Wales’ Chartered Institute of Housing Conference. This seemed like the ideal opportunity for me to have a go at using Prezi.

Second tip – ‘find an excuse to try using Prezi’.

Of course, it wasn’t that easy at first. If I was basing the final Prezi on the time it took me to produce, it would have been the most expensive presentation I’ve ever designed. I’d also have to say that one of my first Prezi’s, which at the time I was particularly proud of, in the light of another day just made no sense………and here’s why.

Third tip – ‘unless you have a reason to zoom in and out, it’s just annoying’.

My earlier Prezi zoomed in and out all over the place. I was really pleased with it at the time as I thought it was really creative, but when I looked at it the following the day, it just gave me a headache, which is a criticism levelled at Prezi from quite a few quarters. I decided to persevere, so started a completely fresh one off and this time, I didn’t use a template at all. I tried to work out the outline of my Prezi slides before worrying too much about the detail.

Fourth tip –‘keep it simple (stupid) – KISS’.

By the time I had spent a long time playing around with the content of my Prezi, I was actually pretty pleased with the result. I’d worked out how to add a decent background (for mine it was a blue sky – positive all the way) and how to ‘tell a story’, even if it was a short one.

Fifth tip – ‘use Prezi to tell a story’.

In speaking to Nick, he also suggested I tweet out my Prezi as a sneak preview beforehand (the day before the conference), which I did, and I duly had some nice positive comments back from some of my Twitter followers.

I turned up on the day of my conference presentation and panic set in – I needed an internet connection to make my Prezi work (as I hadn’t downloaded it beforehand) and I’ve not had much luck in the past with technology. But thankfully, after a few heart-stopping moments, it worked.

In the end I gave my first ever conference Prezi (one of the first at Tai I think?) and it was a great feeling. I even tweeted a link to my Prezi after the event again and on last check, I’d had 38 views (To view my Prezi click here). But of course, now that I’ve used it once successfully, I’m looking to use it again.

Thankfully, I’ve now been asked to give a short talk about Anti-Social Behaviour by TPAS Cymru and as I was asked the question, I’ve said I’ll use Prezi. Another challenge!

On another note, it also seems I’ve encouraged a few other people to give Prezi a try, including my CEO Paul Diggory, which I am really pleased about.

I have to say, in my humble opinion, Prezi will take over Powerpoint in the years to come and it seems that the number of Prezi converts is constantly on the rise. The flexibility it allows is so much better and it can certainly make for a more inclusive, interesting presentation.

Let me know your experiences of using Prezi by leaving a comment below!!