What You Should Know Before Entering the Lion’s Den of Vacation Ownership-Timeshare Presentations

We have all seen the pop up ads that seem to scream out “Congratulations….you are today’s lucky recipient of a 5 day/4 night Luxury Cancun Vacation or a Caribbean Dream Cruise…” Or you may have received that automated phone call informing you that you have won that all inclusive vacation in Florida. Before you impulsively click on the box or call that 1-800 number you need to realize that these are promotions to solicit sales of either a timeshare or vacation ownership package.

We are inundated daily with telemarketers, pop up ads, unsolicited e-mails and fliers in the mail. Most of the time we either delete them from our computer or throw them out.

However, think about it for a moment. Wouldn’t you like to go on that cruise or lay around at some posh resort soaking in the sun? You may want to reconsider for a moment that at $199 that cruise does seem appealing, right? The cost does not include your flights, taxes and other costs to take this vacation, but still you can get a good deal and have a great time at a fraction of the cost you would spend if you booked the vacation or cruise through an online travel agency. Here are a few tips that will help you escape unscathed as you enter the Lion’s Den of Timeshare and Vacation Ownership Presentations.

The first thing you need to do as a couple is to ask yourselves some pertinent questions about what you plan to do and where to go for the next five to ten years. Dream a little and be adventuresome with your ideas. Most important, be honest and realistic. If you like to camp, boat, go on tours, ski, go on safaris, etc. as part of your vacation mix, then staying at a resort and laying on a beach in the sun may seem a bit boring, and not part of your lifestyle. Or you may like to stay at a resort once every two years instead of every year, and go camping, fishing or hiking on the alternate years. It is up to you to formulate a vacation plan that suits you best and stick with it. Calculate what you approximately spend on your vacation each year. You may have kept your charge card receipts from previous years. Get a rough estimate on travel, food, lodging and special events. This is important to know as you will be asked what you typically spend on your vacation each year. Armed with those figures head of time will help you make and informed decision whether a timeshare or vacation ownership package is a wise choice for you or not.

Secondly, because timeshares and vacation ownership properties can be willed to your children, consider what your children enjoy doing on their vacations. Your son or daughter may prefer to go white water rafting on the Colorado River, hike the Chilkoot trail in the Yukon or rough it in India rather than soak up rays in Cancun, Mexico. Then again, they may have similar interests to you and would love to enjoy a week in a resort. Discuss your intentions with your children before you go on your trip, rather than surprise them with the news that you had purchased a timeshare package, after you get back.

Once you get to your destination you will check into the ubiquitous ‘Welcome Center’. This is the hub of the Lion’s Den of Timeshare/Vacation Ownership sales presentations. It is here that you register for your presentation and pick up your room keys. You may be required to leave a deposit or credit card imprint. This is to ensure that you will show up for the presentation meeting. Don’t worry, you will get your money back after the presentation and they most likely will give you a gift as an incentive for attending the presentation, such as an additional night’s stay, theme part tickets, clothing, wine or money.

The next day at the Welcome Center you will be ushered to a waiting area to sit with dozens of other tourists. Coffee, doughnuts and other goodies will be served while you wait for your presenter to come and get you.

Once you meet your presenter it is imperative that you confirm the time limit on the presentation. If the company has stated that the presentation will take no more than 90 minutes, then establish that you will allow an additional half hour to run overtime. That is fair. It is very easy to get bogged down in three or four hour presentations or longer. Be firm, but polite and stick by your guns but letting the presenter know how much time they have left.

After the initial interview you will be taken on a tour of a typical two or three bedroom unit. You will be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the units. Timeshares have come a long way from what they were even ten years ago. The figures will be scribbled on a sheet of lined foolscap paper. The deal for today, they will say will include the first year of maintenance fees which includes the first year membership in one of the two major timeshare trading companies, either II (Interval International) or RCI (Resorts Condominiums International). You will be left alone to discuss the proposal. If you have done your homework you will know if this deal is for you, but wait, there will be other deals.

The Salesperson will return and if the two of you have decided that the deal is not for you, the salesperson will bring the boss to reiterate the deal. Then they will offer you a one bedroom unit with perhaps the same options as the first deal. You will be left alone a second time to talk it over. If you still have decided against the proposal, then a third option is offered, most likely a studio unit (bedroom, kitchen and eating area in one room). They will apply pressure for you to make a decision to buy. Again, if the proposal is still not right for you and your family, go with your gut feeling and say no. However, if this is the unit you want and it is in the resort community you prefer, and meets your financial terms, then go for it.

Before you make your decision, I recommend that you do a lot of research by checking out timeshares and vacation ownership properties on the internet. You will discover that prices may vary depending on the quality of the units being offered and the resort location. If you and your family like theme parks, then purchasing a unit near Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, etc. may be your best bet. While others may be more interested in purchasing a timeshare near wonderful golf courses, or world class ski resorts. Take your time before you choose your unit and consult others who have purchased a unit in a community you are considering. Find out if they like their unit and the recreational facilities and other amenities in their community. If they offer positive feedback then you may consider purchasing a property.

For comparison here are some typical figures the salesperson may get thrown at you. For a two-bedroom unit with two weeks of regular time each year and two additional bonus weeks added when purchasing the unit may sell for $15,000 with legal closing costs of $525 and $150 in taxes. The maintenance costs which covers property upkeep, insurance, taxes and refurbishing costs, new appliances, etc. are $500 per year. Resort Condominiums International (RCI) or Interval International (II) can trade your week at your resort for another week at another resort from over 5000 resorts combined around the world. Depending whether you have purchased a peak season high demand week (red), mid season (white for RCI or yellow/amber for II) or low demand (blue for RCI or green for II), your annual fees may be approximately $90 per year. For a two-bedroom unit for two weeks (one week added during the purchase year) every second year (E.O.Y.) was selling for about $10,000 with $350 in closing costs, $500 E.O.Y. maintenance costs and $150 E.O.Y. for taxes. These figures are an approximation and are provided to offer you some insight as to what these units cost and maintain. I urge you to check out some websites and compare their unit costs.

Similar to any important financial decision you make, get the best terms when you buy. Your decision to buy a timeshare or vacation ownership property can affect you and your family well into the future. If you decide to sell your unit several years down the road, you may find that will be selling your unit at a loss, and may not even recoup your initial investment. From my experience I have found that buying a timeshare or vacation ownership property should not be considered as a money making investment, but rather as an investment in your planned future quality vacation time. Honestly, this investment has far greater value beyond its’ ‘real estate value.’

To buy or not to buy, the decision is ultimately yours to make. When you make that phone call or click that mouse to try one on for size, at least you will get a taste of what it is like to experience the timeshare or vacation ownership lifestyle. Take the plunge, try it on for size.

Influence the Future by Improving the Odds in the Present

The new year is well under way and I will try and avoid the usual discussions, posts, and tweets about resolutions. This article relates to a belief I have that there is more to life than just randomness as many of the quantum theorists will tell us. It is not that I don’t believe in Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle or Chaos Theory but I have lived and breathed long enough on this planet to have witnessed and experienced events that suggest to me that there must be some ability to affect the quanta of the present to influence the future. Of course, most of us want to believe that not everything in life is just random as experiments in quantum physics have shown us. Most of us want to believe that if we put effort into the system we can tip the odds in our favour. I firmly believe that not only is this possible but it is what makes some people seem more “lucky” than us.

Let’s take the example of health for a moment. When you look at a disease like cancer it appears to be quite random. Everyone knows of that person who lived a very healthy life by not drinking and not smoking and exercising everyday but still developed cancer at a young age. Even more horrifying is when young children develop cancer – it just appears so random and it most cases, it is. There is however significant reams of research which demonstrates that through our efforts of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, we can turn the odds in our favour. It certainly does not mean that you have ultimate control over your fate, it just means that you can improve your odds.

If we accept that our intentions can improve our odds in health, it begs the question of whether our efforts can affect other measurable indicators such as prosperity. Once again it is clear that at its base, randomness is at play. Whether you were born into affluence or not was (depending upon your belief) a random fluke. As with health, there are numerous examples of people who were born into abject poverty but through sheer will and determination influenced the odds of the future and dramatically improved their state of affluence. When you take a look at anything life, any goals you might have or anything you might desire, at its base starts randomness. I believe we must accept the randomness but get better at playing the odds. While I don’t play poker, I know enough about the game to know that by learning the rules, a few tricks, and a bit about probability, you can become a better poker player. Randomness is inherent in the game of poker as it is in life but learning how to work with the odds can affect the future.

When things in your life seem to be not going well, know that your time will come – much like the wave which is in the trough, it will rise again. Also know that you can influence when that wave will rise. Believe in your ability to affect the odds of anything in your life. Learn the rules of the game and understand the odds and what you can do to improve them. If it works in games of chance, it can work for anything. The variables for your goal might be different and more complex than a game of cards but with intention and effort, the rules can be learned and you can gain confidence in your ability to influence the future by playing the odds of the present.

What Annoys Audiences About PowerPoint Presentations?

When you prepare to deliver your next PowerPoint presentation, your audience should be first on your list of considerations. Unfortunately, too many presenters annoy their audiences. An online survey of 688 people who regularly see PowerPoint presentations revealed the following top annoyances (item and what percentage of the respondents cited that item as one of their top three annoyances):

The speaker read the slides to us 62.0%

Text so small I couldn’t read it 46.9%

Slides hard to see because of color choice 42.6%

Full sentences instead of bullet points 39.1%

Moving/flying text or graphics 24.8%

Overly complex diagrams or charts 22.2%

The top four annoying mistakes are the same as a similar survey done in 2003, suggesting that presenters are not getting much better at presenting clear information in an appealing manner.

The survey also asked for written comments in addition to the ranking and 415 people wrote in with additional ideas. The comments covered a wide range, but most common were three areas:

1. Delivery of PowerPoint Presentations

Many audience members wrote to comment on how the delivery of the PowerPoint presentation was a big problem. The areas of greatest concern were:

a) The use of PowerPoint when another communication method would have been better. Too many times it seems that PowerPoint is the default communication method and people have forgotten that a simple memo or one-on-one conversation would be much better.

b) The presenter is not familiar with how to deliver the presentation using the equipment. Comments cited the lack of knowledge of many presenters on how to smoothly start a presentation and keep the flow going during the presentation when using PowerPoint.

c) The presenter is not prepared to add to what the slides say. This seems to be caused by the presenter not knowing the topic well enough, or the mistaken use of PowerPoint as a teleprompter where the speech is read to the audience (echoing the top annoyance in the ranking).

2. Poor Slide Design

Even when the presenter is prepared and knowledgeable, poor design of the slides causes confusion among audience members. They focused on these areas as the ones of most concern:

a) Poor selection of colors and fonts make the slides hard to see. While a computer has the ability to produce millions of colors and hundreds of fonts, not all of them should be used together. Colors must have enough contrast to be seen and fonts need to be clear and simple in order to be read when projected. If the audience can’t figure out what is being projected, the visuals are of no use.

b) Misuse of the Slide Master and Slide Layout leads to inconsistent appearance of slides during the presentation. Audiences are looking for consistency during the presentation in the look and basic layout of the slides. This makes it easier to follow the presentation. Too often they are guessing as to what the next slide will look like and forced to search on every slide for the relevant ideas.

c) Backgrounds should be clean and not distracting. Audiences find backgrounds that contain numerous graphics, symbols and text distract from the information that is supposed to be central to the slide. They also commented on how stark black on white slides are too bright and need some simple color and design to make them appealing.

3. Overuse of PowerPoint’s features

Each version of PowerPoint seems to contain more and more features designed to make it easier to add flashy graphics, animation and multimedia to presentations. And too many presenters think that just because the feature is there, they should be using it. Audiences were clear that use of animation to entertain instead of inform or adding multimedia audio or video segments to show off the presenters talents were unnecessary and certainly took away from the message being presented.

Millions of Dollars Wasted on Annoying Audiences Each Year
The respondents to the survey were also asked how many presentations they see and how prevalent these annoying mistakes were.. Just over half of the respondents (54%) see 100 or more presentations per year, making them well qualified to identify how often these problems occur. And the news from this group of frequent presentation audience members is not good. One third of this group said that more than half of the presentations they see suffer from these annoying items and another third of this group said at least one in four presentations have annoying elements. This suggests that a significant percentage of the estimated 30 million PowerPoint presentations done each day fall in to the annoying category. An annoying presentation wastes the time of the people attending and causes enormous rework as ideas are not clearly communicated. This wasted time adds up to tens of millions of dollars each year. And this is money that can be saved by creating and delivering better PowerPoint presentations.

What Can Be Done?

Presenters need to focus on three things that will help them communicate more clearly when using PowerPoint:

1. Prepare a simple slide design with contrasting colors and clear fonts. Use a similar layout for each slide so that the presentation is consistent in appearance for the audience.

2. Simplify the content of your slides. Use less text, more graphics and try to do less on each slide. Keep the slides focused and the audience will be able to follow your message much better.

3. Prepare yourself for the presentation. Learn how to use the equipment and know your subject well enough that you presentation becomes a conversation with the audience instead of reciting a speech.

If you keep the audience as the central focus of your presentation, with a goal to clearly communicate with them, you can greatly improve your PowerPoint presentations.