Using Twitter to deliver more power to a presentation

Edge of the Web 2008 logo

At Edge of the Web 2008 I discovered something that I hadn’t seen before – over a third of the audience was using Twitter as opposed to taking notes. And it was a good thing…

If you are giving a presentation, do you want 100% of people’s attention? You might think so, but perhaps not anymore. If you have 100% of people’s attention, you don’t get:
1. Twitter feedback
2. Wider audience outside of the presentation
3. Exposure beyond the slide deck
4. New connections
5. Access to audience insight

Here is another example of this at work, see colleague Eric Brown’s post on Jeffrey Veen’s experience….

Twitter is one of those tools that becomes indispensable… but only by using it. It is also one of those tools that doesn’t immediately appear to be really useful when you first look at it. Feedback from some of the people that I talk to clearly shows this.

Please share your experiences with Twitter that have proved valuable… and to ensure we have balance, any that have been not so valuable as well…..

Obama’s Oratory Skills…

A colleague of mine, Thomas Murrell at 8mmedia has just emailed me with his observations on Obama’s oratory skills. This post is not meant to be political, but Tom’s review of the way President Obama speaks provides a good insight into how great speakers do the job. Tom coaches people on how to present (amongst other things that he does). I’ve included Tom’s observations here unaltered….

History has been made. There is a new leader of the most powerful country on earth. Democrat Barack Obama defeated Republican John McCain to become the first African-American president of the United States. Obama gave a victory speech before a crowd of 125,000 ecstatic supporters gathered in Chicago’s Grant Park.
He’s young, lacks experience but is a superb speaker. So what can we learn from Obama’s oratory skills that you can implement for your next speech?
Here are my insights into his outstanding speech making and speech giving skills.
1. A Warm Welcome
“Hello Chicago”. These were the first words he said in his speech.
Simple, direct, warm and authentic. The audience loved it.

2. Start With A Rhetorical Question
After the welcome, Obama opened with a question.
This is a powerful way to engage an audience straight away.
“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”

3. Visual Metaphors Linked To Active Words
These always inspire people and make the intangible, tangible.
“It’s the answer that led those who’ve been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve, to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.”

I love the concept of bending an arc towards a better future.

4. Linking Words Together That Sound The Same
“And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.”
Highlighted are those words that sound magnificent when said together out loud.
This is writing for the ear not the eye.

5. Show Vulnerability
“It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment, change has come to America.”
“I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington. It began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston. It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to the cause.”

6. Acknowledge Your Key Stakeholders
“It grew strength from the young people, who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy, who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep.”

7. Opposites In The Same Sentence
This technique increases the “stickiness” of your message by creating cognitive dissonance.
Here’s what I mean with the first two of many opposites highlighted.
“It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.”

8. Put A Time Context To Your Message
“What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night.”

9. Personal Stories
This technique always connects with people at an emotional level.

In his speech, Barack Obama told the story of a 106-year-old woman who knew Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a child.

“This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old. She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin. And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.
When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.
When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.
She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “We Shall Overcome.” Yes we can.
A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.”

10. A Great Call To Action
Every speech must end with a strong call to action.
“The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you: We as a people will get there.”
“America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves – if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?
This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.”

George Negus, the aging sex symbol, on Information Technology

George Negus, who actually isn’t all that fond of being referred to as an aging sex symbol, gave a presentation in Perth at the wonderful venue of the Royal Perth Yacht Club.

He was discussing many things and was thoroughly entertaining, and at the conclusion of his speech answered some questions. I had my hand in the air to ask a question, and before he got to me, he launched on a tyraid about information technology:

“Ask yourself, what has information technology actually done ever done for anyone? Absolutely nothing..”. George proceeded to let rip and then asked for my question.

“Hi George, my name is Justin Davies from Ross Technology, a technology services company……”

Pause, and some general laughter….

“Well, now you mention it, the internet is pretty useful for research and I actually use it everyday…..”

George wasn’t at all wedded to a view that Information Technology and computers are useless; he just wanted a debate. He wanted to get stuck in and argue a point to get a better understanding. He particularly wanted people to think – he most certainly didn’t want people to just nod their heads. And he was also most generous, and I now have a signed copy of one of his books.

How does that relate to The Smell of Good Business?

In my view, not enough decisions or widely held points of view are actively debated enough. A bloody good heated debate, and judicious use of the F word does wonders in quickly test driving a proposition. But you must ensure it is the best idea and not the most strongest personality that wins.

So, I also invite debate. Let me know what you think….

Branding You – Part 2

Having discovered your strengths, it is time to think about what your point of difference. In advertising parlance, this is the unique selling proposition – and the difficulty is trying to refine the many things you offer into a simple phrase of about 4 words.

A good place to start is thinking about your friends and colleagues, and the positive things they bring to your business and personal relationship. Once you start doing that, you can get a good sense of how you would like people to talk about you.

Let’s take an example: we had a really great bunch of project managers in our team at the Consulting Division of Ross Human Directions, but each brings a difference nuance and skill to this particularly difficult role. One absolutely prides himself on delivering projects on time and on budget. He has never delivered a project that wasn’t delivered on time and on budget. He also particularly delights in his ability to be able to project manage, team lead, undertake business analysis and cut code – basically every role in a team. We have another that is particularly good at really, really difficult projects – those with complex requirements, tricky stakeholders that can be a bit vague with their requirements. He is particularly good at nailing these requirements down and ensuring nothing is vague prior to build.

We had another that is great at delivering projects – but also particularly strong at mentoring staff. Another was particularly good at bringing parties together, being flexible and meeting all parties needs.

As you can see, all sorts of different skills sets, and what we work on is matching our clients and project managers for best result.

Have a think about the people around you in the same way and pretty soon – at least in a business context – you will have a great idea how you would like people to think of you.

Branding You – Part 1

I was chatting with Bill Wallace about marketing ideas, particularly given he has recently joined a new consulting business, and I wanted to understand what it was all about. More on that later, but one of the many key points that came out of the conversation was that it is really is necessary to pay attention to yourself as a brand. In other words, how would someone else articulate your value or understand your personal traits in a business and social context.

I read in Harvard Business Review an interesting article, and it suggested asking some colleagues for some frank feedback on things you do well. It suggested not asking about the things you don’t do well – primarily because human nature can easily tend towards the negative and focussing on improving those things you don’t do well. Chances are you will waste your time and you are much better spending the time working on being the best at the things you do well. If you are interested in this, see Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham – a very good read.

It is a good place to start, but expect that:
1. People whom you think would respond to that sort of request often don’t
2. You will be surprised – generally pleasantly so – about strengths you didn’t realise you had.

If you can concentrate on really working hard on those things you do well, you are bound for success.

And the implication of that is…?

One of the things that I found interesting in the way we conducted presentations to clients was Bill’s uncanny nack of teasing out and confronting the hidden issues that someone that he had never met before would open up to him. It really was a case of drawing on a lot of experience.

The essence for our approach was drawn from Spin Selling. The Spin Selling Fieldbook and Major Account Sales are required reading if you want to understand the process of creating opportunities and realising them in sales.

If you have not come across it before, SPIN covers 4 key parts to a sale:
Situation: what are the facts you need to know about a customer and their environment to determine if your product will be a fit for their business. In application development terms, this might be a question like, “are you a J2EE or .Net shop?”. Best to do your homework prior to seeing a customer if you can, so that you don’t spend the meeting like an interrogation.
Problem: Having established the environment, the trick is to explore problems that the customer might be experiencing. You must have thought about your product and service, and the types of problems it solves for customers. Again, such a question might be (again, in application development terms..), “Have you been having trouble implementing the latest flavour of .Net?”
Implication: Generally this is where the probing is really starting to add some value for the customer – as much as it may be causing a bit of discomfort. For example, the above question might have yielded a response such as, “yeah, a little but we will be ok and just grab a book or google it..”. You then need to be able to ask the question, “If you do that and it doesn’t work out, what is implication on service levels for your customers?” or other similar question that probes the next level of depth – the aftermath of the course of action going pear shaped.
Need – payoff: At this point, a great outcome is the client saying, “I hadn’t thought of that, I need to get that sorted out. At this point, the next question is, “well, if we able to eliminate that as a problem for you, what would that do for you?”

Notice that during this process you have not been selling or even talking about your product at all? This is the hard bit for most salespeople who get trained up in the product, grow to love it, and want to share their passion about their product to the customer. The customer, of course, is only interested in their own problem. If you focus on closing in a complex sale, chances are you will be nowhere near as successful as you could be. So, grab those Spin Selling books, I highly recommend them.

Some shortcut key points:
1. Business Development Processes if you can systematise you process, you have a more rapid way of fulfilling on customer enquiry. I have found that by responding with a solid proposal quickly, you stand a much better chance of success. Many companies do not really track the time from enquiry to delivery of proposal, conversion rates, or the time to develop a proposal and aim to shorten it.
2. Market Segmentation – you just simply can’t sell to everyone, but the question becomes who to really focus on, and in depth.
3. Analytics – Looking at what data you capture and making sense of it
4. Database clean up and management – and integration. In your business you probably have a bunch of people referred to in different parts of your business as customers, clients, debtors, creditors (if they both buy from you and sell to you) – and probably all in different databases, accounting systems, and email clients.
5. CRM – the big question here is “what does CRM mean to you?”. Technologies have been fantastic at undertaking demos on product that seem to solve all of the problems – it is the implementation of the technology AFTER people and process issues have been resolved that delivers success. Our experience is that this needs to be very much customised to the individual company rather than trying to the meld the company to the software. As I run a business specialising in application development, I do have a bias here – but in many cases is cheaper and more effective to build software for purpose as a core business system rather than buy something with features you will never use.

The World is a Wanker

I once had an interesting experience in a meeting with Bill and a top tier consulting firm, in a very impressive office. We called in to see a mid-level manager and explained what we were doing in the consulting arena around ebusiness – strategy, web enabled application development, portals – enhancing the online user experience. This guy’s response was, “we don’t need you. We have a partnership with Cisco.”
“What? The people that supply routers and switches?”

Interesting enough our very next meeting was with a Partner of one of their competitors, again a top tier firm. The response was entirely different – he was pragmatic, client centric and with an emphasis on solving problems and really interested in how we could help. He wasn’t interested in pushing his own ego and importance – he just had a job to get done well.

At the end of this second meeting Bill exclaimed, “The world is a wanker! People hide behind egos and the protective veil of large corporations, but put them out into their own business and they wouldn’t last 5 minutes. They are just not that bright, regardless of what they tell you. And the more letters after their name, the less they can do.”

“All you have to do is stay 20 minutes in front of the client. You have to have the courage to have a go, and punch above your weight.”

To test this theory, I tried a presentation to a major IT organisation about our capability. I was reciting a presentation fairly much rote, with almost no understanding of the technical terms I was using – but following instructions of speak confidently, roll your hands, lean forward….

And the response shocked me –

“you guys are way in front of the market, I think you will shake up this town…”.

I nearly died laughing…

Since then of course I made sure I did know what I was talking about….

The Technical Hiring Dilemma
In the UK, the Technical Director was a young super bright guy named Nikk who had more technical and business smarts than many people I’ve met with 10 years more experience. He was the one with the critical pressure to ensure projects were delivered and worked. And he also had to manage the resourcing pains of that as well. His common complaint was, “everyone says they can do it right up until the point they cant do it”.

I experienced this on a project. We had briefed a local WA business partner to undertake what looked relatively simple application development. We noticed that he seemed to be taking an inordinate amount of time to do the work, reassuring us that all was on track and that he 90% there. After two weeks of this, he disappeered, taking the payment for the work done to date BUT without us having any code we could use. Of course, he could do it – right up to the point that he couldn’t do it.