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“Innovation is more important now than ever,” said Sarah Miller Caldicott, great grandniece of Thomas Edison, Chair of the Edison Best New Product Awards. “The Edison Award winners are the moving parts in the engine of economic growth. They inspire people to think outside the box and improve the lives of people around the world.”

The Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG), a nearly 2000 member, not-for-profit organization of senior-level marketing professionals, recently judged the 2010 Edison Best New Product Awards and congratulates the winners, ranging in everything from a mini-car and electronic motorcycle to a household wind turbine electronic generator and gluten-free cake mixes.

The Edison Best New Product Awards, presented by Discovery Channel, honored a wide range of new products and product innovations at an awards gala held at Capitale in lower Manhattan. New and innovative products in fifteen categories were recognized for innovation and invention in the spirit of Thomas Alva Edison, America’s greatest inventor and marketer.

The Edison Awards, a peer-review honor similar to the Oscars (one newspaper called them the “Oscars of Innovation”) is voted on by roughly 2,000 members of MENG. The awards symbolize the persistence and excellence personified by Thomas Edison, inspiring America’s drive to remain in the forefront of innovation, creativity and ingenuity in the global economy.

A complete list of Edison Best New Product Award winners by category and Edison Green Award finalists include:

Technology
- Gold – 3M MPro Mobile Projection Camera from 3M
- Silver – OnStar Stolen Vehicle Slowdown Technology from OnStar
- Bronze – iRa C3 Portable Video Monitoring Software from Lextech Labs
- Bronze – LiveScribe Pulse SmartPen from Livescribe Inc.

Electronics & Computers
- Gold – Littmann® Electronic Stethoscope Model 3200 With Cardioscan, from 3M and Zargis
- Silver – CarMD Handheld Car Tester from CarMD
- Bronze – Zeo Personal Sleep Coach from Zeo Inc.

Science & Medical – Standard
- Gold - The Harmonic Blade for Endoscopic Surgery from Ethicon Endosurgery
- Silver – Volusonâ E-Series Ultrasound System from GE Healthcare
- Bronze – Compasâ Prosthesis Alignment System from Orthocare Innovations

Science & Medical – “Game Changers”
- Gold - MicroChips Illumeä Continuous Glucose Monitoring System from MicroCHIPS
- Silver - MicroJet Transdermal Drug Patch from Corium International
- Bronze - Nanomaxx Handheld Ultrasound System from Sonosite Inc.

Consumer Packaged Goods - Personal Care Segment
- Gold - Alwaysâ Infinity Feminine Protection from Procter & Gamble
- Silver – Cover Girlâ & Olayâ Simply Ageless Foundation from Procter & Gamble
- Bronze - Full Thickening Hair Cream from Living Proof

Consumer Packaged Goods – Foods Segment
- Gold - Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Dessert Mixes from General Mills
- Silver - Healthy Choice Fresh Mixersä from Con Agra

Consumer Packaged Goods – Household Segment
- Gold – Purex 3-in-1 Laundry Sheets from Henkel
- Silver – Bounce Dryer Bar from Procter & Gamble
- Bronze – Scrubbing Bubbles Toilet Cleaning Gel from S.C. Johnson

Consumer Packaged Goods – Consumer Drug Segment
- Gold - Alignâ Probiotic Food Supplement from Procter & Gamble
- Silver - Zyrtecâ Allergy Treatment from McNeil Consumer Healthcare
- Bronze - Latisseâ Prescription Medication for Eyelash Regrowth, from Allergan

Media & Visual Communications
- Gold - Kindle II Digital Reader from Amazon.com
- Silver - Nook Digital Reader from Barnes & Noble
- Bronze - iFood Assistant from Kraft

Industrial Design
- Gold – Sole Power Roof Tile from SRS Energy
- Silver – Motorola APXä 7000 First Responder Radio from Motorola
- Bronze – Pilarâ Kitchen Faucet with Touch20 from Delta

Lifestyle & Social Impact
- Gold - GE Hybrid Water Heater from GE Consumer & Industrial Appliances
- Silver - The Edison Nation Open Innovation Network from Edison Nation
- Bronze - CCA Software Suite for Non-Profit Organizations from CCA Global Partners

Energy & Sustainability – Sustainability
- Gold – Prima Bottled Water Packaging from Primo Water
- Silver – 100% PCR Clamshell Packaging from Earthbound Farm
- Bronze – Natura 100% Zero-VOC Paint from Benjamin Moore

Energy & Sustainability – Energy
- Gold – Honeywell Wind Turbine Gearless Blade Tip Power System from Windtronics
- Silver – Quantum Lightä Optics from QD Vision
- Bronze – OPOWER Software and Marketing Program from OPower

Living, Working & Learning Environments
- Gold – Affordable Housing, from The Phoenix Commotion
- Silver – Affordable Green Housing, from Builders of Hope
- Bronze – WorkSpring from Steelcase

Transportation
- Gold – The Tata Nano Automobile from Tata Motors
- Silver – The Brammo Enertia Electric Motorcycle from Brammo, Inc.

Edison Green Award
- Game-Changer Award: The City of Greensburg, Kansas
- Gold – Kohl’s Department Stores
- Silver - TerraCycle
- Bronze – Parducci Cellars

The 2010 Edison Awards are sponsored by TV’s Discovery Channel, Google, The Nielsen Company (a leader in market research and intelligence best known for TV’s “Nielsen ratings”), and Strategyn, a global leader in innovation management.

The Edison Awards are associated with The Thomas Edison Papers at Rutgers University, the State
University of New Jersey. The Edison Papers, which has studied the five million pages of research notes left by the great inventor over the past 30 years, is the custodian of the criteria of The Edison Awards.

Edison Best New Product Awards are given annually. The Award was founded 23 years ago by the American Marketing Association. Full details about each of the 2010 Edison Award winners are available online at Edison Awards.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Coping Without Twitter

I read an article in Advertising Age the other day.  It talked about the brief service outage Twitter experienced in early April and how Twitter users responded once the service was restored.

Using the hashtag #whentwitterwasdown, Twitter users sent tweets to describe the ways in which they coped with the outage.  Sample tweets included:

o I don't know what to do. One word: bored 
o I was hoping they were busy clearing out the Beliebers. Sadly I was wrong. 
o I cried 
o I almost had a stroke 
o I realized my phone did this other [stuff] they call "Texting" a strange more primitive form of tweeting! 
o I complained about it on facebook 
o Wait...hold on... twitter was down?? [Darn] didn't notice... guess cuz I have a life

Today, more and more businesses are sharing their stories through an increasing variety of social media – Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, to name a few.   Is your business one of them?  If it is, what are your plans in the event of an outage? How will you continue to communicate with your followers, fans, and members? What will they say about you?

 

Additional Resources

Advertising Age Article http://adage.com/mediaworks/article?article_id=143205

Article Summary:  On September 3, 2005, the screaming and shouting stopped. I finally gave in to writing my first blog. Back then, I did not have the appreciation for the power of blogging that I have today. Well-written, organized, and timely blogs offer tremendous benefits. If you look at social media today, blogging is rarely mentioned as a top application. And the irony is that, more likely than not, sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter refer back to a blog entry as the source of the information. Look at the Tweets you receive. If I were a betting man, the majority of them are about blog entries. Blogs and articles are the foundation of the news and opinion we read today. Your blog is your voice.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.


Better Blogging for Better Results

8 Tips to Generate Opportunities from Blogging

© 2010. The Chief Storyteller®, LLC. 
Ira J. Koretsky
March 2010


On September 3, 2005, the screaming and shouting stopped. I finally gave in to writing my first blog. Back then, I did not have the appreciation for the power of blogging that I have today. Well-written, organized, and timely blogs offer tremendous benefits.

They can: A) extend the value and reach of your brand; B) build loyalty among fans and reach new audiences for your products and services; and C) engage your clients in quick-turnaround conversation while also receiving valuable feedback. Now, several years later, whether out networking or during a meeting, someone comments on my blog content.

If you look at social media today, blogging is rarely mentioned as a top application. And the irony is that, more likely than not, sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter refer back to a blog entry as the source of the information. Look at the Tweets you receive. If I were a betting man, the majority of them are about blog entries. Blogs and articles are the foundation of the news and opinion we read today.

Your blog is your voice. It is your voice interacting with prospects and clients in a sincere and credible way. Here are 8 tips to generate more opportunities to connect quickly to your target audiences.

1.  Make the Headline Memorable
Choose a headline that piques your reader’s interest. The headline is generally the litmus test—people decide whether your blog is worth reading solely based on the “pulling power” of the headline. Think and write like a copywriter.

2.  Leverage Key Words
Include about six key words in the first 100 words of all of your blogs. Maintain a master key word list. Every time you post, pull different and relevant key words. This will improve search engine ranking, ad word success, and help people find your blog.

3.  Content is King
Make ALL of your content relevant to your ideal client audiences. People follow you because of what you say and how it resonates with them. Blogs with too many topics seem fragmented and often fall out of favor quickly.

4.  Harness the Teachable Moment
Communicate like an educator. Keep your audience coming back with targeted, insightful, and helpful information. This suggestion is a bit contrary to typical sales philosophies when it comes to sharing free information. It is expected, in fact, required, that blogs provide high educational value. Every blog entry must offer knowledge, information, and wisdom to improve the lives of your readers.

5.  Personalize Every Blog Entry
Liberally use personal stories with clear business messages. Readers read your content because of their interest in what you have to say. Stand out from the “competition” for your target’s eyes and ears. Well-told stories that resonate on a personal level are always more memorable. Be sure to connect your story with a business message.

6.  Toot Your Own Horn
Share exciting news. Recount stories, anecdotes, and successes about your own conference appearances, presentations, web seminars, articles, white papers, product releases, success stories, etc. Keep these posts to about 10 percent of your total blogs.

7.  Invite Others to Blog
Think of your blog as a growing periodical. Magazines and newspapers showcase a variety of writers. So invite outside experts, former clients, current clients, staff, and partners to contribute blog entries. Your readers benefit from new ideas and varied perspectives. The guest bloggers increase their credibility as an expert while receiving exposure to new audiences.

8.  Offer High-Value Freebies
Give away content to generate bona fide opportunities. Link your blog post to a separate landing page on your website to capture pertinent contact information. Then share the promised white paper, tip guide, published article, podcast, interview, or research report.

Blogging is not easy. It takes time to develop a following. Successful bloggers are patient. They come up with fresh and innovative perspectives on the relevant issues of today and tomorrow. They analyze trends and issues, provide timely advice, and offer insights not available elsewhere. Great blogs are one more way to connect and accelerate connections with prospects and clients.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Several years ago, I used to work for a large organization that held annual conferences in convention cities like Orlando, Florida and Las Vegas, Nevada.  The conferences would begin with a lot of fanfare and enthusiasm, along with a standing-room only general session on the morning of the first day.

Like clockwork, a pattern of decreasing attendance would begin on the afternoon of the first day and continue up until the time we departed two to three days later.   Initially, I assumed everyone was taking care of business matters that had arisen since the conference had started.  In fact, I started to feel like I was doing something wrong because my workload seemed so much lighter than everyone else.  It wasn’t until I walked by the pool during one of the breaks that it hit me – while I was in the ballroom, a lot of my associates were at the pool.

Many of those who spent time by the pool did so because they felt the content of the conference sessions was not relevant to them.  This sentiment is one of the biggest challenges event planners for associations and large corporations face when planning a conference.

How, then, do you provide content that is meaningful enough so that your attendees will choose the ballroom over the pool?

To know what your audience will find meaningful, do your homework.  Go on a listening tour and spend time meeting with representative members from your prospective audience.

Here are 10 questions to ask of prospective attendees, so you will better understand what’s important to them and why.

1. Why are you planning on attending the conference?  Ask for three reasons.
2. What topics would be most beneficial to your professional development?
3. What topics would be most beneficial to your personal development?
4. What are the top three goals for your organization this year?
5. What are the top three goals for your organization two years and beyond?
6. What are the top three challenges preventing you from achieving your goals?
7. What types of keynote or general session topics are you interested in?
8. What types of session or workshop topics are you interested in?
9. What is the preferred length of time for a session or workshop?  
10. For you to consider your time well spent at this conference, what are the top three takeaways you will need to leave with?

After learning all about your attendee’s goals and preferences, customize your conference communication materials with compelling messages that will resonate.

With skillful planning, your program will be inspiring, engaging, educational, and entertaining enough to keep your audience members glued to their seats…in the ballroom.

I recently assisted a close relative with a major purchase for her business.  From start to finish, we exchanged emails with close to half a dozen different associates from the vendor’s business.  What amazed me about these emails was that almost every one of these associates had email signatures featuring the vendor’s logo with a different tag line.

The emails from the sales associates included nearly identical tag lines that described the company’s products.  The ones from the pre-sales consultant had no tag line.  And the emails from the customer service and support reps included tag lines referencing a merger that had been completed six months prior.

What key message was the vendor trying to convey?  Did they want to be known for the products they sold or the merger they completed? Or, perhaps they wanted to be known for something else.  What impact do you suppose the lack of consistent messaging might be having on their brand identity?

Successful branding requires a deliberate and consistent messaging strategy.  Decide on a core message that provides the answer to “What Does Your Organization Do?” (its elevator speech).  Incorporate that message into your tag line and insist that everyone in your organization use it as part of their email signature.   The story of your brand can only be told well when everyone is on the same page.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What Makes You Different?

So, you’re at a networking event and you’ve just answered the question, “What do you do?” Now what?  What if there are two others in the room who do what you do?

What makes you different?  (translated as, “Why should I hire you?”) When I was a graduate student, I was taught the best way to differentiate a product or a service was to create something that would be perceived as unique.

Let’s take copy writing as an example profession, what could possibly make me unique? Think along a variety of dimensions. Quality of my product – engaging, error-free, and easy-to-read articles, bulletins, and speeches. Customer service – responsive to the needs of my editor, punctual in meeting deadlines, and a willingness to offer a choice of several submissions. Experience – require minimal supervision, coaching, and editing – in short, no learning curve.

Taken together, these dimensions help to differentiate me among the other writers in the room. The others may have more experience and may also offer quality products...my customer service is superior.

You may notice I didn’t include price as one of these dimensions. That’s because differentiation often results in a lower sensitivity to price.  By effectively differentiating your product or service on one or several dimensions of perceived value to your prospect, you have created something that isunique.

A very interesting article in the New York Times Health section begins:

Psychologists have long studied the grunts and winks of nonverbal communication, the vocal tones and facial expressions that carry emotion. A warm tone of voice, a hostile stare — both have the same meaning in Terre Haute or Timbuktu, and are among dozens of signals that form a universal human vocabulary.

A couple of key points:

- The evidence that such messages can lead to clear, almost immediate changes in how people think and behave is accumulating fast.

- Good [sports] teams tended to be touchier than bad ones.

- Couples who touch more are reporting more satisfaction in the relationship

 

Just a word of caution: be careful when applying this advice in your workplace...for obvious human resource issues.

I went to Wegman's the other day for a gallon of milk. I was with my son and we were on our way home from a basketball game. As is the norm in my house on weekends, we were in a hurry.

When we walked in, we found the milk prominently displayed in a refrigerator case at the front of the store. As I went to grab a gallon, my son pointed out the chocolate chip cookies that were for sale alongside the milk. “Milk and cookies,” he said, “they go together.” He was right, so I grabbed a package of cookies to go with the milk and we were on our way. It was more than what I came for, but the smile on my son’s face was priceless.

This is an example of cross-selling, or offering related items to enhance their customer experience with a brand. Cross-selling offers retailers a number of benefits, including customer exposure to higher margin items and increased satisfaction through the suggestion of complementary items of perceived value.

When your associates are interfacing with their stakeholders, what story are they telling?  Does their message enhance the stakeholder’s experience?  Are they offering X, or are they offering X, Y, and Z?  Cross-selling can be an effective relationship-building technique for customer service representatives in schools, associations, governments, and businesses of all sizes.

Once a customer’s reason for calling is addressed, offering suggestions on other complementary services that might resonate with the caller can lead to deeper customer relationships, increased satisfaction rates, and higher revenues.

I've known Brian Lambert for years as he has been an association partner and client. He now runs the Sales Training Drivers program at the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD). During one of our conversations, we talked about presenting a web workshop/seminar on how business storytelling can be used to better tell the "training story" in organizations. Too often, training is one of the first line items cut from a budget. Why? Because rarely is there an internal senior leadership champion touting the many tangible benefits of training.

So we made it happen and last week I delivered "Five Ways to Use Business Storytelling: Making Training Fun while Selling the Value to Internal Stakeholders."

The team at ASTD was great. They helped make this one of the most popular web seminars for ASTD. Nearly 600 trainers from around the world registered.

I shared several key areas:
- Follow your own business storytelling process
- Know your audience
- Select the right story type for your audience
- Choose from your story inventory the right business stories
- Create interactive exercises in your training and presentations to make it more fun, have a higher memory retention, and improve educational value
- Tell your great stories

The web seminar is about 75 minutes long, free, and available at the ASTD web site here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Social Media – Are You Connected?

I have been actively Tweeting for a month now.  As of this writing, I have accumulated 35 followers and am following 37 others.  I have also posted 53 tweets.  I am now an official microblogger.  More importantly, I am connected.

Like many of you, I attend a fairly robust number of business and social networking events each month.  I also interact with people every day in my job.  One of my favorite conversation starters has become, “Are you connected?”  Invariably, this question leads to another, “Do you tweet?” And then another, “Why not?”

For those who don’t, and a surprisingly large number of people I meet do not, the most common reasons are:

- I don’t know what to tweet about.
- I don’t know what I could say that someone else would find value in.
- I’m too busy and don’t have enough time to do it.

If any of these concerns sound familiar to you, I may be able to help.

Before I sent my first Tweet, I wondered what to send.  I knew it had to be something more consequential than “Just took my dog for his daily walk.”  I also wondered why anyone would care about the Tweet I had just posted; i.e., the answer to the “so what?” question.  And, yes, with multiple email and instant messaging accounts to manage, I wondered where I would find the time to deal with yet another electronic messaging medium.

One month and 53 tweets later, my own experience has taught me three things.
1. Twitter is a blank slate.  You can write about anything you want.  It’s helpful to begin with a story, either business or personal. 

2. There are many people who love a good story.  Make it positive and fill it with content (i.e., some interesting fact that others can use, links to articles, blogs, photos) and you will build a list of followers. 

3. Scanning through a list of 140-character or less headlines while at the gym is a great way to keep current in any topic(s) you choose.

Get connected.  One well-timed tweet could be your next conversation starter.
Snowstorms make great networking opportunities.  They really do.

As my family and I dug ourselves out, we held conversations (albeit by talking across the street) with our neighbors as they, too, cleared their driveways.  We learned one neighbor’s kids weren’t helping because he only had one shovel.  We learned another neighbor’s wife was going to retire from her career job this summer.  We even received a compliment on how nice our driveway looked, only to be followed by the inevitable, “Now, where are you planning on going?”  He made a good point, since our roads were still buried in 28 inches of snow--we all laughed.

As the storm subsided, Lisa, my wife, and I went for a walk.  Walking in the unplowed streets proved to be more of a challenge than we had anticipated, so we didn’t get very far.  We did have an opportunity to network some more, though.  We got to meet Rudy, the dog who lives two doors down, and his owners.  Rudy, it turns out, doesn’t like the snow and is much friendlier than we had assumed.  Who knew?

Sometimes, the best networking opportunities just happen...even during a snowstorm.

Let's start with this question...If you were a television weather reporter, what would you do? Here is the scenario...

If you live in the Washington, DC area, then the expectation is the world is about to end tomorrow, maybe Saturday.

To me it is a fun fest because the public is bashing the television affiliates for their refusal, yes refusal, to comment on the specifics of the weather storm.

In a nutshell, the National Weather Service has been sharing its computer models are predicting a snow storm with accumulations of 12 to 20 inches (maybe more) starting Friday. The television affiliates are pushing back saying something to the effect, "yes we know snow is coming...we'll let you know more 24 hours in advance. Until then, no further information is provided."

Why do they do this? Because the public will scream and yell at them if the information is wrong as the public has done time and time again.

Who is right? National Weather Service, Television Stations, or the Public? 

They all are. NWS's job is to predict and provide advance warning based on computer models. News stations are supposed to report accurate information and not speculate. The public wants accurate information.

Human behavior is the cause of all of this outcry, grief, and frustration. As such, each organization and the public MUST remember the source of the information, the intent behind it, and appreciate that accurate information is the goal of everyone.

If you were a television weather reporter, what would you do?

The other day as my teen aged son and I were finishing our holiday shopping, we just happened to be looking when some of our fellow shoppers thought we weren’t.  Cutting in line to be the first to check out, making rude gestures to other drivers as they navigated crowded streets and parking lots, and failing to yield their seats to elderly passengers on the Metro – none of these qualify as images any of us would use to describe ourselves at a family gathering.

As many of us in the business world rush to close out another year, what will our co-workers say about our character?  What behaviors have we exhibited when we thought nobody was looking?  How have we treated others who we thought were subordinate to us?

Character is the fabric that is woven throughout our story. It’s the book behind the cover.  It’s what gives our business stories credibility. Most importantly, it’s what compels other people to want to do business with us.
Friday, January 22, 2010

A New Year’s Resolution

Looking for a New Year’s Resolution?  How about joining me at the gym?

I go to the gym on a regular basis.  What do I do when I’m there?

If I told you, “I go there to work up a sweat and make myself sore from lifting heavy objects,” very few of you would want to join me.   If I said, “I get up before the sun rises and run three miles uphill before the office opens for the day,” I would surmise that most of you would rather sleep in. If I said, “I go to build memories with my kids – like running a 5K with them, being able to slalom around the lake on water skis with them, and hoisting a full backpack and leading them on a hike to the summit of Mt. Washington when I grow older,” then I would bet that’s a resolution many of you would find appealing and easier to keep.

Building memories with our kids…now, that’s a resolution many of us can embrace and an example of turning a story into action.

Article Summary:  Do you remember the day your best friend was a stranger? Most people cannot. Why? Because that day was like any other day. Of course, no one is a best friend from the first greeting. Relationships take time. The same is true with your best stakeholders (e.g., prospect, boss, staff member, partner, member, sponsor, and so forth).  Either a best friend or a best stakeholder today, the relationship started as strangers. Small talk can be a powerful part of your business relationships. The difference between effective and ineffective small talk is being deliberate. Deliberate small talk contributes to good will, building trust, and better understanding the other person’s personal and professional situations.  Successful professionals are well prepared for various types of conversations. Here are several suggestions to make small talk practical and useful.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

Linda Yaffe (Working Matters) invited me to speak at her Philadelphia business event in September 2009 (read blog entry, Cheese Steak After Workshop. What More Can I Ask For?). From there, we developed a friendship. She asked me to write an article on small talk for her newsletter.

 

Business is Personal:  Accelerate Relationship Building with Small Talk

© 2010. The Chief Storyteller®, LLC. All rights reserved.
Ira J. Koretsky
January 2010


Early in my career, I did not even realize what small talk was or its purpose. I do remember that I thought I prepared well for meetings. In reality, I mainly prepared for factual part of the meeting—the conversation related to the actual topic. I did not prepare well for the human side—the relationship building.

Do you remember the day your best friend was a stranger? Most people cannot. Why? Because that day was like any other day. Of course, no one is a best friend from the first greeting. Relationships take time. The same is true with your best stakeholders (e.g., prospect, boss, staff member, partner, member, sponsor, and so forth).  Either a best friend or a best stakeholder today, the relationship started as strangers.

Small talk can be a powerful part of your business relationships. The difference between effective and ineffective small talk is being deliberate. Deliberate small talk contributes to good will, building trust, and better understanding the other person’s personal and professional situations.

Successful professionals are well prepared for various types of conversations. Here are several suggestions to make small talk practical and useful.

Prepare Tailored Questions
Whether you are preparing for a sales meeting, budget request, salary negotiation, and so on, always perform competitive and business intelligence research. This is the most important part of small talk success.

Research both the organization and all of the attendees, especially the key stakeholders. Develop a list of questions relevant to them. Choose the information relevant to your situation.

For the organization, know its products and services, successes, challenges, competitors, and the like. For the attendees, look for genuine connections. Think about common topics of interest such as college, hobbies, charities, where someone grew up, and professional associations.

To help you in your research, consider internal and external searches. Internal searches include website, press releases, annual reports, biographies, and executive interviews. External searches include social media sites (e.g., blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn), magazines, newspapers, journals, and professional research organizations such as Hoovers and Gartner.

First Share Then Pose a Question
Let us use a sales meeting as our example. As soon as you walk into the conference room for your meeting, you learn that Barbara, the CEO, is running late. What do you do? Initiate conversation with the other attendees using your tailored questions. Based on your research, share something important about yourself relevant to the attendees you researched. Then ask a related question. By first sharing, you are extending trust.

One example is “Sanjay, I graduated from DEF University with masters in economics in 19XX. I noticed that you went to GHI for your MBA. What did you like the most?” Another example is “Jason, I am also active in ABC charity in my area. How are your experiences with ABC?” A third example, “Susana, I read in USA Today about your new approach to process improvement. We did something similar a few years ago. How is your approach progressing?” The right small talk can uncover information and insights on a variety of personal and professional areas.

Gauge Receptivity
Understand and tune into the personalities of the attendees. Does Barbara, Sanjay, Jason, or Susana prefer small talk or business talk (conversation on the actual topic at hand)? Unsure? Dip your toe into the pool. Follow his/her lead. Start-of-meeting small talk should last only a few minutes. If Barbara does not provide timing cues, transition to business talk within five to seven minutes. Since you did your pre-meeting preparation and research on the organization, your deliberate small talk complements the agenda. Your small talk continues to be relevant and important to the meeting. It establishes your efforts to understand and gain familiarity with Barbara and her organization.

Relationships Take Time
Recognizing that relationships take time, maximize each opportunity you have with your stakeholders. Your challenge is balancing small talk and business talk with the stated or unstated preferences of your stakeholders.

Deliberate, well-crafted small talk accelerates building lasting relationships. It enables the conversation to go beyond the nuts and bolts of pure business. It enables you to connect on a personal level as well. You have to differentiate yourself. Forming personal bonds is crucial to most relationships. Why? Because business is personal.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Yesterday I was reviewing a website on a beautiful 24" monitor. The images were crisp and attracted the eye, there was plenty of white space, and the call-to-action buttons easy to see.

Then...I suggested that we look at the website on a some laptops, especially an ultraportable. The viewing experience changed dramatically, especially when it came to the pictures. They now consumed too much of the viewing area. And the information on the bottom area required scrolling to read.

Generally, first time visitors are eye scanning, starting from the top left (for Western hemisphere visitors). Ensure that your home page is viewer-friendly on all of the major formats such as ultraportable, 17", 19" monitor, and 24" monitor.

Also look at your website under different screen resolutions.

And lastly, look at the website with each of the major Internet browsers (e.g., Firefox, Explorer, Chrome, and Safari).

I'm a member of the Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG). It is an excellent organization for executive-level marketers who share their passion and expertise to ensure each member’s success (see below for more information on MENG). Since I joined a few years ago, MENG keeps expanding its services and educational resources.

And speaking of resources, today MENG released the findings of its recent survey. MENG surveyed their nearly 2,000 members from around the world to determine which marketing blogs, written by non-MENG members for objectivity, were being read. 

I thought it was an interesting insight into what "marketing executives are reading."

The top five include:

1. Seth Godin
2. Mashable, "The Social Media Guide"
3. Chris Brogan "Learn how human business works"
4. Guy Kawasaki's "How to Change the World"
5. Tom Peters
5. John Jantsch's "Duct Tape Marketing"

I'm familiar with many of the blog's listed. Denise Lee Yohn's "Brand as business bites" and Avinash Kaushik’s Occam’s Razor are two that I am going to read through and explore.

Hope that you find something to pique your interest and help. To see the entire list, click here.

 

About MENG:
The Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG) is the premiere international community of executive-level marketers who share their passion and expertise to ensure each member’s success. This
not-for-profit organization of nearly 2,000 members fosters career and personal success across virtually all industries and marketing specialties by providing networking opportunities and the ability to share knowledge and best practices. Members must have reached at least the VP level in their organization. Eighty four percent of members have Fortune 500 experience and 70% have earned graduate degrees, the majority of which are from top-20 business schools. To learn more about MENG, post executive level marketing positions, or to access MENG’s database of marketing executives, speakers and consultants, visit www.MENGonline.com. MENG can also be found on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/MENGonline.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I'm Six Foot Five - Can You Help Me?

William was seriously contemplating a last-minute trip to Europe. There were so many positive reasons to go. The hitch...he is six foot five inches. Unless he sits in the exit row, flying is very unpleasant for him. Over the course of two days we talked about how great the trip would be...and William always returned to the concern about the small seats.

I suggested that he call the airline directly and explain the situation to the booking agent. William balked and said that exit rows are impossible to get and with just a few days before departure, it would be impossible. "Ask" is what I suggested to him, say at least, five or six times.

Two days later William called excited. He is off to Europe! After just a few minutes of talking with the airline agent, he was able to secure an exit seat.

My father taught me early in my life about the power of asking. If you don't ask, nothing happens.

In fact, I recently wrote about my father's advice in my ThinkBusiness article, "Life Lessons: Everything I Learned about Sales I Learned from My Parents."

The American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) best magazine covers for 2008 can be found here. The official press release states "San Francisco, CA (October 6, 2008)—The best magazine covers of the year were unveiled today at the American Magazine Conference in San Francisco by David Willey, President of the American Society of Magazine Editors and Editor-in-Chief, Runner’s World. Categories include Cover of the Year, Best Celebrity Cover, Best Concept Cover, Best Fashion Cover, Best News Cover, Best Leisure Interest Cover and Best Personal Service Cover, with special recognition of the year’s best coverline."

My two favorites include:

 

Article Summary:   Character still counts. It is the fabric woven throughout our stories. It is the book behind the cover. As Abraham Lincoln said, “I am not bound to win, I am bound to be true.” Business stories teeming with character speak volumes on their own. Remaining true to the values of treating others with courtesy and respect is what gives our business stories lasting credibility. Most importantly, it is what compels other people to want to do business with us, over and over again.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

 

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda: 5 Activities You Really Should Do
© 2009. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
December 2009

 

About three years ago, I was in a local retail store. While chatting with Mark, the friendly sales associate, he asked me what I did. For some reason, I hesitated and almost said, “I’m in the marketing field.” Instead, I faithfully delivered my elevator speech (your answer to “What do you do?”). I piqued Mark’s interest. Instantly, he started talking about his challenges and difficulty in finding clients for his part-time art business. Thirty minutes later, we exchanged contact information. A week later, Mark started drawing business cartoons for me. Guaranteed, if I responded with the typical “I’m in marketing” answer, the opportunity would have been missed.

“Remember that the person you’re about to meet can become as important to you as someone you’ve known for years.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr., author of Life’s Little Instruction Book, could not have said it better. I can recall dozens of random and unplanned events where I turned strangers into new friends and clients, gained new ideas, or learned something new. Some of the events may seem small while others large. The question is, will you make the most of the interaction or will you let it pass on by? 

Here are five scenarios that occur to each and every one of us, if not on a daily basis, certainly weekly. Think about how you can maximize these experiences as they relate to you and your personal and professional life.

Talk to the Woman on the Grocery Store Line
p>If I had a dollar for every time someone shared a story about meeting someone on a line, I could retire now. Whether it is a line at the grocery store, waiting room at the doctor’s office, registering for your child’s soccer team, or listening for your name to be called at a restaurant, think about talking to the stranger beside you. Gauge the receptiveness of the person with a short, in-the-moment comment about something relevant to the situation you are sharing. Then see where things go from there.

Make THE Telephone Call
I read a long time ago in Selling Power Magazine to make THE call. The call is the one you do not want to make. You know…the one to the “challenging client” or the one where you will likely hear “no thank you” to your proposal. By making the call early in the morning, you significantly reduce your anxiety level for the rest of the day. And then, everyone benefits!

Send the Quick Email
Email is quick, easy, and painless. As a society we have become so used to email that you should be sending more to recognize people. There are so many reasons to send “that” quick email. Some reasons include birthdays, anniversaries, articles, ideas, links to a [blank] (e.g., website, newsletter, tweet, and blog), referrals, and updates on a significant personal or professional event.

Attend the XYZ Networking Event
“I’m too tired, I’ll skip this one” is an all-too common refrain. Instead, view networking as an integral part of your day. Make it part of your weekly routine. Attend breakfast, lunch, dinner, and social events throughout the week. Remember to view these as business blind dates…you may just meet your next best client or partner.

Always be Ready for What Do You Do?
While the question asked is “What do you do?” the answer people are looking for is “What can you do for me?” Therefore, it must pique your reader/listener’s attention. Ensure your elevator speech takes less than 30 seconds to say, is memorable, is easy to understand, and evokes a “Wow! Tell me more” response.

Do you remember the day your best friend was a stranger? Whatever that day was, it took time from the first contact to develop that relationship into best friend status. Now think of your best client, partner, member, employee, or board member. Someone initiated the first contact—created that first impression. Now that we are in the holiday months, parties and social events abound. People are generally in a better mood and more receptive to talking to strangers. Take advantage of every opportunity to create your own positive first impressions and maintain lasting relationships.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

LinkedIn has a great feature when it comes to Questions and Answers. You can post a question, answer a question, or just browse the Q&A section for topics that interest you.

Here's a question that I recently answered, "What impresses you the most when meeting college students ( or recent graduates) at job fairs?"

Networking, Job Hunting, and Communication are some of the hardest things we do. There are absolutely no instruction manuals that combine these high level topics together for students. Plus, student-age people rarely have the insights or fundamental understanding of the importance of these three elements. They are just students!

While the thoughts below focus on students, there are some relevant job hunting ideas for anyone.

*** My Answer:

Having taught three semesters at top business school on career strategies to juniors and seniors, combined with personal experience, and hiring experience over the past 23 years, here are some suggestions for undergrads and new grads, for both job fairs and general job search.

1) Ask questions based on doing an Internet search on my company and me. Show me that you did your homework. This will make you stand out at a job fair.

2) Bring some ideas specific to my company. They don't have to be perfect–just thoughtful.

3) Lack of attention to detail immediately translates to "no thank you." I've had too many college students and recent grads spell my company name or my name incorrectly, or even use the wrong gender (my picture is on my website and LinkedIn). There is absolutely no excuse for these errors. So when you send a personal hand-written or typed letter after the job fair, triple check it before sending it out.

4) Tailor your cover letter and resume. If it's generic (it's easy to tell), then I know that you don't really care and don't really want the job.

5) Communicate well. Ensure that your emails, telephone messages, cover letter, resume, and what you say during the interview demonstrate your thoughtful and professional approach to business. When you get to the job fair, know how to answer "tell me about yourself," and "tell me why you are interested in this job," and "tell me what interests you in our company."

Monday, November 02, 2009

Billboards War: BMW vs. Audi

During a period of research on the Internet, I happened upon this site showing a billboard advertising "war" between Audi and BMW in Santa Monica, California. The text from the website is below followed by a picture of the two billboards. Very clever of BMW. What will Audi do next?

BMW and Audi are dueling again, but this time, onto the “marketing battle field”. And what would be the best place to do so other than the one of the top states when it comes to car luxury sales: California.

On the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Beverly Glen Blvd (corrected the location), Audi has put up some billboards showing the all new Audi A4 along with the headline: “Your move, BMW”. Santa Monica BMW, a local dealership, took on the challenge and entered a virtual chess game ….of course, with cars rather than pawns, kings or queens.


Article Summary:  Life is all about relationships. Online social communities thrive because they enable people to quickly and easily connect. Initially, these are superficial connections. As with personal relationships, true bonding requires time and effort. Lessons from our parents, teachers, colleagues, children, mentors, and heroes are plentiful. This article relates lessons learned from my parents and how I apply them to business and sales.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

Life Lessons: Everything I Learned about Sales I Learned from My Parents

© 2009. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
October 2009

During a recent speaking engagement, the topic of first jobs came up. I shared with the audience the story about my paper route. When I was 13, I surprised my parents by taking on a newspaper route for a little-known newspaper company. The route initially had 11 customers. The route traversed some four miles and ended with massive huffing and puffing as I battled a bear of a hill—Mt. Hope Road—which I named Mt. Doom Road. None of my family remembers why the entrepreneurial bug bit me back then. Mom and Dad do remember my tenacity in growing the route, refusal to quit when the odds were stacked against me (paper boys typically did not last long), and positive attitude bicycling up Mt. Doom Road on my three-speed bike.

Talking with my folks prompted me to recall some of their parental lessons. Here are several learned and how I apply them to business and sales.

Ask
He was a born sales man. Always top in his field, Dad had lots of wisdom to share. Of all his lessons, “Ask” was the one Dad emphasized the most. He would say, “If you don’t ask, nothing is going to happen.” A great example is when our family went on holiday vacations. Smiling and making relevant small talk, he would register the family with the hotel front desk. Every single time he would ask if breakfast was included for the family. Even if told no, he always turned it into a yes. Similar stories abound with him asking for a little “yes” or a big “yes.” To this day, I follow his advice.

Application: Ask. Ask for referrals, frank feedback, and request clients to test out your new product or service. How about asking a happy client to write a testimonial? Later in life, I learned another application of Ask from a senior boss named Paul. He called it K.I.S.S. Paul suggested asking our clients what should we Keep doing, Improve upon, Stop doing, and Start doing.

We’re All Different
When we are young, especially in our pre-teen and teenage years, it is difficult to imagine what the real world is like. Therefore, Mom and Dad shared with my sister and me different perspectives and exposed us to many experiences. We visited museums, went on weekend driving getaways, and generally explored our environment. During these outings, they showed us how to appreciate differences among people, such as those related to gender, religion, age, nationality, and so forth.

Application: Know your audience. Every time you meet someone for the first time, you are “inheriting” his or her entire lifetime in a split second, as he or she is of yours. What are you doing from that first handshake, that first smile to engender goodwill so that he or she one day becomes your client, partner, employee, or champion? Are your key messages and business stories targeted to your prospective clients? Are they resonating with them?

Go Play Outside. It’s a Beautiful Day
As a child, there were days I preferred time alone. I built plastic model ships and planes, played with little green army men, and imagined I was in battles with my G.I. Joes. Mom would encourage me to go outside and play with my crew. If we had time, I would share story after story of how our crew of four—Andy, Gerald, Kevin, and me—got in and out of trouble!

Application: Vary your experiences. Mom’s goal was to experience life. Use creativity and innovation to improve your competitiveness, increase prospecting success, and spark new ideas. Get out of your office and observe the world. Read books, articles, and blogs you would not normally consider. Seek out different opinions. Attend new networking events. Check out your competitor’s messages and stories. Observe people. Based on your new experiences, see if you can you spot any trends or come up with an idea to improve your product/service.

I Love You!
According to workplace studies, employees rate recognition higher than monetary rewards. Why? Because humans thrive on accomplishments, praise, community, and friendship. To me, business is always personal—it is always based on the power of relationships. That is why my folks frequently complimented, praised, and said I love you to my sister and me.

Application: Say I love you in business terms. It is easy to substitute an email, a text, or a “form letter” for a personal phone call or hand-written note. Since we live in a 24×7 Internet world, my undergraduate students consistently challenge me on my advice to send a hand-written note instead of emailing a thank-you message. And every semester I say the same thing. The hand-written note wins every time. A colleague Jeremy calls everyone in his contact database on his/her birthday. It is a nice touch and memorable. Treat a client to lunch, buy him a gift card, or give her a fresh-baked pastry. Whatever it is, show them (e.g., client, prospect, staff, and partner) that they matter. Email me and I will send you a tip guide with over 30 suggestions on ways of building and growing relationships.

At the End of the Day…
Life is all about relationships. Online social communities thrive because they enable people to quickly and easily connect. Initially, these are superficial connections. As with personal relationships, true bonding requires time and effort. Lessons from our parents, teachers, colleagues, children, mentors, and heroes are plentiful. Most focus on the human condition and attributes such as kindness, appreciation, and open communication. One key element is to vocalize your thoughts and feelings. Do not assume that your client, prospect, staff, or partner knows what you are thinking, what you appreciate, or how you impacted his or her life. Tell them.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Article Summary:  Deliberate small talk differentiates you.We all recognize that relationships take time. Each opportunity that you have to touch your prospect is an opportunity to accelerate success. Small talk is an effective way of making a positive impact. Your challenge is balancing small talk and business talk with the stated or unstated preferences of your KDMs.Effective small talk demonstrates attentiveness, positive listening, and genuine interest. It enables the conversation to go beyond the nuts and bolts of pure business. It enables you to connect on a personal level as well. If you win on price, you will also lose on price. You have to differentiate yourself. Forming personal bonds is crucial to winning most contracts. Why? Because business is personal.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

Business is Personal: Build Rapport with Small Talk

© 2009. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
September 2009

Relationships are not built in a vacuum. They are collaborative efforts, established one moment at a time. Deliberate, well-crafted small talk conversations accelerate bonding and rapport. Imagine this: you made a great first impression on the telephone with William, CEO of a Fortune 2000 firm. A few days later, you are on your way to the follow-up meeting at his office. Are you prepared for your “second” impression?

Early in my career, I thought I prepared well for the second meeting. In reality, I only prepared for part of the meeting—the conversation related to the offering. I did not prepare well for the human side—the bonding and rapport.

Many people complain that small talk is a waste of time, that is feels forced and fake. On the contrary, small talk is essential to building rapport and establishing a relationship. By following the suggestions below, small talk becomes a powerful part of any sales meeting. The difference between effective and ineffective small talk is being deliberate. Deliberate small talk done well accelerates connection. Small talk contributes to sales and customer service success every time you meet with prospects and clients.

There are several types of small talk. Edmondson and House (1981) describe the most common type as the words exchanged before transitioning to “business talk” (see end of article for references). Business talk is talking about the agenda items. Drew and Chilton (2000) define another type as simply “keep in touch.” Saftoiu (2006) presents a third type as “transitional” small talk. Transitional “consists of short conversations inserted within business talk…to check on the state of the relationship and to release some of the tension that heavy topics might have brought up.”

The best sales professionals are well prepared for various types of conversations. Here are several suggestions to make small talk an important part of your sales toolbox.

Develop a List of Questions
Always perform competitive and business intelligence research. This is the most important part of small talk success. Research both the organization and all of the attendees, especially the “Key Decision Makers” (KDMs). Develop a master list of statements and questions relevant to your attendees, sorted by priority. Regarding personal questions, your interest must be genuine (insincerity is quite easy to discern).

For the organization, know its competitors, products and services, history, recent successes, future challenges, and the like. For the attendees, look for genuine common interests. Examples include where someone grew up, attended school, and their hobbies, charities, and professional associations.

There are many valuable resources out there to help you in your research. Internal resources include the organization’s website, press releases, annual reports, interviews with executives, conference presentations, biographies, and investor presentations. External resources include Hoovers, Gartner, Forrester Research, Yankee Group, LinkedIn, Twitter, Digg, Slideshare.net, Internet search engines, blogs, newspapers, magazines, and journals. Now your conversations are targeted and deliberate.

Gauge Receptivity
Understand and tune into the KDM’s personality. Does William prefer small talk or business talk? Unsure? Dip your toe into the pool. Follow William’s lead. Whatever his preference, you are prepared.

Start-of-meeting small talk should last only a few minutes. If William does not provide timing cues, then you should transition to business talk within five to seven minutes. Since you did your pre-meeting preparation and research on the organization, your deliberate small talk complements the agenda. Your small talk continues to be relevant and important to the meeting. It establishes your efforts to understand and gain familiarity with William and his organization.

Share and Ask
Let us assume that there are several people attending your meeting. As soon as you walk into the conference room, you discover that William is running late. Begin your bonding and rapport with the folks in the room with your prepared list of statements and questions. As you initiate conversation, remember the key to successful small talk is “share and ask.”

Based on your research, share something important about yourself relevant to your KDM. Then ask a related question. By sharing something about yourself first, you exhibit positive signs of trust.

One example is “Margaret, I am also active in XYZ association. How are your experiences with XYZ?” Another example is “Damodar, I graduated from EFG University with an MBA in 19XX. I noticed that you went to LMN for your MBA. What did you like the most?” A third example, “Sofia, I read in the Wall Street Journal about your new [blank] initiative. We did something similar a few years ago. I’m curious, how is this initiative progressing?”

The answers will likely offer insights into how the KDM thinks. The right small talk can uncover information about potential cross-selling opportunities for their future product launch, new customer service strategies, and more.

Deliberate Small Talk Differentiates
We all recognize that relationships take time. Each opportunity that you have to touch your prospect is an opportunity to accelerate success. Small talk is an effective way of making a positive impact. Your challenge is balancing small talk and business talk with the stated or unstated preferences of your KDMs.

Effective small talk demonstrates attentiveness, positive listening, and genuine interest. It enables the conversation to go beyond the nuts and bolts of pure business. It enables you to connect on a personal level as well. If you win on price, you will also lose on price. You have to differentiate yourself. Forming personal bonds is crucial to winning most contracts. Why? Because business is personal.

References:

- Willis Edmondson and Juliane House, Let’s Talk and Talk About It. A Pedagogic Interactional Grammar of English, 1981.
- Paul Drew and Kathy Chilton, Calling Just to Keep in Touch: Regular and Habitualised Telephone Calls as an Environment for Small Talk, 2000.
- Razvan Saftoiu, Laughter in Small Talk: Aspects from Romanian Interactions, 2006.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Monday, October 12, 2009

You Are What Your Client’s Read

Today I held a kickoff meeting with a new client. As part of each engagement, I ask the participants a wide variety of questions related to how they communicate, build relationships/network, attract clients/members, and the like.

One telling insight is when they read only that which interests them. It's natural–it's human behavior for us to read what is interesting to us. When you are meeting with your stakeholders, you have to know what they are thinking, talking about, losing sleep over, etc.

Read the books, magazines, blogs, tweets, newspapers, newsletters, etc. that they are reading. Watch how the conversations you have with them change for the better.

A few months ago GameSpot posted a nice article on video games and storytelling. The author writes, "when we talk about video games we often talk about the same things: gameplay, length, graphics, difficulty, multiplayer and online capabilities, how well it will sell, and who will buy it. But how often do we talk about the game’s story? How often do we discuss the effectiveness and purpose of its narrative?

In this GameSpot AU feature we look at game narratives, and ask the question: are video games an effective storytelling medium? To find out we talk to game theorists, scriptwriters, and developers from studios including Remedy, Quantic Dream and 2K Games, as well as the leading man of adventure games, Tim Schafer."

The article interviews several well known experts in the field of communications, storytelling, and gaming. Different perspectives are shared about interactivity, storytelling, game experience.

One telling comment was "the only way for video games to overcome the challenges of interactivity and become an effective storytelling medium is to successfully marry both story and gameplay in their development."

To read the entire article, visit Gamespot.

 

Narrative_embed002

Summary: Last night I very much enjoyed myself speaking to a group of Boy Scouts, their siblings, and parents. It was something new on many fronts such as age (12 to 50), level of experience (0 to 30 years), and topic (wowing the college admissions staff and wowing the hiring manager). I covered the elevator speech, importance of telling a great business story for your audience, and how to exceed expectations. One extra big take-away for the adults was the fact that they are not networking to (a) help their children get into college and (b) help themselves.

Full Text: Last night I very much enjoyed myself speaking to a group of Boy Scouts, their siblings, and parents. It was something new on many fronts such as age (12 to 50), level of experience (0 to 30 years), and topic (wowing the college admissions staff and wowing the hiring manager).

The typical presentation is geared toward organizations, their communication challenges, and how to overcome them. Most of the Boy Scouts were a few years away from applying to college. So how does one connect to a group whose ages span 12 to 50? Do pre-interviews. In this case, I needed to do more than typical as it has been 25 plus years since I was a teenager!

I talked with Duane (my sponsor), one of the two troop leaders several times. Then I asked him to set up a small focus group for me. Having taught three semesters of career strategies to undergrads gave me the necessary insights for young job applications. What I was missing was how do teens think and what's on their minds? I met with eight scouts for an hour asking questions and answering questions. As expected, this provided the needed insights.

During the presentation, I covered the importance of generating interest. This is the elevator speech, "tell me about yourself" interview question, and personal statement for college applications. I stressed the importance of telling a great business story for your audience and how to exceed expectations for college admission professionals and hiring managers.

I told Duane I had more fun developing this presentation than I have had in a long time. I added some twists and new content as it was really different in so many ways. And also quite challenging to communicate to such a variety of ages and experiences.

As a result, I used a metaphor to start off. I began with "Imagine that you are in a movie theater. You are seeing the movie with a five-year old and a parent. These are the kinds of movies that both entertain and educate the child and the parent. This is what my presentation is as well. There are take-aways and messages for the scouts, their siblings, and for the parents."

Of particular interest to me was that through some of my questions to the audience, I showed the adults that they are not networking to (a) help their children get into college and (b) help themselves.

For example, I had the high school seniors raise their hands. I asked several of them to share what their intended major was. Then I asked the adults to raise their hands if they were in the field or had a friend/colleague in the field. Over a dozen hands went up for each student.

I emphatically reminded them that this is a built in community that is ready to help. That's the Boy Scout way! Take advantage of all the great knowledge, talent, and energy the troop and its parents have to offer.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

If I Owned the Silver Diner I Would…

The other day I had lunch in the Silver Diner. I paid special attention to the comment card. From the title, "If I Owned the Silver Diner I Would…" to the call-to-action at the bottom, this card is well-done. It is simple, straightforward, and has a combination of check boxes and open text fields. One suggestion is to make the call-to-action text bigger.

Are you asking your stakeholders how you are doing?

How's this for publicity and exposure! In honor of it's 60th anniversary, Hasbro transformed Lombard Street in San Francisco, California into a larger-than-life Candy Land board game. Having lived in San Francisco, I wish I was there to take part.

Knowing what graphic artists can do today, you would think that somebody doctored the photograph. The setup crew started the night before to create this amazing event. Hundreds of children were there to take part in playing the life-size game, interact with the main characters, and eat cake (see below–it's a work of art).

According to Hasbro's press release, "CANDY LAND is often a child’s first board game."

At an evening reception, someone was laughing in disbelief when viewing a picture on a phone. It was the store front for Zanzibar's Tavern, a gentleman's club. I too laughed at the customized message on the sign "Welcome Association Execs" (see picture below). In fact most people said, "NO WAY!" While I too said "No way," I applauded the club's clever messaging and targeted marketing. I had to see it for myself.

The sign was customized just for us–the 4,500 or so professionals in associations and related fields as part of the ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership annual conference in Toronto, Canada.

The next day I found myself on Yonge Street snapping pictures of Zanzibar's. It is a local landmark and serves as the backdrop in many Hollywood movies. I then spoke to Allen, the general manager, for a few minutes by telephone. Allen shared he customizes the signage for just about every conference and major event that comes to Toronto. According to Allen, he does "see at least a little increase in foot traffic."


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