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Ira Koretsky
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Do you know everything there is to know about your target audience? You should be able to answer questions like these: Where does your audience shop? Socialize? Purchase goods and services? How do they buy? Make decisions? What do they read? What are the major driving influencers? Are they socially responsible? Where do they live and work? Are they brand loyalists? And so on.

If you don’t know everything about your target audience, you should. Everything you need to create a message that resonates with your partners, clients, prospects, members, board, and staff lay with knowing your audience. As I like to say, “it’s all about them.”

A bountiful harvest of data is available from the Census Bureau. In December 2005 they published a 254 page report titled, “65+ in the United States: 2005.”

Here are a couple of the highlights:

- “The older population is on the threshold of a boom. According to U.S. Census Bureau projections, a substantial increase in the number of older people will occur during the 2010 to 2030 period, after the first Baby Boomers turn 65 in 2011. The older population in 2030 is projected to be twice as large as in 2000, growing from 35 million to 72 million and representing nearly 20 percent of the total U.S. population at the latter date.”

- “The social and economic implications of the aging of the Baby Boom generation will be a significant concern for policy makers, the private sector, and individuals. The size and longevity of this group will trigger debate about possible modifications to Social Security, Medicare, and disability and retirement benefits, among other issues.”

- “As employed men and women get older, their likelihood of working part-time increases. About 10 percent of employed men aged 55 to 64 worked part-time in 2003; while half (47 percent) of employed men aged 70 and over worked part-time. Similarly, one-quarter of employed women aged 55 to 64 worked part-time, while almost two-thirds aged 70 and over worked part-time.”

- “Households maintained by older people have net worth higher than that of all other households except for those maintained by householders in the pre-retirement ages of 55 to 64, which were similar.”

- “Between 1990 and 2000, the largest proportionate increases in the older population were mostly in the West (particularly the Mountain states) and in the South (especially the South Atlantic states).”

- “In 2003, 3.7 million, or 11 percent of the older population, were foreign born. Most of the older foreign born were from Europe and Latin America (about 35 percent each) and Asia (23 percent).”

- “The future older population is likely to be better educated than the current older population, especially when Baby Boomers start reaching age 65. Their increased levels of education may accompany better health, higher incomes, and more wealth, and consequently higher standards of living in retirement.”

“Hello my name is Sue and I am from XYZ Furniture Corporation. We have been in the local community for 30 years. If you have any furniture needs we can solve them. I am sure that you already have office furniture so we can also be your backup in the future. Please call (###) ###-#### if you have any furniture needs.”

At my office, we get cold calls like this all the time (yesterday, I received the one above). 999,999 times out of 1,000,000 we immediately say no thank you and hang up. Why? For two big reasons...

1. Lack of Compelling Story: In most cases, there are multiple organizations that offer similar products and services. What is the compelling reason for the call recipient to listen? To stay on the line and not hang up? Make the call interesting, relevant, and to the point.

2. It Is Not Personal: Most cold callers avoid doing homework. They call for volume not quality. The person calls and asks for a generic VP of Human Resources, Director of Technology, Operations Manager, Person who orders office supplies. The caller must do homework and avoid an “F” for the grade. Ask for a specific person by name. The more research and planning the sales person does, the more successful the call will be. This is especially true as the dollar value of the sale increases.

Cold call selling is an everyday practice by many organizations. The process allows the salesperson to contact hundreds and potentially thousands of prospects in a week.

If done right, the salesperson can create a lot of opportunities. If done wrong, the salesperson can create a lot of animosity and ill will.

To best cold call scripts are synched to the elevator speech. Make the cold call relevant, quick to the point, personal, and promise not to waste the person's time.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

SmartCEOs Are On SmartBusiness Radio

There is only one business radio show in the country exclusively for Chief Executive Officers and that is SmartBusiness. The team at Exit Planning Group invited me to be on SmartBusiness for the February 18 show. I had a great time. (History of how I met them is below).

The theme was Message and Messenger. Message was the first half of the show and I was the guest. Messenger was the theme for the second half and Alex Moussavi of Matrixx-Partners was the guest (read below a little story about Alex and me).

When John McCullough first approached me, I immediately thought, very cool! It was an opportunity to strengthen a new relationship with EPG and to give me exposure to the entire Washington, DC listening area for WTNT 570 AM Radio.

To start off the show, both hosts John McCullough and John Hrastar threw me a wicked curve ball. They had me create an on-the-spot elevator speech for a company that sells dead flies in a bottle to pet and plant owners.

Now, I’m good at what I do (laugh out loud with humility). Creating an elevator speech in two minutes with absolutely no preparation was quite the challenge. I went through the seven-step process of how to create a compelling elevator speech and came up with a pretty good one that touted “we make your pets happy.” We all had a good laugh and the hosts saw the benefit of using our process.

We then spent the next segment talking about how to turn the typical boring business conversations, jargon-heavy elevator speeches, and me-centered presentations into exciting, compelling, and sales-driven messages. The messages must resonate with our emotional side to be effective. We buy based on emotion and justify based on facts. A passion-filled business story is the absolutely best way to connect with your audience. It is the best way to increase sales (corporate), increase membership (non profit), and gain funding for a program (government).

I ended the segment by talking about two recent success stories for us: (1) How Bob Rossi’s new title of Chief Happiness Officer is helping increase his revenue and (2) How IntelliDyne’s new tag line and presentation just helped them close a multi-year $100 million dollar contract. Our website has business stories (“case studies” or "success stories") with more details.

Radio Show (each link is a MP3 file and it is about 2.5 mbs)

Segment 1: Dead flies and the “7 Steps to a Perfect Elevator Speech,” with Ira Koretsky

Segment 2: Business dates increase revenue, with with Ira Koretsky

Segment 3: Find the best sales professionals, with Alex Moussavi

Segment 4: Growth success, with Alex Moussavi

===== ABOUT Exit Planning Group =====

How I met the Team at Exit Planning Group: I met John H. about a year ago through GrowFast GrowRight, where we are “Dream Team” members. Over time our relationship has strengthened and helped both of our businesses. Subsequently, John invited me to attend one of the EPG workshops.

From there, I learned all about the well-thought out process to exit planning. They really impressed me with their seven-step process. They bring a wealth of experience (e.g., estate planning, financial analysis, strategy, human resources, and customer care) that gave me pause as I think about how I am growing my business. I walked away with lots of questions and I look forward to working with them to find the best answers for me.


Alex appeared on the radio program because we created a solid and sustained business dating relationship over two years ago. Over time we discovered that our respective businesses, personalities, and messages are highly complementary. After we help our clients create a great business story, Matrixx-Partners helps them substantially increase their revenue through sales consulting and sales recruiting.

With just the right amount of overlap, we created a partnership of lead sharing and income sharing. So when John M. and I were talking about the show, I knew without hesitation that Alex would be great at representing the Messenger side. It is rare to find such a credible and trustworthy partner. If you are lucky to have one, treat it like your favorite house plant—water it, talk to it, and make sure it gets the right amount of sunlight (smile).

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Provident Bank - "He's Important"

The Provident Bank ad in the Washington Business Journal January 13-19, 2006 issue caught my eye immediately.

It goes right to the bold heading, "He's Important." The bold, reverse white on black text, contrasts nicely with the black band. It draws the reader's eyes. The eyes then move to the line above "His bank knows."

The text is written to the audience, uses words like "wouldn't it be nice," "trusted," and "next best thing," and is short and concise.

I'm also a fan of their tag line, "Just the Right Size for You."

Click here to see the full-size advertisement (243k)

The easiest way to get people to understand, respect, and accept a new idea is to link it to something they already know and trust. The link must begin in the right brain—the emotional side—the big picture side. Emotions compel us to act.

And one of the best way to induce an emotional response is to use a great visual metaphor.

Those of you that know me, know that I am a hugely, gigantic fan of metaphors. Metaphors are words on steroids. Great ones impart emotion, meaning, and action--immediately after being heard or read.

In my “7 Steps to a Perfect Elevator Speech,” Step 4 is “Create A High Level, Powerful Visual Metaphor.” Step 4 is the start of your verbal answer to the question “What do you do?” These are the first words of your elevator speech. A powerful metaphor will make your first words meaningful, engaging, and memorable.  A powerful metaphor will at a minimum, guarantee that someone will talk with you for a few minutes. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the purpose of an elevator speech (smile).

I will continue to expand on the concepts of metaphors and how they will help transform your business story into a “wow, tell me more story.” If you are using metaphors in your stories, I would love for you to be a guest blogger. Just shoot me an email.

Here’s a resource that offers some food for thought. A colleague sent me an interesting article on metaphors. Within the article was a reference to a leadership study and the importance of metaphors. It is a bit academic so speed-read a little through the study. It has some amazing insights into the use, influence, and power of metaphors.

Organization: Center for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government

Study: “Through Their Own Words. Towards a new understanding of leadership,” 2003

Authors: Thomas Oberlechner and Viktor Mayer-Schnberger

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Made for Bodies in Motion

Propel Fitness Water put together a terrific ad in May 2005 Men's Health Magazine, Made for Bodies in Motion.

It cleverly combines a drinking water fountain with an exciting scene of five soccer players in various action poses. The soccer players in the ad represent the water coming out of the faucet. The players are in vibrant colors and contrast well with the steel look and feel of the water fountain.

The copy is short, to the point, catchy, and totally you-centered (audience-centered). The tag line is also awesome, "Made for bodies in motion." The tag is telling a story and complements the visual image perfectly.

What kinds of images can you potentially use in your visuals stories to immediately grab the audience's attention?

Click here to see the full-sized advertisement (285k).

Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Magazine's September issue had an interesting article titled, “Dream Weavers: Twelve of today's top marketers speak out about what it takes to stay creative.” The interviewees talked about credibility, trust, passion, permission, innovation, and creativity. Altschul offered insights based on the CMO telling great stories. Others hinted at the importance of telling a story. I've provided some highlights below.

Marketers Included:

- Joseph Perello: CMO, New York City
- Beth Comstock: CMO, General Electric
- Sergio Zyman: Chairman and CEO, Zyman Group
- John Costello: EVP of merchandising and marketing, The Home Depot
- Larry Weber: Chairman and founder, W2 Group
- Cammie Dunaway: CMO, Yahoo
- Joe Redling: CMO, America Online
- David Altschul: President and founder, Character
- Joe Duffy: Chairman and founder, Duffy & Partners
- Bill Cahan: Founder and creative director, Cahan & Associates
- John Gabrick: CEO, MindMatters Technologies
- Anita Bizzotto: CMO, U.S. Postal Service


(a) Joseph Perello, CMO, New York City: “Innovation is also about making unprecedented connections. It requires thinking differently and following through on a well-thought-out plan.”

(b) Sergio Zyman: “People often ask me where I get my inspiration, and I always give the same answer: 'Everywhere.'”

(c) Cammie Dunaway: “Connect the unconnected. Take two items that are seemingly unrelated and put them together to create something new.” [Business Storyteller: The best reading on this is The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts, and Cultures by Frans Johansson]

(d) David Altschul: “For many successful CMOs, story is the key…What are the underlying conflicts that make its story engaging? And what is the deeper human truth that connects the story of this brand to something that its consumers can identify with on an emotional level? Story has power because it is the principal tool by which the human mind comprehends meaning…

(e) Joe Duffy, chairman and founder, Duffy & Partners: “Meetings are the death of innovation. Creativity doesn't click on and off at set times…Innovation begins with creative talent, which must be nurtured in order to flourish. Environment is key.”

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A Man's Guide to His Skivvies

November's issue of Men's Health Magazine had a very funny advertisement. It was all about "when to call in the relief for your briefs." With lots of visual aids, funny and clever sarcasm and wit, cool tag line/slogan*, and powerful metaphors (e.g., "The Hole Story"), the ad was a true breath of fresh air.

If humor works for your organization's culture, clients, and you, take a look at this ad (see below for link). What can you do to your own marketing materials to bring a smile to someone's face while still delivering a highly targeted and powerful message?

* Slogan: In the UK tag lines and slogans are referred to as "end lines, endlines, or straplines." In Germany, the phrase is "claims." In Belgium, tag lines are called "baselines." Signatures are the phrase in France. In the Netherlands and Italy, the magic of taglines are called "pay-offs or payoffs."

Click here for the full-page advertisement (~650k)

One of our newsletter readers sent me an interesting article (resource links at the bottom). It's all about Alex Tew.

Alex’s January 10th blog entry says

“The last two days have been absolutely non-stop!...Yesterday morning started with a live interview on Bam Bam's breakfast show on Kiss FM (in the UK)...A load more interviews by phone and a few meetings with various interesting people took place throughout Monday, then in the afternoon I headed over to a TV studio in South-East London for a live interview on Richard & Judy. For those of you outside the UK, Richard & Judy are effectively known as the king and queen of daytime television here and are famous for their relaxed, friendly style of presenting...mixing TV interviews with German stations RTL and ZDF in between a plethora of phone interviews and a couple of face-to-face interviews for some magazines...The big article today was a follow-up by the Wall Street Journal.”

Okay, so who is Alex? Alex Tew is a 21 year-old college student from Cricklade, Wiltshire. Alex was very concerned about his financial situation before going to the University (in the UK, it is often referred to as Uni). In fact, the BBC interviewed Alex in September 2005 where Alex told the interviewer, “A few weeks ago I looked at my account and I was heavily overdrawn before I had even got to university.”

Alex’s first blog entry says it all: “So I had this little idea the other day. I was trying to think of interesting ways to make some cash before going to Uni (which is in about a month's time) and somehow this crazy thought entered my head: I'll try and make a million dollars, by selling 1,000,000 pixels, for $1 each.” And that is how the “The Million Dollar Homepage” was launched in August of 2005.

Washington Post article author Don Oldenburg writes, “The phenomenon he created has been hailed by some as a genre-changing concept in online marketing -- otherwise an advertising badlands of spam, banner ads and pop-ups. Others say it's a brilliant, one-time marketing aberration that will never be replicated.”

The January 10th blog entry says “It's hard to believe this little project of mine is entering it's final stages. One million pixels of internet history will soon be frozen in time, the homepage complete and ready to take its place in cyber-history! For me though, this is not the end, it's just the start ;)”

In the Washington Post Article, Tew says, “The lesson is that consumers are willing to go to good ideas, things that are unique, things that are novel. Rather than copy each other, spend time thinking up new things…Creativity works.”

My question to you then is: what are you doing to be more creative?

Here are some suggestions:

(1) Read magazines that you would not normally read—look at the images and get inside the minds of the advertisers

(2) Go to a shopping center—instead of shopping, people watch. Look for body language cues and subtle messages—watch the interactions of friends and family and then the interactions between strangers. Then think of things similar and different that you do or don’t. Compare and contrast and bring these ideas to your work place

(3) Spend a day avoiding the use of the word “no” or any derivation. That means exclude but, however, on the other hand, rather, on the contrary, although, you get the idea. Be a yes person and see how powerful that can be. This one is a derivation of the improvisational comedy tenet, “yes, and.” For some more info on this concept, see my other blog entry, “Leave Your But's Behind.”

About The Million Dollar Homepage:

Oldenburg describes the design as follows: “Some of the ads are illustrations or photos -- images of bikini babes, cartoons, Che Guevara, the British flag, a marijuana leaf, a bull's-eye, the dollar sign. When you drag the cursor over any one of them, a small read-out appears identifying the advertiser -- dating services, online poker, loan companies, bookies, bloggers, ring tone sellers, snoring remedies.”

Resources of Interest

The Million Dollar Homepage

The Million Dollar Homepage Blog

Washington Post, Washington, DC (USA) (requires account to access)

BBC (UK) Article 1234

Wall Street Journal, USA ((requires account/password to access)

Richard and Judy, Channel 4, UK

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Free Stock Photography - Stock.XCHNG

Over time I have collected a few sites that are good for stock photography. Most charge either a per picture fee or a per month fee.

Stock.XCHNG is a rare site offering no cost and royalty-free photographs. Hosted in Hungary, the site represents the collected efforts of professionals from Hungary, Canada, United States, Poland, Mexico, United Kingdom, Belgium, Malaysia, and Portugal.  There are over 40 categories with lots of high quality images. Let me know if you use any and for what type of presentation.

Here a few excerpts from their site for About Us and Terms of Use.

About Us:  "Stock.XCHNG was launched in February 2001, as an alternative for expensive stock photography. The idea was to create a site where creative people could exchange their photos for inspiration or work. In about two years the site evolved into this massive community you see now - there are about 200.000 registered users and more than 100.000 photos online!"

Terms of Use:  [Note, I only included three of the seven terms] "1.) You may use any of the photos in our system free of charge for any commercial or personal design work if you obey the specified restrictions concerning each photo you download. 2.) Selling and redistribution of these photos (individually, or as a whole) without written permission is prohibited. Using the photos in website templates, on postcards, mugs etc. doesn't count as selling or redistribution, however you are not allowed to build a gallery using the photos you downloaded from here. 5.) Although these images are made available free of charge or obligation, if you use any images here PLEASE remember to contact the artist using the e-mail address found on the artists page. This is a simple courtesy and means a lot to many of our contributors who simply would like to know how their work is used."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Seven Steps to Speak Like Jack

I received my Selling Power Presentations email Newsletter today. One article piqued my curiosity…Seven Steps to Speak Like Jack [Kennedy].

[Note: Selling Power Magazine is a must-read for anyone in sales and marketing. If you are interested in improving your presentation and communication skills, there are always tips and suggestions. I’ve been a reader almost since its start some 17 years ago. Selling Power is also a partner of The Chief Storyteller]   

The article was written based on a Q&A session with John Barnes, author ofJohn F. Kennedy on Leadership: The Lessons and Legacy of a President(AMACOM, 2005). You can read the entire article free of charge by signing up for the Selling Power free newsletters     

With my experiences in helping clients with their presentations and presentation delivery, here are a few comments on three of the steps.   

I strongly suggest following step one. “1. Live your speech. Adopt a style that feels natural to you. Use words you normally would use and work on appearing at ease when addressing others. Believe in what you are saying and convey that belief with sincerity and feeling.     

Step 1 is a similar to my mantra of “be authentic and genuine.” It goes to my more expanded comments under step 2 about credibility, connection, and story.    

Step 2 reads “Tell a story when appropriate. If you can find a story that makes your message personal for audience members, you can make the issue resonate for them. A powerful, relevant story will do more to sell your product and service than all the facts and PowerPoint slides in the world.     

The first line for Step 2 should read, “Tell a story always.” Presentations and communication are about creating a connection. Great stories accelerate your ability to connect. Credibility is the foundation to creating this connection. It is our responsibility as business storytellers to impart our credibility from the first handshake, smile, and eye contact. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a story is worth a thousand pounds of credibility.    

Step 7 reads “Remember that your speech reflects you. No matter how many people collaborate on your presentation, keep in mind that in the end it’s your message. What you say and how you say it communicates volumes about who you are. When you get right down to it that often is a big factor in whether a prospect decides to do business with you.”   

I bet that if you were to think back to all of the presentations that you have attended, less than ten standout as truly memorable. Of those that were memorable, they likely resonated with you on a personal level. Personal connection always wins over compelling statistics and facts--always. “Be authentic and genuine” is something that I “preach” over and over.    

If you have the opportunity to read Mr. Barnes’ book, let me know your thoughts.

I was talking to a client today about the power of visual storytelling--using metaphors to impart emotion, connection, and action. I started rattling off some of the advertising that I included in the blog earlier such as Kimpton and Pier 1.  Just then, I had an "aha" moment and was reminded of my Nissan experience about a year ago.

It was late 2004 as you can tell by my ski jacket, scarf, and hat (brrrrrrr). Some friends and I were in a suburb of Washington, DC and came across this billboard from Nissan. Immediately upon seeing the ad, I halted the group, pulled out my trusted digital camera, and snapped a few shots.

The ad is selling "future expectation." It cleverly combines a very powerful image of a road and mountain with the written visual metaphor, tell better stories. You, the new owner, will absolutely experience the joys of driving the new Pathfinder. Your enjoyment will cause you to tell all sorts of exciting new stories to your family and friends. And with the stories come memories for a lifetime.  All of this in one simple billboard.

I just watched a fascinating presentation unlike anything I have ever seen. Dick Hardt, Founder & CEO, Sxip Identity, delivered a funny, interesting, and engaging presentation on a highly technical topic—identity on the Internet.

Typical technical presentations are a Zzzzz’s fest. This was 180 degrees away from boring. Why? Instead of showing typical wiring diagrams with arrows like spaghetti, using tons of jargon, and reading dry bullet lines of text, he entertained us, he made us think. He made his points with visual ideas and metaphors. It was a story. It was "edutainment" (education and entertainment).

This presentation was a 9 on the entertainment and enjoyment scale. On the content and message scale, it's an 8. To get this presentation to a content 10, I suggest:

(a) Use a remote control presenter device. He was stuck behind the laptop and this reduced the interaction and rapport-building considerably. With his charming and conversational style, the audience would have loved to smile with him and be more involved personally. I am a big fan of Interlink Electronic’s RemotePoint Presenter Special Edition. I have been using mine for well over a year. It offers a 100’ of “wander” distance. If you give presentations, I’d suggest strongly buying a remote device.

(b) Employ some structure to the presentation. He cleverly used some signposts such as his picture, college logo, frequent flyer club, and map of Canada. They were not sufficient to carry the main thoughts through the entire presentation.

(c) And speaking of main thoughts, he should have reinforced his main points consistently from beginning to middle to end.

(d) Reduce the number of slides with words so that he can interact with the audience. Because Dick was verbalizing the words on the screen, he had to read them as if they were a script. The reading chained him to the laptop.

Dick delivered his presentation “Identity 2.0” at a conference called OSCON 2005.

Take a look at Dick’s presentation—then look at your presentations. What can you do to add more graphics? How can you evoke more emotion and connect? And what can you do to engage the right brain of your audiences?

Monday, November 07, 2005

My Eyes and Ears are Idea Antennas

Today I received an interesting email from ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership. As a speaker for the upcoming Great Ideas Conference in December and February, I was asked to submit a short answer to "Where do your great ideas come from? (Be as creative as you’d like with the answer.)"

I thought about what to write all day. I was torn between a list of sources or to write more about how to look at the world from a right brain perspective. Your right brain is the key. It synthesizes our experiences from a big picture perspective (I'll write more in the future).

With both concepts important, I combined them. Here's what I wrote: "My eyes and ears are idea antennas. Anything can be an idea seed: advertisements, kids playing, friends, colleagues, mentors, clients, conversations with strangers, books, magazines, humor, life."

Think about all of the potential sources and seeds of creativity and ideas in your personal and professional life. Are you taking advantage of such abundance?

Note: ASAE is the American Society of Association Executives. From its website:

"ASAE, known as the association of associations, is considered the advocate for the nonprofit sector. The society is dedicated to advancing the value of voluntary associations to society and supporting the professionalism of the individuals who lead them. Founded in 1920 as the American Trade Association Executives, with 67 charter members, ASAE now has 25,000 individual members who manage leading trade, professional, and philanthropic associations. ASAE represents approximately 10,000 associations serving more than 287 million people and companies worldwide and vendors that offer products and services to the association community."

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Leave Your But's Behind

In terms of usage, I place "but" at the top of the worst words in the English language. It is an absolutely horrific word. It negates everything said previously.

Yes but, no but, and just plain ol but permeate conversations. While at networking functions and social gatherings, I've informally counted the frequency of "but" utterances. They rival any commonplace word like "and," "I," and "a."

"But" has become such an accepted word that most people have absolutely no idea how many times they use it. Our "Yes And" exercises make people acutely aware of the use of these negative words. Yes And is a concept from improvisational humor (look for a future entry to describe Yes And in more detail). It makes you become an active listener. When we do our "Yes And" exercises, it takes a lot of practice for participants to embrace Yes And and attempt to leave the but's behind (pun intended).

Typically, about a month after attending a workshop or becoming a client, people email and call to confirm that the but's are slowly being eliminated. Also, they share that they are becoming whole body communicators employing Yes And.

Here's a challenge, a big challenge.

Try this for one day at first. Before hitting the send key on your emails, replace every instance of "but," "however," "although," and "on the other hand" with a period or "and." I'll bet you thousands of Monopoly dollars that this suggestion will not change your meaning or intent. In fact, this suggestion will strengthen your message. Part B. After doing this for a few days, slowly implement this process into your spoken words. Become more self-aware of when and why you use "but." Same process, replace with a period or and.

It would be great for you to share some of your successful "yes and" results.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Treat Everyone Like a CEO

I met Dave about two years ago when a mutual friend connected us (social networking). In his first email to me, I noticed the quote below after his signature line. This quote really resonated with me. I use it in all of our networking track workshops and services. It succinctly imparts the goal of networking--look for opportunity, genuine connection, and authentic conversation. Leave the pre-conceived notions, agendas, and biases at the door. Treat everyone like a CEO.

"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.
Life's Little Instruction Book
June 8, 2002 Block Calendar

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Talk Fat Free

I was talking to my colleague, Alex from Matrixx today about a presentation that we both attended. As we were talking, Alex said that guy has got to "talk fat free."

After that phrase popped up, I immediately interrupted him :-)

In an excited voice, I asked him to write an entry on it. In my business, I work with people that are "fat free challenged." They get to the point after many minutes of conversation and presenting. I look forward to Alex's insight so that we can all lose a few communication pounds.

Breakfast of Champions - Ted Leonsis

Ted Leonsis recently spoke at a local technology conference. His keynote address was titled, "Breakfast of Champions." He told his story through a sports metaphor. He used some of the most well known and respected names in sports today. Names like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Wayne Gretsky, and Joe Namath.

Ted covered each of the points in his plan with a powerful quote from one of these sports giants. He told a story in a unique and very personal way. For those of you not familiar with Ted, he is the Vice Chairman of AOL, a majority owner of the Washington Capitals NHL Hockey team, minority shareholder in the NBA's Washington Wizards, and owner of the Washington Mystics, a WNBA team. He intertwined his message of how he is helping to shape the new AOL with a foundation of compelling and inspirational quotes. Quotes that all have a business relevance. In this humble at home sportcaster's opinion, his presentation was a homerun.

The 12-Point Plan for Success:

1. Plan it - write it down – break it down - strategize
2. Work at it – be committed
3. Measure and improve
4. Listen and learn
5. Trust those around you
6. Don’t be afraid of failure
7. Respect everyone
8. Don’t get too high with the highs and low with the lows
9. The journey is the reward - enjoy
10. Seek balance
11. Be part of something bigger than yourself
12. Love and passion


Here are a few of Ted's quotes...

-- “The more I practice, the luckier I get.”

-- “I don’t love the game. I am in love with the game.”

-- “Failure and loss are my best friends and personal motivators.”

I was doing some research today and came across an interesting article from Business 2.0 Magazine, 2005 0906. IBM is following a story-driven approach in its new advertising.

I am a huge fan of using visual metaphors in your business stories, especially in your elevator speech and presentations. Visual metaphors impart so much emotion and connection in a condensed and effective way. The challenge is to get people to feel comfortable using them in purpuseful way in their business communications. It is one of the hurdles my clients and workshop attendees face in developing their own stories. Once they work through the hurdle, it's a warming feeling to see the smiles on their faces. I can just imagine how big of hurdle IBM had in accepting this audience-centered way of communicating their messages.

I copied three paragraphs below....

"Let's face it: Management consultants are a dull lot. Jet-lagged and overworked, they wander the world spouting tired buzzwords about "enriching the customer experience" or "strengthening supply chain relationships."

"It's simple, actually: Just use a metaphor. It's one of the oldest tricks in the book. Add a little drama, conflict, and character development -- and, of course, a happy ending -- and a sleepy high-tech service advertisement can start to feel, well, almost human. That's the underlying strategy of IBM's latest Global Services campaign, which will be unveiled this week at the U.S. Open tennis tournament. The topic may be dull, but the approach, created by IBM and its advertising agency of record, Ogilvy, surely is not. "

"According to Ogilvy group creative director Andy Berndt, who helped dream up the campaign, here's how it works: 'You take boring, complicated stuff and explain it. Since the topic isn't that interesting, you need to add some dialogue and characters with humor.' "

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Talk at the 10th Grade Level

Most people in business communications over complicate concepts with jargon, big words, and busy diagrams. The typical listener is bored, wondering where the point is, and is looking for a polite escape. My suggestion is "talk at the 10th grade level." Simple, brief, and to the point. One of my all-time favorite quotes is "brevity is the soul of wit" (anonymous).

I'm a big fan of talk radio. So when I heard an author mention that the New York Times newspaper writes at the 8th grade level, I just had to check. I called the NYT today and chatted briefly with a helpful woman in public affairs. She shared that most mainstream magazines and newspapers write between the 6th and 8th grade levels. The NYT typical article is geared to the 10th grade level.

To the average person, that would likely seem a bit askew. To the media savvy person, it is exactly as expected. Americans have such a short attention span--verrryyy short. We are bombarded with thousands of messages every day vying for our emotional and financial wallets. Messages come from multiple sources. Examples include friends, co-workers, sales professionals, billboards, television, magazines, radio, direct mail, email, and more.

How do you ensure that you stand out from the competition? One way is to use the Flesch-Kincaid tool. It is a helpful option in Microsoft Word (setup instructions below). Readability is based on average sentence length and average syllables per sentence. Run the Flesch-Kincaid tool on some documents and emails. You will be surprised by the results. Examine closely the text that receives a high score. Reduce jargon and acronyms. Replace ten dollar words with fifty cent words. Chop long sentences into short ones. Run the tool again. Now you will be surprised at how easy and straightforward the process is to create memorable messages.

If after reading this, you are thinking, "hey, I should check the readability in PowerPoint." If so, then without seeing your presentation, I know that it has way too many words, sentences, and bullet points. Reduce the text by at least 50%. Then, if you really feel the urge to check the readability, convert the PowerPoint into a Word document and then perform the readability check.

Remember that the NYT knows it audience and purposefully writes to the 10th grade level. Choose the grade level appropriate to your audience. My suggestion, stick to the 10th grader in us, or lower. Make your writing more clear, concise, and brief. Let your passion and your story drive home the message.

Let me know how it works for you.

From the Microsoft Word Help file: "Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Score: Rates text on a U.S. grade-school level. For example, a score of 8.0 means that an eighth grader can understand the document. For most standard documents, aim for a score of approximately 7.0 to 8.0. The formula for the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score is: (.39 x ASL) + (11.8 x ASW) – 15.59. ASL = average sentence length (the number of words divided by the number of sentences). ASW = average number of syllables per word (the number of syllables divided by the number of words)"

Setup in Microsoft Word: Go to the toolbar at the top of your monitor. Select then then the tab. Click the "Show readability statistics" box at the bottom of the dialog box. Now, after you spell check, the grade level appears indicating the readability score of the text.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

911 of Pest Control

I was driving on I-81 in Maryland, fairly close to the Pennsylvania border. An Ehrlich truck passed me by. The tag line "The 911 of Pest Control" immediately caught my eye (look for the yellow sentence above the white Ehrlich). I pulled out my trusty digital camera, deftly drove with one hand, snapped the pic below, and smiled all the way home.

This is a great example of a visual story--a visual metaphor.  The concept of "911" is absolute--who do you call in an emergency? In this case, you call Ehrlich. Nothing else need be said.

I had the honor of presenting a workshop, "From I to We," for the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals. It was at the Hotel Monaco in Chicago.  I am always looking around, noticing marketing materials, messages, customer service, and just plain ol friendly people watching.  Right after I checked in, I went into the elevator and noticed the poster with the tag line, "Every hotel tells a story."  Another winner I thought.  I was excited to talk to the hotel staff to learn more about the campaign history and success.

After I got settled, I went down to the front desk and chatted up the very professional, helpful, and nice staff.  The assistant general manager came out as well.  They told me that the campaign was about a year old.  All of them really appreciated the message and they were excited about ensuring that each hotel was part of a bigger family while exuding the Hotel Monaco's individual charm and unique story.

The card key, card wallets, and posters are branded across the entire Kimpton Hotel chain (see picture below for two examples).  Did you notice the heart in the soup?  I love the subtle and metaphorical imagery.  The slogan/tag line is also great: "care | comfort | style | flavor | fun."  The website even has a page, "Story." I look forward to chatting with the vp of marketing at Kimpton to learn more and to share with you the poster images.

Today, I gave the "3 Steps To A Perfect Elevator Speech" workshop to the Harvard Business School Alumni of Washington, DC. Sitting beside me was a woman with a great deal of passion, a wonderful smile and disposition, and a jargon-filled elevator speech. After she told me what she did, she self-admitted that it was very technical. And she said something like, "At networking events, I only talk with people that understand my jargon, my world. If they don't get it that's okay.  Then I wasn't meant to talk with them."

I shared with her that in this room alone, there were 50 potential clients, 50 potential referring individuals, and 50 potential partners. The potential was in her elevator speech. She smiled that look of "oh, I didn't think of that."

Great Stories TravelTM.  This is a phrase that I often use.  An elevator speech is the beginning of your great story.  It serves to pique interest and to be your "persistent" and memorable verbal calling card.

At the end of the workshop, she promised to email me in a month with a reworked version that is audience-centered.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Bob and The Birds (New Cartoon)

Here's a new cartoon that I am using in my presentations and workshops.  What do you think?  Suggestions?

Monday, September 05, 2005

"In Short" Reduces the Effectiveness

I went shopping today and visited an Under Armour store.  On the store wall was a gigantic placard with the UA brand mission (see below).  It is one of the better descriptions.  Remove "in short" and it will be one of the best.  In short is what I call a "wishy-washy phrase."  It's just like "in other words."  If you need to use either phrase, then you haven't delivered an easily understandable phrase/sentence. It is passive. It detracts from the momentum created by the previous sentences. When In short is removed, I'll gladly consider this elevator speech for the best of category.

"The Under Armour® logo is the Universal Guarantee Of Performance. Our Brand Mission is to provide the world with technically advanced products engineered with our exclusive fabric construction, supreme moisture management, and proven innovation. In short, every Under Armour® product is doing something for you; it’s making you better."

Visit Under Armour.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Pier 1 Imports - Your Home Is Story

I was at a friend's house last night and saw a television ad from Pier 1.  It really, really resonated with me.  The message is crystal clear, engaging, powerful, moving, and is the perfect visual story/visual metaphor: "Your home is a story. How you tell it is up to you." 

The commercials are part of Pier 1's new branding and identity campaign started in 2004.  From Pier 1's website: "In 2004, Pier 1 announced that it had signed Deutsch Inc. and OMD Midwest to develop a new marketing campaign for the company. The Pier 1. Life More Interesting. campaign was designed to remind customers of the globally inspired, one-of-a kind mix of home furnishings and accessories offered, and the exciting in-store experience discovered when shopping at Pier 1. It also introduces the product as our new spokesperson, instead of using a celebrity to communicate our brand and messaging."  Visit Pier1.

Friday, September 02, 2005


Hello Everyone!

Welcome, welcome, welcome!! I am very excited about starting a blog.  Friends, colleagues, clients, Romans, and countrymen have been telling me for months to start one.  It's time.  I look forward to sharing thoughts and reading yours on everything and anything related to business storytelling, content, messaging, and so forth.



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