Archive | Play To The Crowd

28 March 2010 ~ 0 Comments

rocktoon – a smoke start

It’s like wearing a ton of makeup and a pushup bra to head out on a date (for the men – stuffing a sock or a small Coke bottle down your pants). The smoke and mirror act only buys you the first round. After that you’re left covering up the first lie with a second and on and on… At some point you’re going to let someone else or yourself down.

Start with the truth. Everybody wants that.

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07 February 2010 ~ 0 Comments

big news

big news

Have something big to communicate to a group of people? Don’t jump straight in and blurt it out.

“Big News” talks through the right way to go about announcing information (positive or negative) to any audience.

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24 January 2010 ~ 0 Comments

simplicity

simplicity

On the topic of presentations, meetings, conversations or any other type of interaction that leads to you gaining the result you wanted, all types of ‘rules’ float around on the topic of how much to say and for how long.

Citing the example of the world’s current beau of the stage and product announcement: Steve Jobs… each time he takes the stage he is well rehearsed (obviously), predictably turned out (without being another suit and tie on a platform) and says no more than three things. Occasionally he has a ‘one more thing’, but that final extra point is nothing short of explosive for the world of consumer technology.

What is the key to Steve’s keynote success? Tells a story in the domain of the audience and keeps it simple.

So I’ll keep this simple.

1. Figure out what message (yes, singular) you want to convey or where you want to lead the people you are talking with to be and say the bare minimum that will bring them to where you need them to be. The absolute bare minimum and no more. Fluff adds nothing. Keep what you need to say clean and clear.

2. Whatever you succinctly need to say; frame it in their context and not yours. If you were them, what would you want to hear that would make sense? The iPod nano first generation had an 80MHz ARM 7TDMI ’system on a chip’ processor with 2Gb. Awesome. Means nothing to most, and especially not the audience it was targeted toward.
The iPod nano holds 1000 songs in your pocket. YOUR pocket. Yes, you. That’s what it does for you. Interested? Tell a story that’s not yours but theirs and one that makes a difference in their life.

3. Let your crowd know how many topics you are going to cover with them (maximum three). Deliver those topics. Then tell them what the topics you just covered with them were. It sets expectation, it delivers and confirms. If you can, finish on the biggest and most pertinent/memorable point you have to make.

One more thing… do not be Steve Jobs. Be you. If the audience wanted to see Steve Jobs, U2, the pope or any other superfluous big name, they would absolutely go out of their way to do so (in the same way that if you wanted to watch an episode of Desperate Housewives you would make sure that you did). The audience in front of you has invested the energy to sit their cheeks on seats to listen to you. Yes, you. Give them your show and not someone elses.

Here’s Steve at work back in 2005. He sticks to three things, embodies them in a story that the audience can visualize in their own context and keeps it brief.

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13 January 2010 ~ 0 Comments

panic, it’s a crisis

panic, it’s a crisis

When the fit hits the shan there are clear, obvious steps that can be taken to grab control again.

1. Establish whether what’s happening is a nuisance, a problem, a crisis or a catastrophe. Deal only with a crisis.

2. Minimize the number of people involved to no more than three and only select those who can decision and/or action others to resolve the crisis.

3. Act and track to closure. I’m serious – track every actionable item to the end.

This is still early days on the video front for me. Still a little raw. There’s no ego here – let me know what you think I could do better with the YouTube work.

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05 January 2010 ~ 0 Comments

today you sell

today you sell

The world of convincing a person or a business to buy something from you continues to carry over the hangover of days when being in sales meant going door to door selling vacuum cleaners or encyclopedia sets.

In days of obvious value (the 1950’s to mid 1970’s), what you were selling was already clear to your target audience. What it meant to them was inherent in the features of the product. All the benefits were readily apparent.

You showed the goods, people knew what they were buying and you processed the resultant order.

Competition heated up and this lead to a period of augmented value (mid 1970’s to mid 1990’s). Take a base or generic product and take it through three stages with the prospect:

3. the potential product : start the conversation by encompassing all the value propositions that could be imagined
2. the augmented product : narrow to proposing value beyond the customer’s basic wants and raised the bar for competition
1. the expected product : lead toward added value limited to the minimal expectations of the customer

In this scenario the buyers still understand their own problems, but they need help understanding the augmented products being offered. You, the seller, are required to explain, install and start up the ’solution’. To get there a (Powerpoint?) presentation is made, explanations given and the customer is guided toward a purchase.

With the more public and commercial onset of the Internet in the late 90’s the world has changed. A large number of systems are typically required to build almost any business beyond a simple startup.

This leads to a situation where customers know their ultimate goals without clearly understanding which components are important and how existing systems impose unique constraints.

As a seller you now need to provide strong expertise in system and service level components to guide unique, sustainable and measurable answers to your prospects’ business problems.

Selling no longer involves a Powerpoint presentation. Ever. Nor a brochure. A trade show isn’t going to help either because there is an Internet to find out about new products.

You need to listen and suggest. Give frequent change and constant improvement a great big hug because they’re your new friends in selling.

Whether it’s a multi-billion dollar company or one single person, all of these principles apply.

Here is the cheat sheet I’ve compiled over three years as I’ve learned to best prepare for a service sale. Good luck. New Business needs you to solve their problems.

For the absolute best reference on complex selling, spend a few hours reading The Prime Solution: Close the Value Gap, Increase Margins, and Win the Complex Sale

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27 December 2009 ~ 0 Comments

do, be, do

do, be, do

Either you’re kicking ass or you’re getting your ass kicked.

Either way, you’re doing something instead of just sitting on your butt watching the world go by. Action, whether positive or negative, is the only critical component to success.

Don’t talk. Don’t watch. Do it.

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19 December 2009 ~ 0 Comments

fit and shan

fit and shan

(adapted from a Nov 2006 article I wrote that spoke specifically in software terms, but now refers to problems in a more general context)

Problems are not a bad thing. Really, they are not.

They do exist and no-one can or should deny that they do not. However, hide them from everyone who cares about what you’re doing and you will make them suspicious. In life there is very little perfection, only progression.

Hide flaws and faults with one cover-up lie then forces another one, which turns into more lies… ad nauseam.

You must quit the fear and use problems to your advantage. They are a very visible indication that there is a continuous stream of positive activity surrounding what you do.

If you can fix problems quicker: great. If you can throw in a measure of new things while doing so then you begin to really play to the audience.

I cannot over emphasize that you have to give those on the receiving end of what you are creating detail of what is here now and a vision of what is to come. You don’t need to make any promises; simply build an expectation of what is ahead. Your ass doesn’t necessarily have to go on the proverbial line for everything you say, though it would be fantastic if you could back up words with action – as this leads to credibility and thereafter belief from the very people you are hoping will invest their attention in what you create.

The only sure way to demonstrate action is to expose in some detail the activities you are undertaking and the progress you are making with each one. Not everyone will be interested in the detail. However, it is visible and not hidden action which is important to humans. We are all naturally suspicious creatures and a perception of full disclosure of detail relating to anything we are interested satisfies our curiosity and allows us to delve deeper if we wish. It doesn’t mean that we will dig. Fine granular reviews as routine, even in tightly controlled industries, seldom happens in the business world.

However, with perceived visibility comes input too; mostly opinion, advice and priority. If you are faced with a long list of tasks, making these visible to the target audience will invoke feedback (especially if it’s not in their favor) and ultimately more focused action through volunteered input. The Internet is the perfect medium for this.

The natural problem discovery reaction for most is to hide the details and implications of what the fault is, log it in a private list somewhere and fix it before anyone finds out. Instinctively we feel that it is better for a customer or user not to know about an issue than to be alerted and concerned. This also buys the developers or creators time to create a fix before the actual problem is exposed. The hope is that the end user will never see the problem.

If a user has discovered the fault, send the relationship guys in to perform a smoke an mirrors magic act until such time as it is fixed and things have moved on. Pretend then to be responsible and customer-friendly.

If the problem were a big scary monster and the customer a child, then this would all make sense. For grown ups; problems and faults are a fact of life and must be handled in a responsible and orderly manner.

If someone can’t handle the truth and impact of bugs then they are a proverbial child and should be handled as such until they evolve into an adult. This may come across as harsh, however true to almost every inexperienced business.

If a business or personal hides, disguises or downplays problems and does not use them as tools of progression or mediums for input and involvement; then a problem remains a big scary monster that will drive fear and panic into all who come near it. Including users of what you’re pushing. Most of whom have alternative options. Also known as your competitors.

As a supplier, artist, business person or value generator you have to act responsibly with faults that have either been found (internally) or exposed (externally). I urge you to not hide these but expose them to your advantage. Nay, use them as points of creation to incite discussion and debate on not just the fix to the immediate issue but to collectively encompass what the fault exposes and organically shape the resultant solution to mutual benefit for all involved.

One person’s critical problem may be insignificant to others who use the product. Conversely, users may be finding faults that the creators never could. Interaction, disclosure, tracking and creativity all contribute to a positive, inclusive and relevant output.

To re-iterate a previous assertion: ensure that the front-end (sales, account management), back-end (support, development, planning) and customers/users interact regularly and with a single goal.

Problems are not bad. They’re simply a step towards perfection.

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16 December 2009 ~ 0 Comments

just me

just me

Another observation from my meeting Gary Vaynerchuk: Gary was never out of character.

He didn’t need to be because the online wine guy, Internet celebrity, author, entrepreneur, Jets fan and real life human being are all the same guy.

This has it advantages:

you never have to remember anything for each medium
The bullshit factor is zero.

credibility in bucketloads
The absence of dissonance between online and IRL is so far removed from the typical Hollywood film star ego-loaded personalities most have become so skeptical of.

the message is consistent is believable
The wine guy gives the same advice as the Internet business guy. He’s not making this stuff up or having it written in speeches for him. The talks he’s giving, regardless of location or event, have the same core messages.

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08 December 2009 ~ 0 Comments

all apologies

all apologies

If you’re late for a meeting, late for a date, feel (and probably look) like death warmed up, have a rip on your shirt, a black eye, arrived at the wrong place first before finding the right one, wearing socks that don’t match, said something stupid, dropped the ball…

NEVER EVER APOLOGIZE

There’s no point. What’s done is done and any concession from you only shows you up as weak. In the band the lead singer can screw up whenever they want. Suck it up and give the crowd the show they want.

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06 December 2009 ~ 0 Comments

leaders in trouble

leaders in trouble

This post was originally written in August 2008 at a time when not a lot around me in business was making much sense to me. It has a heavy corporate focus, but the principles can be applied to other aspects of life.

We all work for someone. Even if you work for yourself, you’re working for the people who buy something from your company.

In the perfect world you would arrive at the office knowing what you have to do today. Better still, what you want to do. In an ideal world, you’ll arrive at the office knowing where you are aiming to be in your career and life a year from now. Maybe even two years from now. (if you’re in the public sector, maybe five years from now).

All credit due to John C. Maxwell and his book “Developing the Leader Within You” for the direction for this article.

Not surprisingly; the people above you in the corporate feeding chain are very similar to you. You have a lot in common with them. You work for the same company, understand the same products and have to deal with the same people – albeit from different perspectives.

When you’re looking over the shoulder of someone who’s controlling a keyboard and mouse, you’re going to see what needs to be clicked next to progress on to the next screen before they do. I can’t explain this… it just happens. In a very similar scenario, it’s really easy to see what management needs to do next when you’re looking over their shoulder. You know what needs to happen next, and you know what to ‘click’ to get there.

However, there are differences between a manager and a leader. And it’s not difficult to figure out when either is in trouble.

When a leader is in trouble, they:

1. have a poor understanding of the people they work or interact with

2. lack imagination

3. pass the buck

4. are not organized

5. cannot control emotions

6. will not take any risks

7. are defensive and insecure

8. stay inflexible, despite surrounding wisdom

9. have no team spirit or vision

10. avoid change

What do you do if you come across someone like this? Even worse – what if they’re your boss?

Make them feel like they are right. You cannot call them out and you really should not. The absolute best scenario is to visualize the outcome that makes the most sense, figure out a way to make the leader or boss gracefully recover from the situation (do NOT make them publicly look stupid – they are still your boss and may seek to change your employment status shortly afterwards!) and work as positively as you can to reach the desired endpoint. Your leadership qualities will shine through brighter.

Then watch closely for people peering over your shoulder telling you where to ‘click’…

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