Showing posts from October, 2011

Three Non-Obvious Issues in Multicultural Meetings

When you are planning a meeting with people from different cultures maybe you have already prepared by learning about the way people greet each other and other surface cultural differences. But chances are that your meeting might be derailed by some non-obvious cultural misunderstandings. Here are the top three problems I have seen in workshops and coaching people about intercultural business.

1. MEETINGS DON'T ALWAYS HAVE THE SAME SCOPE. This is probably the hardest intercultural issue for most people because they rarely if ever ask themselves what a meeting is for, yet this basic concept is the root of many conflicts. In the USA and some western European countries meetings are usually open forums where new ideas can be discussed -- even ones that have never been raised before -- and decisions are taken that will automatically be implemented later. There are significant variations to this approach in many other countries. In Japan, for example, decision making is by consensus rat…

Three Timesaving Tips for Email -- Five Minutes to Boost Your Productivity

By following just three simple tips any email user can save time for themselves and everyone else, cutting the time you need to spend on mails and reducing stress. Anyone can learn this in five minutes.

By far the easiest way to make your emails easier to find, understand and act on is to put the heart of the message into the message subject. This means that people will see it even when they are only looking at a list of pending messages. Let's suppose that a webinar has been scheduled, the subject "Webinar" would be almost useless. Much better to write "Networking webinar scheduled for 11 January". This simple trick means that people are much more likely to open your message and read it. In some cases they may not even need to open it. For example, if I send someone a link and they answer with a short mail with the subject "Thanks for the link" I don't need to open it. Months later if you need to look…

Choosing Pronounceable Brand Names: Learning from the Cuil Story

Recently I wrote a detailed note about the process of discovering and selecting brand names that are search engine friendly -- Branding in the Age of Search Engines.  What this note did not cover was the issue of pronounceability  which is a problem so complex it would not fit into a single bullet point but is critically important for businesses.

When the Internet search site Cuil closed last month I was not surprised. I believe a number of factors contributed to this closure, but one of them is certainly the fact that they had to teach people how to pronounce their name. The founders explained that it should be pronounced like "kool", which they said was an Irish word meaning knowledge, though language experts disputed this.

You might think that making a pronounceable name is a no brainer, but there are actually several separate issues you need to think about, and Cuil got all three wrong.

1. CAN NATIVE SPEAKERS MISPRONOUNCE IT?   Unless you are not yourself a native speake…

When Bot Talks to Bot: Why Too Much Twitter Automation is Pointless

Every day I get followed by Twitter accounts that are obviously using some sort of autofollow tool triggered by a keyword in one of my tweets. I know that they are autofollows because it is clear that the account has no interest in my content and it is unlikely I would be interested in theirs. Most use a crude keyword trigger so that if I were to tweet that I hate carrots I would be followed by carrot vendors, which is clearly pointless. Mostly these accounts are also just broadcasting a sequence of prefabricated tweets, something I can verify just by sending an @reply to see if there is a human who can respond. Usually there isn't.

At this point I am not going to follow back this kind of account and most other thinking humans would do the same, but out of curiosity sometimes I look to see who *is* following them. Very often the accounts that follow autofollow bots are other autofollow bots.  So what is happening is that one bot is tweeting to another bot and there are no humans …

One Tool to Rule Them All: The Magic of If This Then That

Most social media and social networking sites allow some limited interaction between different channels. So, for example, you could link your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts so that all your tweets go into your LI status updates. Using tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck you can also schedule actions across several platforms at certain times. And there are many tools that allow you to setup automated responses, like the annoying direct messages some autofollow robots send when you follow their account.

If This Then That goes much further and has created what is effectively a new One Tool To Rule Them All, a deceptively simple utility that allows you to setup "tasks" so that actions in one channel -- twitter, a blog, weather, stock prices, emails, your mobile phone and so on -- can trigger an action in another. You can, for example, setup an automatic email whenever it rains in a certain location. You can auto-archive a photo on dropbox when you have been tagged in it and much m…

How to Detect Facebook Scams & Hoaxes Using A Simple Google Search

Every week there is a new wave of Facebook scams and hoaxes. Sometimes it is a warning that you will have to pay for Facebook if you don't click on a link. Other times it is the promise of seeing who viewed your profile, if you click on some link. There are others promising the Secrets of Farmville -- if you click on a link.  This week one of the most popular Facebook scams is the one announcing that Apple is giving away free iPads in memory of Steve Jobs, you just have to click on that link. But click on any of these links and bad things happen.

So how do you recognize which Facebook messages are genuine and which are tricks? Since I have worked in PR most of them are obvious to me. A company like Apple wanting to get news to customers never sends it by a chain letter or a Facebook wall post you have to share with friends; they are more likely to post it on their website, send out a release to the media.  But for everyone else, is there a simple way to detect them?  Yes there is…

Selling Your Ideas: Influencing Your Way to Success

When someone has a great idea -- a new product, a reorganization, a cost saving move or whatever -- what often happens is that they make a presentation to the decision maker in a meeting. This is actually one of the worst ways and makes rejection much more likely because it doesn't take into account human nature. Rarely do decision makers decide in isolation; usually they are influenced by the opinions of others. If everyone else in the room is shaking their heads as you speak this is going to have an impact on the final decision.

For this reason in workshops and one-to-one coaching I always combine practical speaking and presenting techniques with the essentials of influencing strategies and tactics, based on research in applied psychology and some tested methods that have proven very effective in the past.

But suppose you don't have time for a workshop right now. What can you learn in just five minutes reading that will help you become an effective influencer?  Here are thr…

Five Simple Ways You Can Expose Internet News Hoaxes

From time to time a clever hoaxer manages to fool the media with a fake press release, normally backed up by a fake web site.  Usually people do this simply to make a point, a tactic used very effectively by the culture jamming group The Yes Men.  More recently it was used by Taradeep Gill, a Canadian Web Developer frustrated by having to make websites compatible with older versions of the Internet Explorer website. To shame people into updating he issued a press release in the name of a non-existent company called Aptiquant that was alleged to have conducted a study showing that browser usage correlated with intelligence, with Internet Explorer users having the lowest. Sent through PRWeb, the release was backed up by a fake company website.  Some major media outlets were fooled by this hoax -- I will not name names to avoid embarrassing them -- much to the surprise of Gill.

At first I was surprised that such a amateurish release fooled major media but I have heard that some legitima…

Five Simple Steps to Improve Your Online Reputation

When people hear about you for the first time very often they will Google you just to see who you are. If they don't like what they see this could reduce your chances of being called to interview for that dream job, getting a chance to pitch your business idea to a wealthy venture capitalist or whatever it is you are trying to do.

Luckily fixing your online reputation is much simpler than most people imagine because the average busy person is not going to read pages of Google results and other web pages. In my experience most people are content to look at just the first page of the Google search results and rarely click on any link unless they see a problem.  And to fix this first page for most people it will be enough to follow these five simple steps.

1.  GOOGLE YOURSELF. REGULARLY.  Don't wait till someone else does it, Google yourself and look at what comes up. You need to come back every month or so to check on the results, partly because new stuff is being indexed all th…

Professional Networking: Five Network Sites You Should Be Using for Your Career – And How

This was written in 2011. Several sites mentioned here have changed or are no longer important.

According to there are more than 500 popular social networks and new ones are emerging all the time -- Google+, Dribbble, Zerply, Diaspora, and many others. Nobody can be active on all of them and even maintaining a presence on more than just a few is impractical, so which of these networks do you really need to be on?  Luckily there are just a few that are either essential or very useful for professional networking, plus there are a couple more that are likely to be important in the future. Here they are: the five networking sites useful for your career and what you should be doing on each of them.

LinkedIn:  ESSENTIAL. Everyone should have a profile with a photo.

The world's number one professional networking site with more than 100 million accounts, LinkedIn has become the place where people expect to find everyone and if you are not there it looks strange. Just h…

I Hate the Way I Sound on Radio: Practical Tips for Politicians, Entrepreneurs & Sportspeople

If you are a rising politician, the founder of a interesting startup or a successful athlete sooner or later you will be hearing your own voice on the radio. Most likely you are not going to like the result, especially at the beginning. All the time I hear people say "I don't like the way I sound", "I hate the way I sound" or "do I really sound like that?". It's not just beginners, too. Not so long ago even Biz Stone, billionaire founder of Twitter was tweeting  "Listening to myself on Weekend Edition with NPR's Scott Simon. Do I really sound like that?".

So what, if anything, can you do about it? Here are some practical ways you can deal with this problem.

1. GET USED TO THE SOUND OF YOUR VOICE. You've been listening to yourself in a way since you learned to talk, but when you hear yourself naturally you don't hear the same sound other people hear. This is partly mechanical; you hear yourself partially through your bones an…