Showing posts from 2016

Why Scheduling Regular Posts is a Good Idea

At the beginning of 2016 I decided that I would post one new story every week on this blog. Every week. Without exception.  More than that would be too much both for me and my readers; fewer would have made the blog seem less active. That much is clear enough. But why is it so important to be regular? Creating regular content is good discipline for a writer because it reinforces one of the foundations of professionalism: dependability. Writing occasional brilliants posts at erratic intervals is much less impressive than delivering a new post every Monday morning. Any editor looking for a freelancer is going to be much more interested in your ability to deliver copy on time and take quality for granted. Other people commissioning writing work are also likely to be impressed. But unless you have no other work to do and no other distractions, creating a new post every week can be a challenge. Sometimes on a Monday I am in some conference room delivering a workshop, or I might be busy co…

One Simple Email Technique Could Have Averted Election Hacks

When the Democratic National Committee's email system was hacked it was not through some advanced technology but rather a very simple phishing mail. You might think that people dealing with sensitive information would be extra careful, and indeed they were. According to published reports like this one in the Guardian, campaign chair John Podesta received a phishing mail sent to a private account. An aide, Charles Delavan, spotted this and forwarded it to a computer technician intending to flag it as dangerous. But inadvertently he typed "This is a legitimate mail", rather than "illegitimate".

Thanks to this typo outsiders were later able to gain access to Podesta's emails, which were leaked in the run up to the 2016 presidential election. Quite possibly this single mistake cost the Democratic party a presidency and possibly much more. Emails often have consequences but this one will end up being a case example in email workshops.

Yet this confusion could h…

Using Video Effectively in a Presentation

Video clips can be a useful addition to a presentation. Done well they enrich the overall experience and make the speaker appear more compelling. But when they are used badly they have a negative effect, so how can you use video clips effectively in your presentations? Video Should Support Not Replace. Probably the worst mistake is to use video to replace the speaker rather than support what they are saying. A video that was originally designed as a standalone video on YouTube usually makes a poor presentation video because it is designed to be self explanatory and not need a speaker. What will work much better is a short clip that shows the detail that you need to show to support your explanation and nothing more. So if you are speaking about a movie effect a clip from the show reel would be relevant, or if you are explaining a new process for encapsulating single cells then a microscope video showing the process would be helpful. A complete video explaining something without any hel…

Learning from a Near Miss in Interactive OOH


Three Ways to Make Office Layout Networking Friendly

Networking benefits employers because a workplace where everyone has a networking mentality, helping each other routinely, is more productive and has less conflicts. But often the physical layout of buildings makes networking difficult because there are few spaces where people can interact.
Redesigning your entire building to make it network-friendly might be out of reach but there are still many smaller initiatives that can be done to make interactions more frequent and more fruitful. Here are just three:
Create social spaces. In some companies the only common areas are luxurious sofas in an elegant lobby area, but they are meant mainly for show and employees are afraid to sit there. Create comfortable spaces around the building where people can sit and talk. If you are not sure what welcoming looks like visit a coffee shop. And make sure there are varied seating options. Some people like sofas, others like high tables, others like benches. Variety is the key.
Encourage mixing betwee…

Speaking: The Song in Your Head

When people are speaking they sometimes state a fact, give an example or tell a story that they think will impress people, but then it doesn't. Their speech or presentation doesn't make an impact or can even have the opposite effect. In these cases that the speaker is sure that they have a winning argument and they are frustrated when it fails.

This happens because the speaker gives their facts or tells their story but without some essential context. Because they have this context in their head they can fill in the gaps and complete the story, so they feel that the point they are making is obvious. People in the audience lack this context so they interpret the same facts or stories in a different and sometimes completely opposite way.

I call this the "Song in your head" problem because it reminds me of a children's game where one person taps just the rhythm to a song and challenges others to recognize it. Quite surprisingly even the best known songs can be unrec…

How a Campaign Ideas Notebook Helps Creativity

Ideas come when they come, rarely precisely when you need them. One easy way to make sure that you have ideas when you need them is to write them down as they come.

This is the simplest approach for coming up with any ideas but it is specially useful for a digital marketing campaign. Most of the time ideas for new campaigns are not entirely original. They are just ideas that have worked elsewhere, variants of existing ideas or the combination of two or more ideas in one campaign.

You could rely on your memory to come up with a campaign idea every time that you need one, but you will find it much easier if you simply write down every campaign idea you hear about over the years. Then when you need to come up with an idea you just leaf through the book and refresh your memory. Your campaign ideas "notebook" can be a physical notebook, a box full of loose papers or a file in the cloud that you can easily access when you need it. The form doesn't matter so much except that a…

Testing Ideas is the Key to Persuasive Speaking

How do you make your speaking more persuasive, more compelling? I suspect that some of the people who ask this question are hoping for some magical secret of body language or voice training that can make anything sound persuasive. But in a way there really is a secret -- by far the best way to be more persuasive is to test all your ideas before you use them. Few non-speakers are aware of this fact, but it is one of the key foundations of strong speaking skills.
Before you use any idea on a real audience you should always try to test them in three ways:
Due Diligence.  First of all you have to check your facts. When you build a talk or a presentation on flaky facts and concepts you will find it hard to be persuasive. If your content is weak then you will see this reflected in the negative body language of the audience – there will be many question-mark faces, which is very discouraging. People are also much more likely to challenge you and ask awkward questions, exposing the flaws in…

Influencing: How Airbnb Organizes the Host Community

Airbnb has been wildly successful in creating a multi-billion dollar business out of short term room rentals. The company has long been opposed by various lobbies. Traditional hospitality companies fear that it might encroach on their business and demand a more level playing field where everyone abides by the same rules (Internet Marketplaces, Is it Time to Level the Playing Field).  Local authorities see the company as costing them tax revenue and flouting regulations. Other bodies are concerned about the impact on the housing market.

Around the world local authorities are creating new rules for this kind of home rental. Home rental contracts are also being rewritten to limit or ban outright short term subrentals. Airbnb responds to these moves with traditional lobbying efforts, but what is much more interesting is how the company is preparing to mobilize the massive army of airbnb hosts to advocate for the business, too.

What airbnb has done is to create a network of "Homeshar…

Why Activity-Based Networking Beats Mingling


The Secret of Networking in One Diagram

One thing that I have learned in ten years of doing networking workshops is that most people worry about minor details of their professional networking, like how to start conversations, or how often to update their LinkedIn profile. But at the same time they are not clear about the reason we network in the first place, why it works and how to point your efforts in the right direction.

Luckily there is a simple Venn diagram that helps understand these concepts in just a few minutes, or even seconds.

First of all let's assume that you are in the typical position of being able to do something and you would like other people to ask you to do that thing. One trivial way to approach this would be to get to know many people, but that will not help you very much. Knowing other people means that you could, in theory, keep calling them to ask if they need you. Most of the time the answer is no. It also means that you are not considered in the common case when someone asks one of your conne…

Details are Everything: How Starlight Became Thriller

When I heard that songwriter Rod Temperton had died at the end of September I was reminded of "The Invisible Man", a documentary made by BBC Radio 2 in 2007. In this Templeton revealed that when he wrote his most important hit ever -- Michael Jackson's Thriller -- that producer Quincy Jones and Jackson himself were unhappy with the title.

In the original demo recording the song was called Starlight and the hook was "Give me some Starlight, starlight sun". Apart from that the song was already remarkably close to the final version with the distinctive bass line played on two synthesizers.

But Michael Jackson wanted a title that would appeal more to young people so producer Quincy Jones sent Temperton away to rework it and he wrote two to three hundred titles before coming up with Midnight Man. But then the next day he woke up and just said one word. "Thriller". He could see it at the top of the Billboard charts. He could see it on merchandising.


The Secret to Writing a Speech is Not to Write It

When I am coaching speakers one of the questions I am often asked is how to write a speech so that it sounds "natural" -- meaning that it doesn't sound like the recital of a written document.

Few people can, in fact, write a script that sounds like you are just having a conversation. There are people who can do this -- it's a routine job for professional speechwriters and screenwriters -- but the writing experience of most people is in creating written documents that were meant to be read, not heard.

Natural spoken conversations do not work as writing and generally writing doesn't work as spoken language. So how do you write a speech that sounds like the spoken word and not like an essay? Probably the easiest way is to avoid writing the speech in the first place. Instead of writing a speech and trying to read it -- which is hard and rarely effective -- it is simpler and more effective to speak the speech and then write what you spoke.

Concretely this method wor…

Why Relying on LinkedIn Messages Can Be Risky

From time to time I hear about misunderstandings and mishaps caused by poor communication through LinkedIn messages.

There might be cases where you turn to this channel because you are trying to reach someone and you don't have their contact information. Or perhaps you are using it because you commonly use LinkedIn messages among friends for routine communication.

But for many people this channel doesn't work very well and to rely on it for critical messages can be a risky practice. Your messages might not be seen or they might be seen and then lost.

First of all this happens because many LinkedIn users create a profile and update it from time to time but then rarely log in so they don't even see that there are any messages. Some light users might also log in but they are not familiar with the user interface and don't notice the pending messages. Others might see the messages, but visiting rarely they always have to wade through spammy recruitment messages and adverti…

How Writing Preserves Your Thoughts

In a post from January 2012 -- How to Have More Ideas: The Magic of Notebooks. -- I argued that most people have ideas all the time, but then they let these ideas flutter away, never to be seen again. Some other people are careful to write all their ideas in notebooks. Re-reading these notebooks later makes you realize how much you think of is quickly forgotten. That is why writers are inevitably people who have the habit of writing down ideas before they are gone.

Writing down all your ideas in notebooks or electronic equivalents does preserve the basic idea but sometimes this is just the germ of a concept, the starting point for further work. More recently I have realized that writing out your thoughts more fully preserves these thoughts very effectively. Looking back now over the posts I have written for this blog over the last nine years I find now many thoughts that I developed a few years ago and have simply forgotten.

Between posts for this blog, freelance articles, speeches &…