How Anyone Can Make Sweeping Change

How Anyone Can Make Sweeping Change

If you’re like most people, you’ve pondered why it’s so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities and even in our own life.

In Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, authors Dan and Chip Heath chronicled a wide range of people who have found creative ways to make sweeping change happen without having structural authority. In other words, change can be spearheaded by middle managers, parents or social activists.

In one example, college student and conservationist Paul Butler didn’t have the authority to enact laws against killing an island parrot. Therefore, to save the species, Butler appealed to the emotions of the locals of St. Lucia by promoting the native parrot as “one of their own.” The St. Lucia Parrot only existed on that island, and the islanders “were the type of people who protected their own,” his campaign suggested. His campaign included puppet shows, parrot T-shirts, bumper stickers and even songs (written by local musicians).

The Heath brothers use many examples like this one to demonstrate that successful changes follow a pattern, a pattern that can be used by just about anyone. First, find the bright spots, script the critical moves needed that will lead to the change, and point to the destination (what does the change look like.).

In a blog post late last year, I used some of the Heath brothers’ principles to demonstrate how you can turn an average presentation into one that could inspire your audience to change behavior.

The Heath brothers are also the authors of the 2007 bestseller Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.

This is part of a series of blog posts running until the end of the year on business books I’ve read in 2011 that can enhance the way you do presentations, improve the way you tell stories, engage with your audience, or market your business through social media or other channels.

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Books Worth Reading

Books Worth Reading

In the coming weeks, I will be posting reviews of business books I’ve read in the past year that can enhance the way you do presentations, improve the way you tell stories, engage with your audience, or market your business through social media or other channels.

I’m kicking off this series with Scott Berkun’s hilarious and highly practical Confessions of a Public Speaker (O’Reilly Media), in which this best-selling author and speaker reveals techniques great communicators use to connect with their audiences.

Many of the practical tips he outlines for presenting are hard learned lessons from falling flat on his face in his own public presentations over the years – hence the title of the book.

Here are some of the many areas of topics he covered and I found particularly fascinating or useful in today’s speaking arena:

1. How to keep an audience engaged in the era of tweeting, texting and mobile phone games.
2. Social Media: How to monitor what people say on Twitter, while you are actually presenting on stage.
3. The importance of speaking not just to a live audience, but also to the camera (since your presentation will likely end up on Youtube)
4. How to deal with hostile audiences

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Best Practices for Creating Youtube Videos

Here are some great tips on how to make Youtube videos go viral, according to the recently released Youtube Creator Playbook, issued by Google.

1. Create great content that is unique, compelling and entertaining or informative
2. Optimize the first 15 seconds of your video
3. Include specific Calls-to-Action in the video
4. Set a recurring schedule for your Youtube brand channel and maximize your production investments to optimize how often you are able to release new content
5. Identify other channels with similar content and/or relevant audiences and work with them to create meaningful cross-promotion opportunities and collaboration videos
6. Use Youtube Insights and analytics (i.e – Google Analytics [free] or Adobe Sitecatalyst for advanced data analysis) to better understand your audience, improve your content, and help you develop effective programming and production strategies.

The 70-page Youtube Creator Playbook provides greater detail on how to execute these and many more techniques. It also includes a variety of helpful resources. Download The Youtube Creator Playbook.

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The Power of Words

If you have ever debated with someone who disputed the importance of choosing the right words in a speech, presentation or pep talk, show him/her this video by Purplefeather. It definitely demonstrates the power of words.

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How To Engage Your Audience Using Twitter Research

How To Engage Your Audience Using Twitter Research

Social Media has made it easier than ever to research and connect with your audience.

If you were to speak at a company just a few years ago, a common research technique would be to scan the corporate web site for press releases and news articles. But those resources don’t provide insight into a company’s culture.

The new technique I like to use revolves around Twitter. Twitter is a live, unfiltered, gossip-filled news-stream into the cubicles of a corporation. It’s a window into the culture of the company. You can learn a lot just by spending ten minutes a day reading employee tweets.

A friend of mine named Manuel Villacorta, the creator of the Eating Free Weight Management program, was planning a speaking engagement at video game-maker Ubisoft, a company he knew very little about initially.

Here’s how I suggested he research the company and its culture using Social Media:

First, research the company and its employees on LinkedIn. To do this, I had him pull up the Ubisoft Corporate page on Linkedin. There, he found employee personal pages, including their Twitter accounts (if they had one).

Second, Manuel created a Ubisoft Twitter “List,” which allowed him to categorize the people he followed.

If he had 10 minutes to kill, waiting for his latte at Starbucks, he could use his iPhone to scan his Ubisoft Twitter feed, free of any distractions of other tweets he may have on his global Twitter feed.

(I acknowledge that a few years ago, this research may seem a bit stalkerish, but in today’s “Like-Me-Follow-Me” Society, it’s become quite the norm. Twitter users become ecstatic when even the most random people start “following” them.)

Recently, Manuel was also preparing a speaking engagement at the Twitter Headquarters (believe it or not, it’s actually more than just 140 characters!).

I told Manuel, “You can use Twitter to research Twitter.”

I’ll use the “Twitter List” of Twitter employees to demonstrate this further, since Twitter employees are the last people who would call this “stalkerish.” (This is, after all, why Twitterites have a job, right?).

The first person Manuel added to his Twitter “Twitter List”: Adam Bain, CEO. Adam’s own “Twitter Lists,” which Bain has made public, included one called “Twitter/Team,” a complete list of employee Twitter accounts. In other words, this was exactly what Manuel was about to compile manually himself.

What did he learn from scanning the Twitter employee newsfeed?

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin recently spoke at Twitter. One Twitter employee tweeted: “Met Buzz Aldrin today… cross that off the bucket list. Next on the list: Walk on the Moon.”

Reading the CFO’s tweets in June, it was obvious he was a huge Dallas Mavericks fan. After they made it to the NBA Finals, CEO Bain tweeted: This seems like a good time to submit my expense reports.

Years ago, comedian Chris Rock use to ask taxi drivers for popular bars in towns where he was performing that night. Then he’d reference the bar in his routine.

This would make the audience think: “Wow! He goes to my favorite bar when he’s in town!”

Today, as a speaker you no longer need to hop in a cab to learn about where your Ubisoft, goes to Happy Hour. You can simply read their tweets, instead.

Sprinkling these tidbits throughout your talk should make it easier for you to connect with your audience.

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How to Engage Your Audience Using Metaphors

Using stories as a metaphor to make a point is a great way for public speakers to engage their audiences and make their speeches memorable.

That’s exactly what former Stanford baseball star Mike Robbins did Saturday in speaking to the Northern California chapter of the National Speakers Association. His talk focused on the importance of authenticity for public speakers, which is the theme of his new book Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Jossey-Bass/Wiley).

Being authentic is often a challenge for public speakers because sometimes the more they rehearse to familiarize themselves with their material, the more their body language can appear to be staged, rather than authentic.

Robbins, who now makes a living as an author and public speaker, was drafted by the Kansas City Royals and played three seasons in the minors, before an arm injury led to the end of his pro career. One of many metaphorical stories he told Saturday that was especially memorable and relatable to public speakers centered round a minor league teammate named Geoff Jenkins.

Jenkins was a massive guy, who would later go on to play 12 years in the Majors, mostly with the Milwaukee Brewers. Robbins described the burley guy as always swinging for the fences, regardless if it was batting practice or the ninth inning of a tie ball game.

“One time, Jenkins swung so hard in bating practice he broke the platform he was hitting on,” said Robbins, adding that he then walked off the platform flexing his chest with pride.

“Why do you swing so hard?” Robbins recalled a teammate asking him.
“In case I hit it,” Jenkins replied.

This story wound up wrapping up one of Robbins’ key points: When giving a speech, some people hold back, fear that they might make a mistake. But they should be like Jenkins and put everything out there. “Don’t hold back. You might hit the ball.”

Another one of Robbins’ stories on Saturday demonstrated that the challenge of being authentic is certainly not restrained to public speakers. For this, he described the day he had to pitch the Be Yourself book proposal to the president of his publisher. Initially, he assumed he was driving into San Francisco from the suburbs for an informal brainstorming meeting with his editor. However, his editor phoned and said the president was flying in from New York to join them.

This last minute bit of information compelled Robbins to initiate an emergency conference call with his wife to script what he would say in this all-of-a-sudden not-so-informal meeting. Hours later, Robbins found himself in full pitch-mode in a Jossey-Bass conference room.

The pitch, however, only lasted a few minutes, before he nearly broke down, and said to the president: I appreciate you flying here to meet with me. But I find myself putting on an act to impress you. Is it O.K. if I stop this act?

What unfolded next was a very candid conversation and brainstorming session leading to the book outline.

Robbins left that meeting with much uncertainty on how that discussion was perceived. He later got a call from his editor, who said: “After you left, we talked about you.”

“Oh?” Robbins gulped.

His editor said that was one of the most unusual meetings with the president. Then added: Robbins had the green-light to write the book.

If you are reading this blog post and thinking this is the formula to get a book deal, you may want to make sure you already have had the success of a published bestseller. Robbins’ first act was Focus on the Good Stuff: The Power of Appreciation, also bankrolled by the same publisher.

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Winners of the “Ads Worth Spreading” Initiative Announced

When was the last time during the DVR/iPhone-era you consciously watched a commercial? In other words, you didn’t text, tweet or email during the commercial.

The organizers of the TED conference, which aims to inspire Ideas That Spread, say they are tired of ads being “aggressively forced on users.” Therefore, they recently promoted the Ads Worth Spreading Initiative, encouraging the development of ads “so good, you choose to watch – and share,” according to Chris Anderson, TED curator.

Last Friday, the results were announced on its Web site. Out of 1,000 submissions from around the world, the top 10 winners of the inaugural contest came from both major ad agencies to tiny boutiques to college students to nonprofits.

If you are unfamiliar with the TED Conference, its organizers challenge its world-class speakers to give the “talk of their life” (usually in 17 minutes), aimed at changing the world. Many of their best presentations are on its Web site. Its ads run after the talk, not before or during.

“As well as avoiding the annoyance of interruption, this positioning means they can run longer than the TV-standard 30-seconds,” Anderson says. “And that’s the key — in 2-3 minutes, there’s more time to tell a story, share an idea, make an authentic human connection. These winning ads, many of them long-form, powerfully demonstrate these strengths. We think they represent an exciting new way for companies to engage with the world in the Internet age.”

Many of them are very engaging, such as The Girl Effect, by the Nike Foundation, Target Kaleidoscopic, and Sapporo: Legendary Biru.

See the full list of winning videos here.

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Social Media Tricks to Use in Your Next Presentation

If you read my last post on how to Use Social Media to Research Your Audience, you may also enjoy Chris Brogan’s article in this month’s Entrepreneur magazine. He covers not only researching your audience, but also how to market your presentation during the presentation by encouraging audience members to tweet about it.

He encourages people on Twitter to use his Twitter name, the hashtag for the speech and the event hashtag. Hashtags make tweets easily searchable. But be careful on how many hashtags you use in a single tweet. A best practice is no more than three.

The New Yorker magazine published a useful and entertaining article on hashtags by Susan Orlean in an issue last June.

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Using Social Media to Research Your Audience

Years ago, I took a standup comedy class at the SF Comedy College. The instructor mentioned that Chris Rock often used a clever technique to connect with a local audience at his comedy shows: While riding a taxi from the airport to the show, he would ask the driver about popular hangouts. Then he would make references to these restaurants or bars in his standup, as if he was a local and frequented them.

This was before the explosion of social web sites, like Facebook and Twitter. These sites today make it even easier for a conference speaker to research his/her local audience to prepare to build a connection.

If you are giving a presentation to a group or at a conference, there are a host of resources to research your audience:
1. Search Twitter or Google Blogs for the conference title to see if there are conversations occurring about the event.
2. – is a localized event calendar and social site
3. Linkedin Groups – check if scheduled attendees are chatting about the upcoming event
4. Facebook “Event” or Corporate Fan Page

How do you know if your social research worked?
There are a few metrics you can use to determine that:
1. If you get asked back by the same organization (to speak on the same topic or another topic)
2. Referrals: If audience members request your professional services
3. Ripple Effect: if audience members tweet/blog favorably about your content

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What if Speechwriters Took Cues from Sports Announcers?

This State of the Union is brought to you by

Are we close to the day when a President’s State of the Union is peppered with sponsor teases?

A mention of healthcare, for example, prompts the President to say: “Speaking of healthcare, let me pause to thank Lipitor, a key sponsor tonight, which lowers bad cholesterol and it’s clinically proven to blah blah, blah.”

This may sound ridiculous, but not if NFL play-by-play announcer Kevin Kugler was writing presidential speeches. In yesterday’s Bears-Seahawks game on Westwood One Radio, it was stunning how he squeezed in sponsor promos in the middle of live action play.

In the first quarter, while the Bears drove down the field, Kugler didn’t even wait for a break in the action to plug H & R Block.

Nearly out of breath from describing the Bears’ running back’s push towards the end zone, Kugler added: “Wow! What a block from Jay Cutler! Speaking of block, it’s nearly tax season. Consider H&R Block before filing your taxes.”

As part of the listening audience, I felt like my brain was blindsided by a left tackle. Where did that come from?

Kugler’s play-by-play partner Mark Malone even sarcastically commented seconds later, saying something like: “Good job in squeezing that sponsor in there.”

Kugler’s abrupt H&R Block pitch made me feel like the first time I saw the final scene of the Sopranos series finale, arguably the most talked about ending. When you’re expecting a blood-bath, the screen just goes black… on purpose!

Squeezing an ad into play-by-play is nothing new. The San Francisco Giants announcers often use a pitching change as an opportunity to plug an oil change sponsor. … When it’s time to make a change, go to Speedee Oil Change.

However, there is a big difference: usually the Giants’ sponsor plugs are during dead air time, not in the middle of live action.

Kugler’s pitch during live action was a train-wreck to the listening audience.

I sure hope President Obama’s Director of Finance was not listening to the game on Westwood One and thinking, “Sponsor teases in the speech? Awesome. That can help lower the budget deficit!”

We’ll see on January 25.

This blog post is brought to you by Advil… Advance Medicine for Pain Caused by Abrupt Trauma to the Head.

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